LOS ANGELES, June 18 (UPI) -- A group of students from one of the world's leading film schools, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, is packing for a summer of training at one of the world's leading film production facilities, Rome's Cinecittà Studios.
It's the second year of a program allowing students in the USC Cinema-Television Summer Production Workshop to use the state-of-the-art facilities at Cinecittà -- where such classic movies as "Ben-Hur," "Cleopatra" and "Roman Holiday" were filmed.
More than 3,000 films have been made at Cinecittà -- 83 of which have received Academy Award nominations. The list also includes Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" and "Satyricon," and Anthony Minghella's Oscar-winning "The English Patient."
It goes without saying that the experience in Rome will inform the future work of the USC students. But Carole André-Smith, Director of International Marketing for Cinecittà, told United Press International the students are also likely to leave something of an imprint at the studio.
"I think that young people coming here and studying here and living at the studio for six weeks will be very interesting for us," said André-Smith. "I think American filmmakers, the American film world, has definitely influenced many things at the studio."
In the 1950s, Rome in general -- and Cinecittà in particular -- were widely known as "Hollywood on the Tiber." A major reason why Rome has been a favorite center for filmmakers is that it offers a hospitable climate virtually year round.
André-Smith said Mel Gibson's upcoming movie about Jesus Christ, "Passion," filmed at Cinecittà "all through winter ... with people with very few clothes on."
The studio is located in a walled and gated 99 acre park 20 minutes from the center of Rome. The USC contingent is scheduled to study screenwriting, directing, editing and producing at Cinecittà from July 7 through Aug. 15.
André-Smith said that's a great time to be in Rome -- but if the film students behave like most film students everywhere, they will be in the studio for most of their time in Rome.
"Unless they need to do location work," said André-Smith. "Then they'll probably see it through their cameras."
USC professor Rick Jewell -- who will be making the trip as an instructor -- said he hopes the students manage to find some free time to see Rome without necessarily looking through a lens.
"We're going to encourage the students to take advantage of all the great art and culture that's available to them," said Jewell.
Most entertainment consumers are probably unaware of the degree to which the movies they see are shaped by the work of graduates from the USC program.
Some of its most famous graduates -- the names George Lucas, Ron Howard and Robert Zemeckis come to mind -- are highly visible examples of the program's influence on mainstream entertainment. However, countless filmmakers who are not household names populate the Hollywood production system -- sought after upon graduation in much the same way as elite law school graduates top the list of job candidates in the legal profession.
Jewell -- who is also the author of "The RKO Story" -- a coffee table book based largely on archives from the legendary RKO studio in Hollywood -- said the Rome experience will inevitably inform the future work of the students who make the trip.
"Some of the students who were there last year were changed in ways that will affect them for the rest of their lives," he said. "Students come to this school because we're so close to Hollywood and because so many of our alums have had success. We're going to a place that looks at Hollywood from a completely different perspective."
André-Smith confirmed recent reports that Cinecittà is developing a new movie-themed amusement park on the outskirts of Rome. The studio has established a new unit -- called Cinecittà World -- that will develop the project, based in part on Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles.
André-Smith said the park would be geared toward fans of classic movies -- including Italian classics by Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti.
"It's going to be a park where anybody who enjoys cinema will want to come," she said. "It's going to be ... the only cinema themed park in Europe."