Cinema and media arts students create in unique circumstances

Follow three films students are making despite adverse conditions.

Karen+Corbett%2C+Tanner+Myatt%2C+and+Rebekah+Robinson+on+set+for+Robinson+and+Dustin+Rowe%27s+film.

Photo by Lauren McBride // THE CHIMES

Karen Corbett, Tanner Myatt, and Rebekah Robinson on set for Robinson and Dustin Rowe’s film.

Emily Coffey, Staff Writer

At the beginning of the pandemic, cinema and media arts students were among the top majors whose education was most affected by leaving campus. Without access to studios and equipment and with strict social distancing guidelines, many students are struggling to perfect their craft of filmmaking. Despite these circumstances, students are still finding a way to film. These three projects are run by students that showcase ingenuity and perseverance. 

THE MONTGOMERY BROTHERS 

Junior cinema and media arts majors Ethan and Luke Montogomery have worked together to create “Flower Man,” a short film about the effects of technology on social constructs. Though it was filmed before the coronavirus pandemic, it was released on YouTube three weeks ago after having a successful run in the film festival circuit, getting into the main selection of five festivals. 

More recently, however, they have been working on a music video for Wake Low, a group out of Nashville. Ethan Montgomery explained the strategy as such: even if they do not use the video, the brothers get to add it to their reel, allowing them to build credibility and gain experience in the industry. 

 Because the filming crew was so small, social distancing and contact tracing was incredibly easy. The premise of the video presents difficulty, given that it is about a man traveling the world. The Montgomery brothers shot in locations such as the wetlands, their backyard and other regions in California to mimic different locations in the world. To emulate snowfall, they set up a tarp in the backyard and put fake snow on it. Using visual effects knowledge from his classes, Ethan then added falling snow on top of the shot.

Though they lacked the typical equipment used for a project like this, Ethan explained that it was not essential. 

“Those are just bells and whistles… the one thing that never changes are stories,” Ethan Montgomery said. “You don’t get better stories because you have better equipment.” 

REBEKAH ROBINSON AND DUSTIN ROWE

Senior cinema and media arts majors Rebekah Robinson and Dustin Rowe wrapped shooting recently on an untitled film, which Robinson began writing in March for the Biola film competition. Though it was a finalist, it did not win, so she re-purposed the script for her senior thesis. The film explores identity and decision making, as Robinson explained: 

“Who would you be, if you weren’t who you are?” Robinson asked.

The film explores two parallel realities of a man’s life which are changed by certain decisions. In one reality, he lives a quiet and happy life, and in the other, he is a criminal. 

Rowe and Robinson came up with some very creative ways to shoot the film, though they ran into some difficulties with getting equipment from the Production Center. All equipment had to be approved by a COVID-19 safety team, and because of this, the equipment was not approved until hours after their schedule had already started. In addition, the set protocols had to be fully vetted for safety and two safety compliance officers had to be on set. 

Along with daily temperature and symptom checks, they were also limited to no more than six in a room. As a result, they broke the crew into “cohorts” based on their function. People in one cohort could not socialize or have contact with people in another which helped to reduce contact. However, this did affect their schedule. 

“We were constantly getting behind schedule because on a normal shoot you would have a camera team setting up lights, while the director is doing the blocking for the scene,” Rowe said. “We could only fit one of those groups inside at a time… it would take us three or four times as long [to shoot].” 

To combat this problem, Robinson created a model of the set outside of the house they shot at. She rehearsed scene movements with actors while lights were being set up, and this helped cut shooting time down. Overall, the team worked together and Robinson had a fantastic production experience.  

“This is my first big production… it was a very new experience for me,” Robinson said. “But I really enjoyed it. I realized just how much I love film. I know for a fact that God has called me to it.”

They are hoping to release the film later this year or early next year. 

ANDREW ETZWEILER 

Sophomore cinema and media arts major Andrew Etzweiler has been taking full advantage of the extra time he has in isolation. He has taken on over six projects, most of which are extracurricular. He just wrapped shooting for a music video on Sunday for an artist who goes by the name 2 THE SUN. He also shot a fashion video for the same artist and is working with a local skate brand to shoot another. 

He is shooting all of these projects with a camera he bought with summer savings and is managing under pandemic conditions by shooting with no more than six people in mostly outdoor locations. 

“I want to still shoot, and I don’t really want to let anything stop me,” Etzweiler said. “Unless I test positive for COVID.”

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