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Film School Shorts Bring Back Directors' Memories

23 Aug, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey

Jon Turteltaub and Kevin Reynolds

Director Jon Turteltaub (“Jericho”, National Treasure) enjoyed the night of Aug. 22 almost as much as he dreaded it.

He and fellow University of Southern California grad Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Count of Monte Cristo) returned to their alma mater to share with first-year film students something personal and slightly embarrassing: their first student film projects.

The two directors are among nine who have their USC student film projects commemorated on Fox Home Entertainment's Reel Talent: First Films by Legendary Directors, which streeted Aug. 21. All proceeds from the DVD — which also includes the works of George Lucas, James Foley, Robert Zemeckis, Shawn Levy, Stephen Sommers, Richard Kelly and Richard Bare — will be donated to the School of Cinematic Arts.

If it wasn't for charity, the directors agreed, they might have buried these shorts where no one could find them, or possibly burned them.

“You're like me,” Turteltaub said to Reynolds before the screenings and Q&A at the USC School of Cinematic Arts' Norris Theater. “You don't want to watch it again.”

“Nope. Too painful,” Reynolds agreed. But not for the audience. The few hundred in attendance gave thumbs up to both shorts, Reynolds' off-kilter story of a dangerous skydiving attempt, and Turteltaub's tale of a couple trying to break into the L.A. music biz.

“I probably wouldn't be as daring if I had to do it again,” Reynolds said of his first project (he earned an A). “There's something to be said about being young and na?ve.”

Turteltaub's called the shorts the “cinematic equivalent of looking at old yearbook photos.”

“I think [all the directors] felt more guilt than pride,” he said. “We're helping the school out, but I thought it was a lot better when I got an A- [for his short film].

“[Our teachers] told us, ‘look at [the shorts] as a learning experience' … it wasn't something you thought about looking at again. And now it's out on DVD.”

Despite their instinct to cringe, the directors agreed they can live with their first works available to the masses. As long as Fox doesn't try to put the shorts on high-def, that is.

“I used to be a major audiophile, but to me it's still about story and character,” Reynolds said. “You can have the worst video and audio quality, but if the story and characters work, you're on the edge of your seat.”

The DVD, SRP $19.98, also includes a never-before-seen interview with Lucas, where he discusses his film school experiences.

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