Film students struggle to complete productions amid coronavirus lockdown

As the coronavirus has forced education online, some subject areas have transitioned more smoothly than others. Some students have been left without access to needed facilities or tools.

Film students have particularly suffered. Many halted their productions without the possibility of finishing them. They didn’t have the proper equipment at home and were prohibited from interacting with necessary cast and crew members. 

Adrian Garcia is a film professor at the  School of Entertainment and Design Technology, or SEDT, at Miami Dade College. He organizes his class so that students work on their scripts, casting, pre-production, and development before they head out and actually film. As a result, many of his students had well-planned projects but no footage when the semester was cut short. 

“It was pretty devastating news to find out everything would be shut down and students wouldn’t have the opportunity to work on their productions,” said Garcia. “It’s really difficult to teach a production class —  if not impossible. We were going to have students work with actors. We were going to have students working with each other in close proximity with lights and cameras to create a film scene. . . no one should be doing that at this particular point because it’s not safe.”

Garcia described this transition to online learning as a crash course for film students on how to work remotely, which can be a useful skill in this industry; any elements such as post-production, vocal coaching or story meetings are executed remotely under normal circumstances. He believes this a great opportunity for students to experience these things. 

“We always have some kind of cataclysmic event [where] people feel as if we’ll have long-lasting effects on society,” he said. “Overall my gut tells me that the industry will essentially be back to what it was in some form or another and much sooner than people think, and perhaps much sooner than it should.”

Josh Ellis, another film production professor at Miami-Dade College, has a different take on the situation. He predicts that people will become more careful and prepare more back-up plans. He also says his students have been particularly hobbled by the pandemic. 

“It has been particularly difficult for my entry-level students who have yet to invest in any type of production equipment to use at home,” said Ellis.

Francesca Roger, a student at SEDT, is one of the many whose final projects have been affected by the coronavirus. She’s come up with different ways to remain active throughout the quarantine and still participate in projects. 

“As a creative, I took this pandemic really harshly,” she said. “The first day when I didn’t have school or work, I immediately did not know what to do with myself. I cried a lot. Once that was over, I gathered my thoughts and began to make a list of all these creative ideas. . . Let’s do what we love without the pressure and excuses of society’s norms.”

Roger has taken her own advice and is currently working on the marketing strategy for a short film that she assistant-directed. 

Monique Trevett, a 23-year old student in the University of Central Florida’s radio and television program, says it’s been a really difficult transition because many of the students don’t have the proper gear or equipment at home that they’re normally allowed to check out from the school. 

“In our capstone project. . . I was lucky enough to have shot the majority of my documentary before spring break,” she said. “Others in our class were told they had to record Skype interviews and overlay them with photos and footage from the client.”  

Trevett cites another problem with a lack of equipment. It is difficult to assemble a portfolio. 

“Personally, it’s taken away my ability to create projects at a certain quality,” she said. “I’m taking an audio class this semester where we used studio mics and mix boards to create projects and I won’t be able to learn those in order to use it in the industry in the ways I needed.”

Fear of the future is palpable, said Trevett. “It sucks that my last semester in college had to be like this, but what makes me more nervous is what the economy is going to look like after I graduate. Getting a job in our industry is quite difficult to begin with.” 

I wish to be a political reporter one day and tell the stories of marginalized, forgotten and incredible people whose stories deserve to be told. Receiving my masters in political science is my next step.