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Film and Media Studies Program

  • Adam Habib

Alumni Spotlight: Adam Habib

Class of 2004

Adam Habib is going places as a young cinematographer.  In 2009, he was nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers Heritage Award for his work on the short film Before I Wake.  In 2011, he contributed camerawork to Disney•Pixar's nominated Cars 2, and his film The Cost screened in competition at the Camerimage competition.  In 2012, his film The Most Girl Part of You was in competition at the Baja International Film Festival.  He also recently worked as a Camera and Staging Artist on Disney•Pixar's Monster's University, which comes out on June 21, 2013, and is currently the Lead Camera and Staging Artist on the upcoming and untitled Pete Docter film at Pixar.

Recently, Adam took time out of his schedule to tell us a bit about his experiences as a Film and Media Studies minor and his career at Pixar.

Why did you choose Film and Media Studies?

I signed up for a summer class in film production that started at eight in the morning, five days a week.  For a lazy, nocturnal college student that was a big commitment.  When I showed up on time every day, week after week, I figured that was a sign.  

The professors in the film studies program were the most passionate and toughest at the university.  They were also really warm people who threw great parties!  It helped that the course requirements were flexible and I could switch back and forth between production and theory as much as I wanted.  I still use the close reading skills I learned at USC when we analyze in-progress work at the studio.

What was your first film and media job after graduation, and how did that job set you on the path to your current career? 

I taught film studies and production in Singapore, which was a chance to share the passion for film that my USC professors had ignited.  It didn't exactly lead to my current position, but my teaching experience helped me land a good paying teaching assistantship in grad school, and I do still teach the occasional class at Pixar for co-workers who are interested in live-action filmmaking.

Tell us about your current position.

I'm the Lead Camera and Staging Artist on The Untitled Pixar Film that Takes You Inside the Mind.  The Camera and Staging team is responsible for figuring out where the camera should be at every moment of the film to best tell the story.  Should it be moving?  Where are the characters within the frame and what is the timing like?  We work closely with the director, Story, and Editorial departments to figure out exactly what shots we need to make the best movie possible.

Do you have any advice for Film and Media Studies majors at USC?

Intern somewhere, anywhere.  Pixar has an amazing internship program that gives students access to everyone in the studio, from the directors to the president, and we pay a small stipend and put you up, too.  If your interest is in production, get on any set you can.  If you can, get together with some other students and spend the summer in LA PAing.  My intern experiences (at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Panavision Hollywood) helped me get the most out of school, taught me professionalism, and hopefully made me a better teammate on my student films.   

The last thing is to do great work now.  I don't mean the highest production value, I mean the most honest, the most sincere.  What we're doing inside a major movie studio is isn't very different from what you're doing in your classes, pitching stories and figuring out how to make them as good as possible.  The main difference is you don't have to please anyone but yourself (and your audience)--take advantage of that.

What was your favorite Film and Media Studies course at USC?

That's a tough one.  I can't really pick between the intro summer production class and Susan Courtney's class on musicals.

What is your current favorite film, TV show, and/or interactive game?

Didn't Godard say you start every movie thinking it's going to be the greatest thing ever (by the end you just want it to be over)?  So I'd have to say the one I'm working on. 

House of Cards is darn good too.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.