Senior Faith Liu walked away from her high-school pastime of filmmaking when she enrolled at Hillsdale in the fall of 2012. As soon as she finishes her time at Hillsdale, however, she is diving back into it.
This week, Liu committed to a graduate program in screenwriting at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, one of the most prestigious film schools in the world.
“Ever since I was very young I’ve always been attracted to stories,” Liu said. “Film is a very different medium in that the story can be told visually. But someone has to conceive of that; someone has to set up the outline from which that film is made. And scriptwriting is a huge part of that.”
Before attending Hillsdale, Liu, along with her friends Joshua Jackson and Brian Tang, did a number of film projects, ranging from parody trailers to entire short films, under the name StopMotionClub (although, as Liu points out, “we did absolutely no stop-motion whatsoever”).
“Our first project was a 35-minute long film that I wrote and produced,” she said. “That was a drama about someone who was deaf, but could hear music. For others, we took popular apps on the iPhone and turned them into fake movie trailers — we had one for Temple Run that went viral in a week.”
Parted from her collaborators upon arriving at Hillsdale, Liu focused on other things during her college years, majoring in English and participating in the music and theatre departments.
“People here are very busy and don’t really have time for that sort of thing, so I had to kind of put it to once side,” she said.
Her prior collaborators, however, who in the meantime both moved to Los Angeles, never stopped pestering her to pick cinema up again.
“Both of them kept telling me, ‘You have to come out here, we have to do movies again out here!’” Liu said. “So I filled out an application, sent it in, and didn’t think about it after that point until I got the email.”
Paul Wolff, a USC film professor whose own screenwriting resume includes such shows as “Little House on the Prairie” and “Home Improvement,” picked up Liu’s application and liked what he saw.
“What happens is everyone on the faculty gets about 35 applications to read, and all of us get to choose our top 5 out of the 35,” Wolff said. “A tennis pro can watch 10-year-old kids play tennis and see who’s going to be a professional. It’s like that with professional writers — we’ve been around a long time, and we can just spot them. Reading Faith’s work, you can just see that she’s a natural-born writer.”
So after receiving her acceptance email, Liu flew to USC over Spring Break to visit her friends and scope out the college for herself.
“We spent a good portion of a week out there, visiting professors and looking around campus,” Liu said. “I got to work on a music video Brian and Josh are working on with a bunch of other people, so that was very fun.”
For their part, Tang and Jackson are thrilled to reunite with their former partner.
“I’m proud of Faith for taking a leap with herself and jumping into what many consider an unstable career, albeit an exciting one,” Jackson said in an email. “She’s writing a good story for her own life, and I’m incredibly excited to continue collaborating with her again.”
Although Liu did not focus on film during her undergraduate years, she still thinks Hillsdale has set her up to succeed at USC — in particular, by helping her develop a sense of something about which to write.
“As cheesy as it sounds, knowing the good, the true, and the beautiful — that’s very important in film,” Liu said. “People can very quickly tell if your film is about nothing, very quickly get bored and leave. There’s a difference between good in quality and good in content. And I think Hillsdale’s given me a lot of content with which to work.”