It’s 6 a.m. Sunday and Rebecca Doyle has already been awake for an hour. The sun isn’t even up, let alone the thousands of hung-over USC students. The morning fog rests quietly over the campus. She tiptoes around the room, trying not to wake up her roommate. Rustles and the occasional light switch are the only sounds that emerge from the darkness. She pulls her curly dark hair into a ponytail. Her green eyes are tired, yet sharp and focused. Grabbing her notebook, camera bag and keys, she jogs to the car waiting to pick her up outside.
“Sorry I’m a little late,” Doyle said.
The two girls in the front seats greet her and chat casually about the day ahead of them. Doyle starts checking her phone. As assistant director, she has to make sure everyone is ready for the day’s shoot. She scrolls through her texts, fingers firing like little machine guns at her keyboard. Occasionally, she looks up and asks a brief question to the girls in the front.
“Do we have everything that we need?” Doyle said.
As they drive down the Los Angeles highways, Doyle looks out the window, then forward, then back down at her phone. It’s almost as if she’s working her way down a mental to-do list. As they pull up to the set, she takes a deep breath and opens the car door. She begins to prepare for the long day ahead of her.
“Getting here was the most stressful time of my life,” Doyle said.
A Carson City, Nevada native, 19-year-old Rebecca Doyle always had a passion for film. Doyle was intrigued with the many aspects of the business. She worked behind the scenes with the morning announcements at her high school. Running at a thousand miles an hour, Doyle kept herself busy all four years of her high school career. Teachers and faculty all knew Doyle to be a hard worker.
“She was always a very focused and motivated student,” said Carol Verzola, one of Doyle’s former high school teachers. Doyle was also on Verzola’s yearbook staff for three years, and an editor-in-chief her senior year
“She was an indispensable part of my yearbook staff,” Verzola said. “I knew I was going to miss her once she graduated, and I still do today.”
Her high school resume also includes captain of the varsity tennis team, one of the highest SAT scores in her class, captain of Speech and Debate, vice president of the Honors Society and a plethora of other titles and achievements.
Being one of four children, Doyle also stood out in her family life.
“She has so much drive, it’s hard to believe it can all fit into one person,” said Luke Doyle, younger brother of Rebecca.
Carena Doyle, mother of Rebecca and a native of southern England, has had a whirlwind relationship with her daughter over the last few years.
“She’s fantastically driven and utterly single-minded,” Carena said. “That’s not to say that we haven’t had our ups and downs.”
Carena’s outspoken nature and practical view on life has had an influence on the way Rebecca is today.
“It’s much harder to insult an English woman than it is to insult an American woman,” Carena said. “You’re all crazy, I do hope you know that.”
She occasionally laughs, reminiscing about the different moments and stages of her and her daughter’s relationship. Her green eyes light up when talking about her daughter, just as Rebecca’s do when she is working on set.
“Sometimes we’re a little too much alike,” Carena said. “She’s the red flag to my bull.”
Carena and Tim Doyle have raised Rebecca and her siblings to challenge themselves and others. The Doyle household was a place where the best was expected.
Arriving on set, she hops out of the car and gathers her clipboard and papers. Rushing toward her is the director, sweeping her away with a rush of questions and a list of things to do.
Doyle quietly and diligently carries out her duties, which vary from taking down director’s notes to placing markers for the actors. She interacts with everyone on set, many of whom she has just met this morning. She’s always writing something down. She smiles, laughs cordially with those on set and does anything anyone needs.
Regardless of the amount of sleep she got the night before, Doyle does everything she is asked not only with urgency, but somehow with poise. Her long legs effortlessly carry her from one job to the next. She rapidly jots down words spewing out of the young director’s mouth.
She goes back and forth between being behind the camera with the director and being in front of the camera with the actors. Occasionally stopping to yawn or check her phone, Doyle maintains her stamina throughout the morning and into the afternoon.
“Geez, it’s really early, isn’t it?” Doyle says, as she realizes it’s only 10 a.m. and they’ve already been on set for three hours.
As senior year began, Doyle realized that her true passion was going to lie with film. Knowing that her field was better served in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, Doyle began to look into going to school out-of state.
“I thought for the longest time that she was going to be a lawyer,” Carena said. “That girl will argue you to death.”
Shelling out a large amount of money for tuition for Rebecca wasn’t an option for her parents.
