Well, only about 24 short hours after arriving in L.A, doing some food shopping, and moving in, I had my first day of school.
I got up a little early to see if I could wander over and get my student ID card before class, but Kerckhoff Hall was packed with a line of students that extended clear to the back of the building. Oddly enough, it even took me a while to figure out that they were all there for ID cards too – mostly because they were nearly all Asian students that hardly spoke a word of English, so asking what they were in line for was to no avail. I got my card the next day though, as you can see. It’s quite different from my UCSC ID (I’ve removed the ID numbers and bar codes from this photo. Otherwise, this is how they look).
I arrived at Melnitz Hall, UCLA’s film program building, half an hour early and decided to look around for a while. Someone was wheeling a huge light into one of those rooms on the right when I came in. The building is very organized. There’s a bunch of editing rooms, an animation area, a massive equipment checkout room (which I talked my way into getting an unofficial tour of), and at least one fairly large sound stage. Notice all the yellow signs designating each area of the building. I’ll try to take less blurry photos next time.
Here’s a video of the sound stage I wandered into. I was really impressed that they had a fully constructed set right in the building, just like a movie studio.
I went to my section meeting first, then to class. I’m taking FILM 106A (History of American Motion Picture). A real shocker was the fact that the professor told us not to take notes while watching a given screening. Instead, he just wanted us to “just soak it up” during the first screening. This was an astounding departure from my classes at UCSC, wherein I usually miss about a third of the films because I’m often looking down to write notes. However stated that there would be no analysis of the films in the exams, only historical data drawn from the readings. I have to say, so far I’m liking this method of teaching. After introductory statements, the class went directly into screenings. Don’t worry, I’m only going to describe this one class. I won’t do this every time.
Anyway, it began with screenings of the trailers for The Robe (which I saw when I was little), Lolita, Viva Las Vegas (not the best Elvis movie, but an okay one), Unforgiven (a highly disappointing movie), Empire of the Sun, The Last Emperor, Conan the Barbarian (which was funny when I was little, but now seems to suck), Evita (meh), Peewee’s Big Adventure, and Pulp Fiction. Then, we saw the entire of Singin’ in the Rain (one of my favorite movies, and one which I agree has considerable historical importance). The teacher then lectured some.
I’ve taken a couple of film history classes before, but I still learned some new things (or maybe just things I forgot). For example, the fact that Muybridge’s first attempt at capturing a horse’s motion failed, that movies were originally popularized by screening them as part of vaudeville shows, that vaudeville shows went on organized national circuits (in which these films later traveled), and that some early films were used in much the same way as the Soaring Over California ride in today’s Disneyland.
We saw Melies’ A Trip to the Moon and Edwin S. Porter’s Jack and the Beanstalk, as a demonstration that Porter’s film was meant to imitate the fantasy themes in Melies’ popular works, and then Porter’s The Great Train Robbery and Life of the American Fireman (to show the first of Porter’s more popular “realistic” films). The section and meeting together ran about 7 1/2 hours. Classes are generally made into marathons during summer.
As first days of class go, this was a pretty good one. Long, but good.