A long time ago in a town far, far away...
There lived an absolutely adorable, little girl named Leah. That precious, bright-eyed child was me. Although evidently cute as hell, I was a major hater. One of the things I hated the most was my name. Reading this now, you may think my name is pronounced L-EE-uh, but you would be wrong.
Don't feel bad though because you are not alone. Aside from singing High School Musical karaoke and annoying my parents, most of my childhood was spent correcting the pronunciation of my name. The first days of school each year were my shining moments. The teacher would call attendance. "Neeva Shafiian?" "Here." "Barakatula Sharifi?" "Here." "Chloë Sevigny?" "Here." "L-EE-uh Starr?" Cue the obnoxious eye-roll and sigh of exasperation, “It's L-AY-uh!" I cried.
"Why couldn't you name me Lindsey? Or Hallie? Or Alison?" I whined and whined to my parents. I yearned for a name that was normal--that other people had. Because if other people had it then it was cool. My father told me that my name came from the old testament, so I learned about Leah and, to my dismay, I found that she was biblically unattractive. Thanks mom and dad! I continued hating my literally, ugly name until my father responded with a different answer; A film.
In Star Wars, Leia wasn't ugly at all. Instead, she was a beautiful, rebellious member of the Alderaan royal family. For the first time, my name warranted confidence. I rejoiced in my newfound swagger and fell in love with the princess that had my name. Being my father's favorite films, we had the deluxe DVD set--episodes one through six. So we watched them all...thousands of times. Soon, Star Wars no longer satisfied my cravings. I ached to see my favorite characters in a different light and that's exactly what I did. I saw a baby Padmé in Léon: The Professional, a singing Obi-Wan in Moulin Rouge, and an adventurous Han-Solo in Indiana Jones.
The Star Wars franchise taught me how small the movieverse really is. By following the career of only three stars, I found Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Francis Ford Coppola, Tim Burton, Baz Luhrman, and so on and so forth. Thus, I began my love affair with films. I watched everything on the IMDB Top 250 Films list. I recognized different styles, directions, and genres.
I discovered that the movies I especially liked watching were the ones that made me feel something. It’s like a high; I search for films that elicit emotion like a crack addict would for cocaine. Whether it’s exhilaration, apprehension, or inspiration, I get wasted on all of it.
I knew that USC was the place I needed to be from the moment I walked on campus in early 2015. At the time, I did not know if I wanted to act, write, critique, direct, or produce, but standing between Spielberg and Lucas during the tour had a profound effect on me. It felt as if I was standing on the shoulders of giants.
With one semester in the rear window (shout-out to AH), I now consciously recognize that the School of Cinematic Arts is where I need to be. Collaborating with other passionate Trojans is integral to heightening my skills as a filmmaker and storyteller. As I endeavor to launch a career in film, I seek to make people feel. I want my audiences to think about and question what unfolded on the screen. I want them to consider the big picture. But, most importantly, I want to make them fall in love with film the way I had. The School of Cinematic Arts is not the end of my story, but the climax; The absolute peak for the little girl who fell deeply in love with her silver-screen namesake.
May the Force Be with You, Carrie...