Frequently Asked Questions
Will I be able to borrow film equipment?
Yes, the Equipment Library has developed a safe no-contact routine for borrowing and returning film gear. Plan to spend a few more minutes than usual in both pick-up and return, as cases will need to be opened, checked, and cleaned in each direction.
Will I have hands-on instruction in filmmaking ideas and techniques?
Yes. Because we want you to be safe and healthy we anticipate (as of this writing) four students in a studio at a time, and those in the first two years will be augmented by demonstrations by the Equipment Library. That way, you can learn simultaneously, just in different spaces. And because we have a new tool called Panopto we are planning to film demos and upload them to Canvas so that you can study them more than once.
How will I study films for class?
We are working hard to make sure that you have a lot of resources in the world of watching. We won’t have the usual screenings we have had in the Film Studio, but the Cornish Library will be open for you to borrow books and film titles, and the department is making good use of Panopto, too, for sharing movie screenings.
How will the whole class see my films?
Panopto also, which is offering us unlimited storage. It’s a nice, intuitive tool. We can view your work as a whole in any studio class that needs to meet online to view and critique.
Will classes be on Google Meets again?
No, we are moving to Zoom for online classes.
How will my filmmaking assignments be different?
We are planning for a Phase 2 semester (though we will be ready for Phase 3, if September brings that). That means that while there will be more online instruction, the courses defined as “hybrid” will gather in small groups for in classrooms and studios for real time instruction when necessary (following safety and health guidelines).
We are thinking of all the ways to teach you to develop your voice as a filmmaker so that the assignments recognize COVID-19 as one of the assignment’s constraints. Hollywood, Bollywood, New York, Taiwan, and film communities everywhere are having these conversations: what does the creative act look like? What is a film story in the A.C. (After COVID) world? What are the new stories that must be told in this condition by filmmakers?
What will Fall classes look like?
One Film class we are offering is Introduction to Narrative Film, a filmmaking course for second-year students that covers fiction and non-fiction. COVID-19, with its guidelines for separation and contact, will be one of the creative constraints we use, which will mean learning to work in small, nimble crews, and probably, in part, fashioning stories from the hive world of the screen as it intersects with the wide open world (still, out there) under the sun. Students will continue to develop the collaborative making skills they learned in the spring by rotating among major creative roles: director, cinematographer, producer, editor. Some of the homework will involve listening in on this (new) world.
Visual Storytelling is a first-year course that teaches students how to see, and this, along with another first-year course, Essential Tools, will have perhaps the most face-to-face contact time built into them. Students in these courses will be introduced to the basics of light, lenses, and editing but also how to use spaces and lines (and things off-screen) inside the movie frame to help build emotion. The hands-on work will be enabled by access to the Equipment Library, which has developed a strong no-contact routine for borrowing and returning lights, cameras, and sound-recording equipment.
One upper division course we are offering in the Fall is Complex Narrative, a writing class that explores ways students might develop characters with hidden motives to produce a greater sense of story thickness, or how they might introduce a new character whose role in the story is charged but mysterious. What is the value of simply (but not really simply) observing things for a considerable time without dialogue? The Film department will make good use in this class, as in the others, of the new learning tool, Panopto, with its capacity to store a library of images and sequence and edit them. Through the semester, faculty will make film essays about complex scenes, sequences, and stories, too, by combining work from films that demonstrate it and voiceover commentary that guides student learning. The essays are new to the department and will be brief (6-9 minutes), trenchant, and, we hope, useable tools for students to learn. Each week there will be rotation of activities (writing, analyzing, reading, critiquing) and each week a rotation of students learning ‘live’ in the classroom.
Experimental Film, a second-year course, is the poetry wing of filmmaking, which means more individual work than in other film forms. This class plans to take the constituent parts of film – sound and image – to explore non-narrative aspects of filmmaking. The first assignment will begin with students taking long, silent takes of close-ups of parts of the world. The second part of the assignment will involve adding sound, but that is a secret for now (but the sounds will combine work the faculty member has uploaded to Panopto and work the student has recorded using Cornish’s excellent sound recording equipment). (Yes, you will get a full review of how to record sounds accurately!)
In Film Language students will learn how films have been put together from year zero (that’s 1895 for film) to make emotions and meanings. In Film Noir students will study how the world of rain, shadows, crime, and trespass asks us to think about order and disorder in the world. (How timely!) In addition, each student will produce a short photo- or video-essay, generating analysis in the form of a screen-based, stand-alone work—that is, a piece that can be viewed again, as part of a showcase, or be included on a student’s demo reel. As such, each visual essay will contain a mixture of images, sound, and text, including a direct representation of the student/producer (either their voice, image, or both). This thinking has been prompted by our distance-based conditions, but the video-essay option will allow students to build creative and analytical muscles simultaneously, and to experiment with a newly prominent form. And film language can function as both an object and a means of inquiry, simultaneously.
How will I make films in crews during this period?
Student productions will be made in small and safe numbers, outside, and following the most current health and safety guidelines. This means filmmakers must wear provided face masks, stand six feet apart, and make work in numbers that follow the state’s current Phase (2) guidelines: no more than five people to a production, for example.
As noted above, borrowing and returning film equipment will follow a no-contact protocol, with cleaning at each exchange. Periodic in-studio demonstrations will be careful to observe the same guidelines and with safe numbers of students gathering to learn the particulars of lights, cameras, sound-recording techniques (and menus). Where necessarily, gloves will be worn to further ensure no transmission of the virus. We will be checking with the state, the department of education, and the CDC regularly to continue to comply with all health and safety for students as they learn.
Film history and screenwriting classes will be hybrid, with a little more work and learning anticipated through the online tools we have. When classes meet in person we will observe the College’s room limits and the state’s protocols, principally wearing (N-95 rated) masks throughout as well as maintaining appropriate distances.
Film studio courses, also hybrid, will meet with a little more frequency in the Film Studio (Lui 201), in the adjacent space (Lui 202), or in the Main Campus Center editing lab (208). College room capacities will be observed as well as mask and social distance guidelines. As many opportunities as possible will be taken for making work out of doors, until mid-October when the weather typically changes.