The University of Southern California announced yesterday that it is getting into the business of financing features.

Its School of Cinema-Television will greenlight at least one low-budget feature film by a Trojan director and producer team in April, as a means to help its filmmakers break into the Hollywood shuffle.

The unusual program is financed through a $ 1 million grant from film editor Marcia Lucas Rodrigues, George Lucas’ ex-wife.

Titled the Post-Graduate Film Workshop, the program is part of the USC School of Cinema-Television’s continued push to help students break into the biz. The school has been invigorated under dean Elizabeth Daley.

“We hope these films will be distributable,” Daley said. “This is not a commercial venture in any shape or form, but our intention is that these films will introduce filmmakers” to attorneys, agents and studios.

The first USC movie deals will be awarded to director/producer teams who graduated from USC since May 1990 and have not yet received professional credit. During production of the movies, the teams will receive a stipend to cover living expenses.

In an effort to expand the USC program, the school will emphasize that as many USC students and graduates as possible be assigned to crew, Daley said. Actors will be paid, and no restrictions will be placed on their participation.

Deadline for application and screenplay entries is March 15.

The plan is the latest move by Daley to improve USC’s film school, which has come under fire from some students for the high cost of its program and its curriculum, which some said left them unprepared to break into the biz.

In the effort to increase its endowment and lower the cost of a filmmaker’s education, USC recently added such Hollywood bigwigs as Frank Price, Marvin Davis, Barry Diller and David Wolper to its board of advisers (Daily Variety, Feb. 14, 1992).

In another move designed to help ease the strain, USC has hired former William Morris agent Larry Auerbach as executive director of student-industry relations–a position also financed by one of Rodrigues’ grants.

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