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Application for USC film school - Cinematic Arts Personal Statement


Siwenmao 1 / -  
Nov 6, 2020   #1

Cinematic Arts Personal Statement


The Cinematic Arts Personal Statement will be read by the admissions committee as a measure of creativity, self-awareness and vision. We are looking for a sense of you as a unique individual and how your distinctive experiences, characteristics, background, values and/or views of the world have shaped who you are and what you want to say as a creative filmmaker. We want to know about the kind of stories you want to tell. Bear in mind that enthusiasm for watching films, descriptions of your favorite films and the involvement in the filmmaking process is common in most candidates. As a result, we encourage that you focus on your individuality. Note that there is no standard format or correct answer. (1,000 words or less)


I wonder if I have answered those questions brilliantly?

On a typical day in fall 2019, the green pastures of Tibet stretched as far as the eye could see, and the glaciers in the distance reflected the golden gleam of the sun. Two kids, Baima and Duojie, dressed in tangerine striped robes rushed me toward a merry throng. Before I could help it, we had already blended in and begun dancing with the Tibetan girls. Sweating and panting, I released their hands, stepped out of the commotion, and sprawled out on the grass. Looking up at the intensely clear sky, I saw the distinct path of my future career.

Four years prior, my career had been hanging in the balance. I had been delivering the Party's propaganda for the Wenhui Daily. Despite the six-figure pay package, I felt alienated from truth and freedom and developed an overwhelming sense of emptiness in life. The pleasure of partying, dining, and shopping lasted mere moments. Then dissatisfaction returned. I lost count of how many nights I stood on top of the office building and looked out over downtown, ablaze with lights, contemplating what it took to be happy in this sensual world. My emptiness only increased when the newspaper published the cluttered and sensational news stories I had written. I started reading voraciously, searching frantically for the secret recipe to happiness. Although I could not find the answer, I did discover that many fellow human beings, even historical artists, have shared the same feeling.

The turning point came when I got acquainted with a Tibetan photographer who was planning to shoot a documentary directly exploring my concern: the relationship between happiness and worldviews. We immediately hit it off. I had an intuitive feeling that this was the very opportunity I should seize to find the resolution to my quest. So I quit my job and joined the crew, allowing me to travel through Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, and India for the next three years.

On my first night in Tibet, I stayed with Baima and Duojie in Bade Village. There was silence, no hustle and bustle, occasionally a wolf howling. There were no neon lights, only the light of stars. They did not have warm beds, yet they smiled warmly as they cuddled with their mom and chanted, "Om mani pad mei hum" together. The next morning, their father returned home with precious vegetables and sugar and watched joyfully as Baima and Duojie ate. Then, combing their hair and using a bench as their desk, Baima and Duojie studied a book in Tibetan.

How could the whole family radiate such joy when they were living in poverty? I framed my question more generally, and they told me with one accord that Durga Lama was the happiest person they knew. I was determined to meet this individual.

Later, I visited Durga Lama's room in the village. It was bare. I had heard from other villagers that he refused to move into the well-furnished room in town that his brother had gifted him. He was lanky yet mighty. I winced when we shook hands for the first time, as his grip was too strong for me.

It came as a surprise when, one day, Durga asked me to speak in front of the whole village about my experience in Tibet. I did not know his true intentions until later, when I noticed that Tibetan women had begun speaking confidently in front of my camera. By tradition, women were not allowed to touch sacred Buddhist texts. Gradually, they became shy and afraid to speak in public. Durga did not force them to open their mouths but instead used me as a role model to encourage them.

Both his wisdom and his devotion truly struck a chord with me. Two nearby villages were in conflict over the food supply on the mountains, and lives were being threatened. It was raining hard. Soaked to the bone, he traveled by motorcycle to mediate between the two villages. When we had come halfway, the path was blocked by a rapid stream. He jumped off and clambered up the mountainside at the risk of an avalanche. When the conflict was resolved, he fell ill. Many villagers sent him medicine overnight to show their gratitude. Not until then did I realize how much his work in the village-centered on education-had eroded his health. He told me that life was uncertain and even if he did die, he would have no regrets.

Ten years before, Durga had come to this illiterate village to revive virtues, wisdom, and happiness in Tibetan culture. He taught about two hundred villagers how to read and do good. The lama and the villagers had built the classroom together out of bricks. Aside from his modest living expenses, he spent all his money on education, buying books in English, Chinese, and Tibetan for instruction, benefiting all the villagers, including Baima and Duojie.

My one-month stay in this village had supplied me with unprecedented happiness despite the rugged environment. I tasted this happiness by directing my attention away from myself and toward helping others. Durga still kept his composure in bed. The villagers became less argumentative. Durga was happy because his happiness was not based on material pleasures but inner peace and compassion for others.

Lying on the grass, I glimpsed Durga walking toward me, bundled along by dozens of kids in colorful robes. Watching them, I became more determined than ever to tell their story. One day, Durga and even these kids will disappear. The cinematic arts can preserve the memory of their stories and happiness on the plateau forever. Even if only one aching soul were to be inspired by my documentary, that would be my happiness. The pursuit of happiness is a universal topic that transcends race, culture, and geography. Our documentary about Tibet was only the beginning of my journey.
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 10,364 3368  
Nov 7, 2020   #2
The experience that you are speaking of in the essay is interesting. However, since you are applying to Cinematic Arts, you should present this in a manner that allows you to tell the story from an outsider's point of view. Imagine if you were selling this story plot to a movie producer. How would you narrate the whole movie? Use a representative character for yourself in the narration. Your individuality should be reflected within the story telling. By creating a 3 dimensional character to perform in your stead, you will be able to better share your distinctive experiences, character development, and values representation. Why? As the central character in the story, you limit your imagination to reality. However, by using a representative character, you have more room to be creative and imaginative in the presentation. This is a very good start. It is just that I sense some limitations in the character presentation, development, and actions. Using a screenplay presentation will be more effective than a simple personal statement or, as in this presentation, a cross of a personal statement and a screenplay. By using the screenplay format, you will also be able to show the reviewer that you already have a strong foundation in at least one aspect of Cinematic Arts. The presentation will be unique and interesting since you will not be following the standard format for this presentation. You are given the creative license to use any format for your response, so go for an unconventional presentation that will most likely catch the eye of the reviewer.


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