The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

SF State students and professors adjust to film school during COVID-19

December 4, 2020

Of the departments that have been shaken up by the pandemic, few have been more affected than SF State’s cinema program. While some aspects of filmmaking can be done remotely, many still require in-person meetups that can present serious challenges to safety and social distancing. Students and staff within the cinema department spoke to Xpress about their experiences teaching, studying, and making films within the constraints of online instruction as well their creative solutions to the hurdles those constraints have placed.

Julian Hoxter, an associate professor of cinema who specializes in screen-writing, explained that the work his students do —developing scripts —is one of the areas of filmmaking least impacted by the pandemic. “They don’t tend to want to come in and write a ‘COVID script’,” he said. Other facets of filmmaking, like lighting and cinematography, are much more hands-on. “You have to find a way to work it out,” said Weimin Zhang, a cinema professor who focuses on cinematography and documentary production. She has had to get creative with her lighting course this semester, using Zoom to do a lighting demo in her own garage.

Beyond just faculty, students are also finding ways to adapt to the new set of circumstances. Celine Viravong, a 4th year Cinema major, has struggled with finding the tools she needs to produce films. “We can’t really get equipment from school,” she said, “so we’re all putting in what we have on hand.”

Despite the barriers put in their way, students and staff have remained motivated by their passion for the medium, using this worldwide lull to look inwards for material. “We can always tell stories about ourselves and our communities,” said Johnny Symons, documentary coordinator for the department.

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About the Contributors
Photo of Jess Magill
Jess Magill
Magill was born in San Francisco but spent about half of his life living in France. He moved back to the Bay in 2015, and in his spare time he tends to his herbs and veggies, sitting alone with his thoughts anguishing over the existential dangers facing his generation.

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