Senior film student Jailyn Laue attends flimmaking 1 in the John Van Duzer Theater on Sept. 28. | Photo by Kellie Jo Brown.

Film Department loses budget and resources

Annual Humboldt International Film Festival proceeds without a budget
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Annual Humboldt International Film Festival proceeds without a budget

Ann Alter is chair of the film program at Humboldt State University. She and other film professors significantly adjusted their instruction to the new format of virtual learning. The department typically relies on in-class teaching, specifically, access to a film set.

“Everything is modified,” Alter said. “The scope of classes, student activities, interactions between students and faculty, teaching, assignments, grading, equipment and facilities access and even the films we are able to show in our film studies classes.”

Professor David Scheerer is also frustrated with the uncertainty of online teaching and how its affecting students’ education.

“Teaching the incredibly complex and aesthetically challenging on-set techniques of the filmmaking process is virtually impossible,” Scheerer said. “There is no other way but hands-on instruction to teach students the actual professional practices in order to prepare them for post-graduation reality.”

Teachers are still requiring students to work with a partner to complete assignments, expecting them to follow safety precautions.

Bodhi Kim-Foulk, a senior film student, transferred to HSU in the fall of 2019. He believes working with another student will help him in the long run.

“It’s probably for the best that we still have to find a way to work with others, because the pandemic is ultimately going to end at some point and overcoming obstacles in production is what filmmaking is all about,” Kim-Foulk said. “Learning to confront these challenges can only make us more resilient as artists.”

Despite frustrations, Scheerer does what he can to look positively on the situation.

“I have turned a lemon into lemonade by making this an excellent exercise in solving an entirely new series of practical production problems, while students must also solve the ‘usual’ creative problems to tell their story,” Scheerer said.

Kylie Holub is a transfer student film major. With less time spent on socializing, Holub has had the opportunity to focus more on screenwriting.

“It’s all about finding the silver lining in what we have to work with,” Holub said. “This is a crazy time to be alive and a crazy semester we are experiencing right now. But, filmmaking and writing films, I can say, have been a major component for keeping my spirits up.”

The film program has also experienced a lack of mentoring opportunities this semester for beginning students. Not having access to work on a film set has been detrimental. According to Alter, this historically been a key strength of the film program. Additionally, the department’s annual Humboldt International Film Festival, a tradition dating back 53 years at HSU, was given no budget this year because of the pandemic.

Michelle Cartier is a lecturer and first year coordinator of the festival. The budget issue has forced Cartier and their team to improvise a creative strategy to keep the event going. As of now, the festival is planned for April 22-25, 2021.

The student run event includes four different categories of films: Experimental and Animation, Narrative, Documentary and Best of the Fest. For 2021, they’ve added new categories including COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+.

While the event has been held at the Minor Theater for several years, access to the Minor Theater is in question due to funding. The festival team is considering other options including drive-ins, a virtual format and other live venues.

Along with the impacts on students’ education, the lack of resources is affecting opportunities for students post-graduation.

“When [a student] gets to work on a professional film production, they have something meaningful to put on their resume,” Alter said.

Film students and instructors avoid filming in crowded areas, keep their crews small and reduce the number of actors they work with. If anything, the pandemic has helped students become more creative and resourceful in the way they tell their stories.

“HSU film students are resilient, passionate about film, and they have important, wacky, scary, adventurous, romantic, informative and moving cinematic stories to share with the world,” Alter said. “We will continue doing this in a safe and meaningful way through all the challenges that this pandemic is bringing for everyone.”

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