Cinema students will often tell you that the odds are not in your favor in the industry. But USC prepares students as much as they can — and it does help that the USC School of Dramatic Arts is one of the top ranked programs in the nation. There really is no better place to go if a student’s ultimate dream is to win an Emmy or an Oscar.
One SDA student is striving to embody the ambitious and optimistic culture of USC. David Mandell, a senior theatre major, is taking on the ambitious task of creating his very own short film. As a soon-to-be graduate, he can add producer and writer of a short film on his ever-growing resume. David Mandell’s past activities at USC have included the Trojan Marching Band, Trojan Knights, multiple plays and Alternative Winter Break trips to India. He has also gained impressive professional experience in the film industry; naturally, his next pursuit would fall behind the scenes rather than in front of the camera.
“I came to USC as a theatre major knowing I would get involved in the film community because although I want to act, my innate desire for organizing projects has catapulted me into this opportunity,” Mandell said.
Laugh Along the Way is David Mandell’s first independent short film, impressive considering he is only 21. The film draws from Mandell’s own personal ideas and observations about life. Mandell aims to make the audience laugh and reflect on high school culture.
“Laugh Along the Way is a short film that revolves around John, a high school senior dealing with his recent diagnosis of leukemia,” Mandell said. “While in chemotherapy he befriends an 11-year-old kid named Sam who ends up being the younger brother of Chris, the only openly gay kid in the high school whom John once bullied.”
Laugh Along the Way is currently using the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise funds to finance the movie. The film’s Indiegogo campaign allows anyone to donate — and with the proper amount, you could be named a “producer” on the film. Mandell already has actors cast, and an 80-page screenplay and his personal passion are fueling the film. He hopes to do a festival run and amass additional funds for a feature-length film. Mandell says his determination is fueled by an undying love for the industry.
“My interest in film and cinema is rooted in my childhood,” Mandell said. “None of my family is in the industry, nor do they have any ties with the arts, but they have an incredible appreciation for the arts.”
Mandell credits his intense work ethic to his passion for his subject matter.
“When you do what you love it doesn’t feel like work,” Mandell said. “I also saw an inspirational speaker say if you want to be successful, you have to want it more than you want to breathe, you have to want it more than sleep.”
In addition to actively breaking into the competitive industry, Mandell hopes to offer advice to undergraduate students. Mandell’s personable and charismatic character makes it hard to resist his wise words based on his experiences at USC.
“Your network is your net worth. Take advantage of everyone around you,” Mandell said. “USC itself has provided an opportunity to meet a plethora of talented individuals in all areas of the industry. Bringing them along to work on the project provides not only opportunities for all of us to grow, but it offers a professional showcase for many artists.”
Mandell has high aspirations for the years after he graduates from USC. After his last semester this fall, he plans to stay in Los Angeles.
“I have many dreams and goals for recent years, but the goal is to have this project take off and get involved in independent producing and have my acting career take off simultaneously,” Mandell said.