Nathan Tung used the pandemic as an opportunity to shoot a documentary in Zion National Park. (Photo credit to Sean Lindsey)

Sporadic Hollywood film schedules hammered by the pandemic have nothing on those of Chapman’s film students in 2020.

According to Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Covid-19 guidelines, shooting proceeded as usual this fall, with a few exceptions:

  • Students don’t have access to Dodge production equipment.
  • Crews must be limited to two people, the director, and one other member.
  • Production must stick to a 12-hour shoot day.
  • Six feet distance must be kept between all crew and actors unless they share a “quarantine pod.”
  • All filming must be done outdoors unless the indoor location is part of the filmmaker’s quarantine pod.

With the pandemic still in full force and the semester coming to a close, students in Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts have had to work harder than ever to complete projects and assignments. Dan Leonard, Associate Dean of Dodge College, acknowledges this.

“It is challenging, but Dodge students are meeting the challenge; we have been pleased that students are following the guidelines, taking safety seriously, and being able to resume production in a safe manner,” he said.

Classes over Zoom have had a silver lining, at least to students like Samantha Reed, a senior theater performance major. 

“Though I was really uncertain about how class over Zoom would go, it’s really helped with my acting for camera techniques,” she said. “I’m much more comfortable creating self-tape setups and arranging myself for class and far more confidence in creating setups for independent content creation.”

Nathan Tung, a second-year grad student studying cinematography, has a more pessimistic view of the situation. Having to be online for the majority of the time has been tough for him.

“We weren’t really able to do anything for the longest time, especially being a cinematographer. We finally got to shoot some projects this semester so that’s nice but not sure how long it’s going to last,” he said.

With less production happening through Chapman, students have had the opportunity to spend more time on personal projects. Whether they have a script they wrote in quarantine they want to bring to life or to continue shooting a series they started for class, students can use their free time to be creative. 

Reed has been working on an independent student project titled “Panthers in Paradise,” a scripted parody of The Bachelor. Every episode involves different “challenges” to win the guy’s heart and each episode ends with one character getting sent home. 

From left: Samantha Reed, Rachel Kelly, Ansley Layne, Shayna Sternin in “Panthers in Paradise” (Photo credit to Reisz Davis)

The image above is taken from an episode titled “Master Chet,” in which the girls compete to cook the best dish for the bachelor, Harrison.

“It’s honestly been the only thing keeping me sane over this crazy time,” Reed said.

Students are required to self-isolate and show negative test results prior to being on film sets. While on set, students must wear masks and socially distance where they can. The amount of people allowed on set has been limited to 12. However, sophomore documentary and broadcast journalism major Sean Lindsey says the sets he has been on have only 5 to 10 students working. 

Students wear masks and do their best to social distance while on set. (Photo credit to Nathan Tung)

“I have always timed my results to come back a day before set, and take precautions in the meantime to limit exposure before set,” Lindsey said. “The smaller crew I have been working with is very trustworthy and have each been doing their part to ensure the safety of others.” 

According to Tung, “good” sets usually have 25-30 people on them at a given time. The smaller sets help reduce the possibility of Covid-19 spreading, but adds more to the plates of people who are there.

With guidelines limiting film crews to only a director and one other member, those working on production have to work much harder to keep the set running.

“Everyone on set has to play multiple roles in order to help it function as close to normal as usual,” Reed said. 

Despite being an independently-run set, they are still being required to be tested before showing up to film.

“[They have] done a fantastic job of keeping things running smoothly despite all the constraints, and I couldn’t be more impressed with the level of professionalism that’s been maintained throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic,” Reed said.

Students have also taken advantage of classes not meeting in person by taking their ideas abroad. 

Both Lindsey and Tung took this opportunity to broaden their horizons and traveled east to Zion National Park in Utah to shoot a personal documentary.

Nathan Tung prepares a shot in Zion National Park. (Photo credit to Sean Lindsey)

The trip offered a creative outlet, as well as a much-needed getaway from their usual routines.

“It was a small group of people, who all got tested, and went to live in Zion National Park together for a week and experience nature and try new outdoor activities that they never have done before,” Lindsey said.

As the semester comes to a close with Covid-19 making a resurgence, Dodge students may find themselves spending an additional semester under strict guidance. 

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