Filmaker skips senior year for USC

In the next few months, as juniors begin the college process and go on tours across the country, Michael Stampler ’09 will be focusing on completing his last quarter as a high school student.

Stampler, an amateur filmmaker, has been accepted to the University of Southern California’s Resident Honors Program, an early entrance program for high school juniors who are excelling in their academics and feel prepared to begin college early. The RHP is a prestigious course which admits 30 juniors each year and requires an A- GPA and a combined score of 2050 on the SAT I or composite ACT score of 32.

The RHP students are treated like college freshmen and are encouraged to enter USC’s Thematic Option program, the honors program in general education, and to live in the Deans Halls. Stampler decided to apply to the program during the second quarter of this year, feeling that the college atmosphere would fit his learning style.

“I would much rather learn new material formally than learn by myself in an independent study, USC seems to be the perfect place for me since its top-rated film school has a huge selection of incredible film courses,” Stampler said.

Stampler is currently taking Advanced Video Art II and Cinema Studies I-II and feels that he will have “exhausted the film/video curriculum at Harvard-Westlake by the end of this year,” he said.

The aspiring filmmaker discovered his talent and passion for film at an early age when he began shooting and editing small movies using his father’s video camera and inexpensive editing software. Over the years, Stampler has learned more about filmmaking, shooting rehearsals and performances and logging tapes for editing.

When he was 13, he enrolled in the Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education, where he worked on a documentary about a children’s opera that was being produced by Santa Monica College.

Stampler later learned the basic techniques of filmmaking during summer programs at the School of Cinema and Performing Arts in Los Angeles and at the North Carolina School of Arts.

Stampler frequently collaborates with friends to make films outside of school. Last year, he worked with Justin Levine ’09 to make the film “Angel Bay,” which received an honorable mention in the Columbia University National Undergraduate Film Festival. He recently finished shooting a short film with Michael Diamant ’09 about an Israeli and a Palestinian fighting over a plate of hummus. During the most recent project, Stampler used professional equipment, lighting and cameras as well as professional volunteer actors, one of whom has won the Israeli equivalent of an Oscar.

Though Stampler will live in a dorm on the USC campus and will adjust to college life one year before his peers, he will officially graduate and walk across Slavin Field with the class of 2009 next June. Rather than receiving a GED, Stampler will receive his high school diploma at the end of his first year at USC.

Stampler hopes that his decision “will give me a head start on learning about and doing the things that I love to do and want to be doing for the rest of my life,” he said.