“My dad basically gave up everything so that we could all go to private schools,” Doyle said. “Giving up more money to send me to big out-of-state school just wasn’t practical.”
“Our family is fantastically average,” Carena said. “Unfortunately, being fantastically average doesn’t give you many scholarships.”
On top of lacking the financial support of her parents, they were also skeptical of her dreams of being a film director. Doyle’s parents wanted to see her daughter succeed and have a stable job.
Every parent worries about their child when they have to let go of their control and send them off into the real world. If that wasn’t hard enough for Carena already, her daughter wanted to study film in Los Angeles.
“The film business is a nasty, dirty business,” Carena said. “It was scary thinking of my daughter in that kind of environment.”
“They just didn’t see it as a viable career for me,” Doyle said. “They just wanted me to be successful and I don’t think they saw success in what I wanted to do.”
This mindset from Doyle’s mother made her obstacles even greater. Her concerned parents attempted to steer her in a different direction as far as career paths went.
Never shying away from a challenge, however, Doyle took these obstacles as a growing opportunity. The hard work, she believed, would be worth the potential outcome.
“If Rebecca wants something, you better move out of her way,” Carena said.
“I didn’t want to stop fighting,” Doyle said.
Doyle still ended up applying to 19 different universities. She was admitted to 13 of them. Among those schools, all but three offered her at least a half-ride scholarship.
The ones that didn’t were her top three schools, USC, Loyola Marymount, and New York University. The only way that she was going to be able to attend her #1 choice, USC, was if she received a scholarship that covered enough of the financials.
“I always said she could go wherever she wanted as long as she could pay for it,” Carena said.
“There was a school in Texas that had a great film school, and they were ready to pay for everything,” Doyle said. “But something in me wanted USC more.”
For months, Doyle’s life consisted of applications and admissions essays. She was ready to go to any means necessary to achieve her goal.
“I was at the point where I would literally do anything,” Doyle said. “I was shamelessly calling alumni, begging them for financial help.”
“She was literally killing herself during high school,” Carena said. “She was never sleeping.”
Response emails and returned phone calls were the only hope that Doyle had as her senior year came to a close. The clock was ticking, and sooner than later she would have to decide on a school.
“My parents did the pre-paid tuition at UNR,” Doyle said. “I would have been literally getting paid to go there. I never wanted to though.”
Doyle submitted a scholarship application towards the end of her senior year, and the funding from that would have been enough for her to go to USC.
“I just really felt like I deserved it,” Doyle said.
“That one would have paid 100 percent of her tuition,” Carena said.
The day that she received the news from that scholarship was one that Doyle recalls with a heavy heart.
“It was honestly the most heartbroken I’ve ever been,” Doyle said.
Doyle was a finalist for the scholarship, but did not receive it.
“That was a brutal day,” Carena said.
One scholarship. One email. One click of a button. This is all it took to shatter the dreams of this USC hopeful.
“This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch,” said Joey Robertson, current boyfriend of Doyle. “It didn’t seem fair.”
The day that followed the devastating news was one that Doyle spent in a state of emotional shock. After reading the email telling her she didn’t receive the scholarship, she called her mom from school in tears.
“She was absolutely hysterical,” Carena said. “It was heart-wrenching.”
“I just sat in the yearbook room and cried the rest of the day,” Doyle said. “I don’t think I went to school the next day either.”
Watching her dreams shatter before her eyes by the news she received that day shook Doyle to her core.
“For that girls entire life, whether it had been in sports or in middle school, she was always outstanding but never recognized,” Carena said. “Not getting that scholarship was kind of the epitome of that pattern in her life.”
“I hated seeing one of the strongest people in my life fall apart,” Luke said.
This happened towards the end of Doyle’s senior year, leaving a bitter feeling in her heart as graduation drew nearer.
“Things were awful,” Luke said. “She was constantly upset and often in tears. I hated it.”
Doyle then had no choice to accept her fate and prepare herself to go to the University of Nevada, Reno.
“She signed that letter of intent to UNR with tears in her eyes,” Carena said.
“Alright, let’s do that again.”
The director uses these five words over and over. He is like a broken record.
Retaking the same three-second shot at least 15 times would appear tedious to most, but for Doyle it’s getting to experience her dream job. Every time that someone would blink wrong, move too quickly or background noise would interfere, they would have to shoot it again. The fact that it takes a good hour to shoot five seconds of a movie is an astounding aspect of film.
