Langara Film arts program survives COVID-19 year

Pandemic creates new challenges for students and staff over a hectic semester

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By Tyson Burrows

Doing their own hair and makeup. Changing scripts on the fly so that scenes would be filmed outside. Decorated in facemasks between shots.

Langara’s film arts students had no idea what they were in for when classes began this semester.

As most film arts classes have moved online, students and instructors had to find creative ways to complete the program under the college’s strict COVID-19 measures, while also reflecting the industry’s standards as closely as possible.

Film arts coordinator Jonas Quastel said the semester’s greatest success was the students’ ability to adapt, and said most students “fared quite well,” given the constraints of the pandemic.

When the bulk of the college moved online last March, the students had already finished their main shoots for the term.

“So, then we did all of our post-production in very creative ways,” Quastel said, adding that COVID has impacted the program “similar to how it impacted the industry.”

By the second term, the program was “comfortably online.”

Pandemic creates new challenges to overcome

Only production and acting classes were completed in person but following COVID protocols.

“The industry stopped for some time. Once everything came back on, the rules of the game were clear,” said Marlene Castaños Ortega, a professional actor from Mexico, enrolled in the acting stream. “It was easy to translate into the program.”

This semester, the actors had to look after themselves completely, said Quastel. Their hair, makeup, wardrobes, props – whatever they needed was confined to “their own little box” that they had to take care of.

Masks were to be worn at all times. The only exception: actors while being filmed.

It was practically impossible to social distance on set, said Elaine Thrash, another actor in the program.

“So, they say, ‘Cut,’” she said, pulling her hands to her ears. “Put a mask on.”

At certain times, scripts were rewritten before production to allow for safer practices.

“We tried to move anything we could outdoors, because the risk of transference is reduced greatly,” Quastel said.

Local jobs still available

He felt confident in students’ job prospects after graduation, given the higher costs associated with bringing in actors from abroad, especially with the required two-week quarantine period.

“We’re getting opportunities for local actors to get cast in roles that, beforehand, would have gone to an American,” said Quastel.

Ortega said she has heard that before but has also heard that the industry had slowed.

“It’s so much uncertainty,” she said.

She was particularly worried about the impact of having less face-to-face interaction at school.

“I know I didn’t perform as well as I could have,” she said about in-person auditions. “Because I’m not used to that anymore.”

Virginia Millsap, a 2014 acting stream grad, currently works in the industry helping to formulate and implement COVID-19 policies.

Millsap said the industry is “booming” right now.

“So yeah, I wouldn’t be worried about having to get a job in the film industry.”

Thrash is hopeful coming out of the program, especially due to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“In a real-world situation, we are ready for everything now.”

Langara film arts to host all movies online

Video By Lucas Jornitz

During this last semester, many changes had to be made in order to complete the program.

As students and instructors grapple with the new restrictions, they have manged to complete 10 films.

The Langara film arts students are working on a livestreamed event called Unlock the Vault to showcase the 10 short films that have been completed this year.

The following panel is a series of highlights from a meeting hosted by the Voice discussing their experiences over the most recent semester.

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