Every facet of American life has changed since March, including the once untouchable film industry. With productions coming to a grinding halt, Cal State Fullerton’s cinema and television arts students have also had to change the way they’re creating their own student films this semester.
Before the pandemic, students could expect to walk into cinema and television arts 425: Production 2, knowing they’ll be able to produce a 15-minute short film. With a $10,000 budget and methodical planning, students were able to pave their own cinematic experience.
Though students will still get that opportunity, on-set collaboration will look a little different.
Noah Hwang, senior cinema and television arts student and COVID-19 safety coordinator for cinema and television arts 425, said that the safety of students on set is the top priority for everyone involved. With the class still in pre-production, students have been keeping in mind what will be creatively possible with the current social distancing measures.
“When we write the script we try to consider the fact that we're writing it during a time where we know we're going to be producing it over the next few months,” Hwang said. “We know that we're going to be shooting in this environment.”
While Hollywood also begins to revive productions, Hwang’s role as a COVID-19 safety coordinator has even become an industry standard, according to a report by the Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamster’s Committees.
“I would not have been surprised if the school said we could not do this entirely and just decided that it wasn't worth it,” Hwang said. “But, I'm glad that they're allowing this to happen because I think that the reality is that if we are to try to imitate the industry, then the industry is starting to get back into production mode.”
Some of the production safety precautions will include scouting locations that allow students to practice social distancing, taking students temperatures before stepping on set and labeling entrances and exits to direct traffic flow, Hwang said.
Fellow crew member and senior cinema and television arts student Regene Galope said that although production will still be happening, it won’t compare to previous semesters.
“There's something about bouncing off ideas in person that's really different than, you know, doing it virtually on Zoom,” Galope said. “Sometimes, I feel like the medium of Zoom just totally discourages it because there's so many people, and then you try to say something but you just let that other person talk.”
Another issue that students run into is gathering inspiration. Coffee shops, museums and libraries which once served as creative nests for artists have also succumbed to coronavirus closures.
“One of my screenwriter professors told me that it's really important to be in environments that inspire you,” Galope said. “So you know, whether you're writing or you're thinking about doing directing or planning your production design, it's important to find yourself in places that inspire you.”
Although students won’t get to collaborate face to face, cinematography professor Jacqueline Frost said that there are still resources available to inspire students.
“Because of COVID, there are so many links to people doing podcasts, webinars, all of these things,” Frost said.
Frost said that because of the shutdown of productions, filmmakers are creating more web series and resources for other filmmakers now more than ever.
“I've talked to cinematographers and they're like 'check out this cool stuff,’ 'check out this one,’ 'check out that one,’ they're all doing web series through Zoom,” Frost said.
Even though the traditional format of filmmaking won’t return to normal for a while, Frost and other cinema and television arts students said they are still optimistic about the future of film.
“I think the industry is leaning our way to figure out how to keep the momentum going one way or another,” Frost said. “So, creative minds can find creative solutions.”