Doyle’s intense nature seems to be replaced by a patient one as she is eager to help with each and every retake.
The hours that were spent on set that day did not reap hours of useable footage. In fact, it was a fraction of that.
What Goes Around Comes Around
As graduation weekend came and went, Doyle tried her best to enjoy what was supposed to be the happiest time of her high school career. In her heart, however, she couldn’t help but feel crushed and disappointed in herself.
“She had to watch her future slip away in a matter of days,” Carena said.
Strong in her faith, Doyle turned to God to help her in her time of need. She began to pray a novena, which is a nine-day prayer. The novena that Doyle prayed was one that was told to never fail.
During graduation weekend, a girl in Doyle’s class came up to her and struck up a conversation.
“I had never talked to this girl in my life,” Doyle said.
“I’d like to say that it was luck, but it wasn’t,” Carena said. “God was watching out for her.”
They discussed plans for after graduation and Doyle ended up sharing her story with this girl. They discussed the issues that Doyle was facing. She shared her disappointment with the outcome of her college dreams.
“The next day, that girl contacted me and asked if I would speak to her father,” Doyle said.
Shortly after graduating, Doyle walked into an insurance office to talk to a man she had never met before. That stranger would be the same man to change her life forever.
He asked her a few questions and they chatted for a bit about small things. He asked her if she had a job and what she hoped to do once in college. He then gave Doyle the most shocking, life-changing news she would ever receive.
“Apparently, his daughter told him about me,” Doyle said. “He then proceeded to say that he wanted to help pay for my tuition to go to USC.”
While recapping the accounts of that conversation, the emotion and gratitude seemed to hang on every word Doyle said. She seemed at a loss for words.
“Even though I’ve retold this story so many times, it’s still so unbelievable,” Doyle said.
This man, with the help of his company, was ready to help Doyle attend her dream school. All he asked of her was that she intern for him at his work for two summers.
When telling people that she dreamed of going to USC, many felt as though someone from Carson City would quickly fail at a big school. This man, however, saw Doyle for the hard-worker that she was.
“Not a lot of people believed in me,” Doyle said. “But that man looked me dead in the eye and told me, ‘you’re going to USC.’”
“Nothing could ever beat the smile that was frozen on Rebecca’s face because of the generosity of that man,” Robertson said.
After breaking down into tears, Doyle went to share the miracle that had just happened with her family. She ran out onto her driveway at home and found her parents.
“I remember she came out crying, and the first thing that I thought was, ‘Oh goodness Rebecca, what now?’” Carena said.
Talking through waves of tears and gratitude, Doyle recapped what had happened. Her parents were just as shocked as she was.
“At first, I just looked at her and thought my daughter had completely lost it,” Carena said. “She must have misheard him, is what I remember thinking.”
After much clarification, Doyle’s parents realized that it wasn’t a miscommunication. It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t another rejection. It was a miracle happening right before their eyes.
“My mom cried, which she never does,” Doyle said.
“It was solely because of her unmatched determination that it happened to her,” Luke said. “I really shouldn’t be so surprised that it happened.”
That summer, Doyle was able to intern with this man’s company in exchange for a paid tuition for USC. Without this stranger’s generosity and divine help, Doyle would have never had the opportunity to make her dreams to come true.
“People always tell me that they want to make a movie out of my story,” Doyle said. “I even have a hard time believing it’s real sometimes.”
“It took months for that news to sink in,” Carena said.
For this young lady, she went from the deepest heartbreak she had ever experienced to the greatest day of her life. The unnecessary generosity that she received from a complete stranger makes it possible for Rebecca to live out her dreams every day.
A Success Story in the Making
During her short time at USC, Doyle has already established herself as a success story in the making. In her freshman year alone, Doyle was a part of 22 different film projects. Doyle has done almost every aspect of film production. She has tried her hand at makeup design, producing and film writing.
She received a license to start her own production company at the end of her freshman year. Suspended Reality Productions, which consists of Doyle and three other male peers, started working on projects last summer. They even produced a music video for a local artist, among many other projects.
“We are actually getting paid work now, which is crazy,” Doyle said.
“I already told her what kind of car I want when she becomes rich and famous,” Carena said.
Back to Work
Doyle leaves the set after 14 hours. While most students spend their Sundays in full recovery mode, Doyle chooses to dedicate hers to making her dream a reality. In fact, she dedicates that entire weekend to the film. One that was not even hers.
