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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA

Theater, film and television summer courses move online

By Casey Cooney

June 28, 2010 12:25 a.m.

Professor Richard Walter’s office is filled from floor to ceiling with books that explore every aspect of the filmmaking process. It’s the sort of office students won’t see if they take the online courses offered by the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

The online summer theater, film and television courses consist of streaming lectures, online postings and an assignment calendar detailing important deadlines and due dates. As seen on the theater department’s Distance Education website, these courses tend to focus more on the historical and theoretical approaches to the subject, be it acting, writing or a history survey course.

“I took my courses from home in North Carolina. While the videos sometimes took awhile to load, the convenience outweighs anything else,” said third-year physiological sciences student Reena Patel.

Screenwriting and cinematography are among the few technical classes that are currently offered in an online format. According to third-year theater student Ian McQuown, this is just one way in which these classes fail to cater to actual theater students. Upper-division classes for an acting or design major are extremely specialized and make for a difficult transition to online.

“If you’re a theater major, you really don’t take online courses. We take a whole different set of theater classes that aren’t even offered over summer or to non-majors,” McQuown said.

According to Walter, the one-on-one tutoring offered on campus is usually unavailable online. The online classes focus on teaching aspiring students broad, general strategies for success in today’s entertainment industry to combat this issue. Walter chooses to structure his classes to help the students with writing strategies that have proven to be successful in Hollywood, citing a belief that all screenplays are 96 percent the same.

“The online writers are actually quite good, I feel that a certain amount of self-selection goes into choosing a screenwriting class online rather than traditional lectures,” Walter said.

Additionally, online courses present the opportunity to teach to those within the UCLA community who may not be able to utilize the campus’s close proximity to Hollywood. The ease of access to these classes allows many non-theater, film and television students to explore an untapped interest in cinema or theater from the comfort of home.

“I love that I can reach people that I normally couldn’t because of geography, students from as far away as Shanghai and Dubai,” Walter said.

While the convenience of online classes may be perfect for the casual film and theater student, McQuown said that the convenience of online classes couldn’t replace being in an acting class on campus.

“I believe the fun of a theater class is in doing it, not simply in the information. It’s class, but it’s also playtime ““ being in a group of people and playing tends to be an invaluable experience for those involved,” McQuown said.

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Casey Cooney
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