USC Summer Program at The Walt Disney Studios

In a first for The Walt Disney Studios, this summer we collaborated with the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts on a six-week producing and directing course geared toward aspiring filmmakers. Thirty students spent three days at the Studio lot in Burbank and got a glimpse into the working world of a film studio.

The students engaged in candid discussions with production executives about developing compelling stories, blending filmmaking and the business, and industry changes. The executives talked about the various ways they get story ideas and gave feedback on the short scripts the students worked on during the program.

An executive producer of The Muppets spoke to the intricacies of producing and ways to jumpstart a career in filmmaking, and the head of casting at The Walt Disney Studios offered insight about the life of a working actor and the meticulous process of searching for talent to star in a film.

After hearing from industry professionals, the students watched never-before-seen content and toured our famous Archives with Disney Legend Dave Smith. Dave brought out some of his favorite pieces in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and fun additions including one of Walt Disney’s 26 Oscars.

The students toured Disney’s brand-new Digital Studio Center and had the chance to be “producers for a day” in a virtual sound mixing and visual effect review session with the teams at Skywalker Sound and Industrial Light and Magic. What a sound and sight to behold as teams in Northern California and the students in Burbank collaboratively reviewed visual effects and sound in real time over a high-speed secure fiber optics line! Making their way around editing and sound rooms with top-of-the-line equipment, the students also participated in a Dolby Atmos session, an immersive new listening experience.

Of course, we couldn’t let them leave without photo ops with Walt and Mickey (on the lot) before heading out to Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall, California, where their Studio experience wrapped up as they shot their short films this past weekend. It was a class to remember!