In that day alone, Doyle accompanies the cast and crew from the original set, the director’s house and then a sound stage to shoot a night rowboat scene. She even makes it back in time to go to Sunday mass.
Once back in her room, Doyle began to mentally prepare for the upcoming week. Not even having time to breathe, she shifts gears and begins to prepare for her next project. Without a day to recover, Doyle begins her next week in Los Angeles, ready for whatever may come her way.
A Big Break
Her most recent and prominent accomplishment was having her short film, Breaking Point, selected to be shown at Trojan Family Weekend. This is a time when families of students and alumni are asked to come down to campus for a weekend. The three other men involved with Suspended Reality were also a part of the production, and presented it with her.
“The only reason Tim and I went was to see Rebecca’s film,” Carena said. “Now, I’m so glad that I went.”
This film is Doyle’s proudest piece of work yet. It was also selected to be shown and at the Catalina Film Festival.
“That short film means a lot to me,” Doyle said.
Seeing her daughter’s film on a big screen in front of faculty, alumni and fellow students was a defining moment for Carena.
“Something about sitting there in that beautiful theatre, watching her present her film and hearing her speak after was so fantastic,” Carena said.
The tears in her eyes caught the lighting in the room as Carena began to talk about Rebecca.
“I was just sitting here thinking, my goodness, I need to support this child,” Carena said. “I am behind her 100 percent now.”
During her director’s speech after the showing of her film, Doyle took a moment to thank those who helped make Breaking Point a reality. She took time to specifically thank on her family.
“She was going on and on, thanking us for everything,” Carena said. “Then she broke down and cried, and then I broke down and cried. ”
In that moment, it was as if the emotional torment and turmoil over the last few years had finally been laid to rest. Carena was able to look at her daughter with pride. She could also feel comfort knowing that Rebecca was doing what she had been born to do.
“I know that there are some bad people in her field,” Carena said. “But maybe she can do a good thing in a dirty world.”
Doyle is greatly missed by her family while she is away.
“I told her if you’re going away to college, you can come home for Christmas and that’s it, because I’m not paying for all those plane tickets,” Carena said. “But I really miss her, truly.”
Doyle didn’t spend last Thanksgiving with her family, but Carena offered to fly her home after spending the weekend at USC.
“I’m so excited she’ll be here,” Carena said. “Last Thanksgiving I had a teddy bear in her spot at the table because it was so strange not having her there.”
Doyle recognizes the kindness that was shown to her by that stranger, and it will not be soon forgotten. She passes that kindness on by staying true to the genuine person she is.
“She has inspired me in so many different ways,” Luke said.
“Rebecca showed me that I was far more than I thought I could be,” Robertson said. “She truly is the light of my life.”
“She was always nice to the odd kids in her classes growing up,” Carena said. “She may be tough but she has such a good heart, and all that kindness paid off in a sense.”
Her kindness and hard work helped her keep pushing through the hard times and she was rewarded at the end.
“One of my favorite parts about going to USC is that it’s a work hard, play hard environment,” Doyle said. “It’s really motivating.”
“That girl is a force to be reckoned with,” Carena said.
She is now currently working toward her dreams of being a film producer and director, and is doing everything she can to get there. Currently a critical studies major, which is a branch of film school , she hopes to one day be admitted into the film and TV production school. She is continuing to work for that on a daily basis. Doyle is also majoring in communications.
“It’s kind of ironic that I worked so hard to get here, and then I’m still not exactly where I want to be as far as my major goes ,” Doyle said. “But I’m getting there. ”
The journey for Rebecca Doyle is far from over. For however long she chooses to follow her dreams, she is going to have to keep fighting on.
“There’s always someone bigger and better than me out there,” Doyle said. “I just want it a lot more than some.”
“I gave her this thing before she went away to school that says, ‘There has never been a day when I haven’t been proud of you, I just make so much noise about everything else it’s hard to tell sometimes,’” Carena said. “I’m so proud, and I know she’s never going to give up either.”
With the help of hard work, a determined mindset, a loving family and a very generous stranger, Doyle now gets to live her dream every day.
Fight on, Rebecca Doyle. Remember the name, because you might see it in lights sooner than later.
“There are days when I am literally fighting back tears on my way to class,” Doyle said. “I will never fully comprehend how lucky I am.”