Liberty grad follows family legacy to USC film school

June 30, 2009

By Jim Feehan

Alex Bell, a Liberty High School graduate, works on a home movie project from his laptop, a skill that helped get him accepted to the University of Southern California film school. Contributed

Alex Bell, a Liberty High School graduate, works on a home movie project from his laptop, a skill that helped get him accepted to the University of Southern California film school. Contributed

Maybe it’s in the genes.

Alex Bell, 18, of Newcastle, a 2009 Liberty High School graduate, is one of only 20 incoming freshman accepted into the film school at the University of Southern California.

About 1,200 high school students applied to study at the same school that produced George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Gene Fowler Jr.

Though not as well known as Lucas and Spielberg, Fowler Jr. was a prolific editor and director of film and television. His efforts won him a Golden Globe, four Emmys and an Oscar. He studied film editing at 20th Century Fox as a student at USC.He was a prominent film editor whose work included “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” He also directed “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” as well as numerous television programs, such as the CBS series “Rawhide” and “The Waltons.” Later in life, he was asked to teach film editing at USC in the 1980s.

Fowler Jr., who passed away in 1998 at age 80, was Bell’s great grandfather. Other relatives of Bell’s worked as animators with Walt Disney on the original “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Fantasia.”

Bell turned down a full scholarship to attend Seattle Pacific University, a $29,000 scholarship to attend the Chapman University School of Film and Television in Southern California and four other universities to attend USC.

“I chose USC because of the great opportunity it affords to its film students,” he said. “It has the reputation as being the best in the nation. Once you graduate, the contacts that you have through the Trojan family are greater than any other school in the nation.”

Two weeks ago, Bell toured the USC campus and its School of Cinematic Arts. Hall walls are filled with autographed movie posters of famous graduates. Every year since 1973, at least one alumnus of the film school has been nominated for an Academy Award, totaling 256 nominations and 78 wins. The top-17 grossing films of all time have had a USC film graduate in a key creative position.

“For me, I’m looking forward to being part of this great film community,” Bell said.

Bell is the second Liberty student in the past three years accepted into the USC film school. Former Patriot Steve White is entering his senior year at the USC film school.

He caught the filmmaking bug the summer before going into sixth grade at Maywood Middle School.

“I got a hold of a video camera with some friends and thought it would be fun to stay up all night shooting and editing a film,” Bell said. “We were so excited, we had to shoot a sequel the next day. It was then that I realized that film was a great way to tell stories.”

At Liberty, Bell produced a 15-minute video of highlights of Patriots sports teams. He also shot a video for the school administration, titled, “A Day in the Life at Liberty.”

“I’ve always loved movies,” he said. “It takes you to another place, another time and I really want to be involved in the process.”

This year, Bell created a “Day in the Life of Liberty” as part of a Web cam project Liberty students started with a school in Mumbai, India, said Principal Mike Deletis. Each school agreed to create a DVD about their students and school, and then share it with the other school.

“Alex has a unique and creative mind,” Deletis said.

Dana Greenberg, dean of students at Liberty, said Bell’s easygoing demeanor, intelligence, athleticism and can-do attitude will suit him well at USC.

“I couldn’t think of a better candidate for the USC film school,” Greenberg said. “Alex has the video skills, the perseverance and drive to take advantage of all the opportunities that will be afforded him at the film school.”

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One Response to “Liberty grad follows family legacy to USC film school”

  1. Doug and Luellen Smith on July 19th, 2009 6:35 pm

    Trevor Smith, 2007 Liberty High Graduate and Valedictorian will enter his junior year at USC. Trevor joined the Trojan family as a freshman and was one of 24 students accepted into the BFA program for film and screenwriting. That makes 3 LHS students in the last 3 years accepted into the USC film school.

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