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Film program projects new showcase plans, postpones some amid pandemic

(Illustration by Jenny Hy/Daily Bruin)

By Allyson Weissman

June 10, 2020 5:35 p.m.

The UCLA film program – like many programs across campus – must celebrate students’ work virtually.

Throughout the year, seniors in the undergraduate and graduate film programs work on their thesis films, which are long-term projects students focus on to fulfill their graduation requirements. Traditionally, these films are displayed at the end of the year in showcases at the James Bridges Theater at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. Because of the coronavirus safety guidelines, in-person showcases have been either canceled or postponed. However, graduate student and day-of-event producer Regina Kim said most of the showcases, along with the annual screenwriting competition, will still occur virtually.

“For us, it didn’t make sense to delay the showcase and hold onto the winners for six months to a year, so our team decided we should do this virtually,” Kim said.

[Related: Creatives continue to create through entertainment industry’s pause amid pandemic]

As one of the day-of-event producers, Kim said she handles the logistics of the actual event, while graduate student and screenwriting competition producer Catherine Wilkins said she oversees the judges’ administration team. Although Wilkins said many aspects of the in-person event will remain – such as the PowerPoint to present each script – some adjustments still have to be made for the virtual format.

Normally, Kim said the poster team would design posters to be printed and displayed at the entrance for attendees to observe as they find their seats. But now, Kim said the posters will be made virtually along with a sizzle reel look book to portray the tones and themes of each script to viewers at home. In addition, Wilkins said the video team will replace the recording of in-person interviews with an edited compilation of all the finalists’ at-home videos describing their script and the inspiration behind it.

One of the showcase finalists in the feature drama category is graduate student Paul Sprangers, who said the pandemic has not impacted his writing but has affected his plans for directing the film over the summer. When writing the script for his feature screenwriting workshop, Sprangers said he wrote it with the intention of shooting the full movie but now will only be able to shoot the first 10-15 minutes of the film with a small crew. In contrast, directing finalist and fourth-year film student Victor Rocha said he was able to complete his filming before the pandemic.

“During the first five weeks of fall quarter, we do preproduction and plan for our shoot, and then around week six everybody starts shooting,” Rocha said. “I finished shooting all the way back in November.”

[Related: Film student seeks to tell a human story of resilience in crowdsourced documentary]

Even though Rocha compiled all his footage, he said it was still difficult to edit during the pandemic. Finding a composer to record and mix sound effects was a challenge because of the closing of businesses and recording stages. As a result of these limitations, Rocha said the showcase deadlines have been repealed by the department, allowing students to finish their film on their own time. Unlike the screenwriting competition, however, Rocha said the directing showcase will not be a virtual event, and the department will instead wait for the end of the stay-at-home order to host a live showing.

“The directing showcase so far doesn’t have a date to it,” Rocha said. “But everybody still wants it to happen because we want to be able to see our films on the big screen in the James Bridges Theater.”

Although the directing showcase will not be held virtually, the department is currently working on an informational website to recognize the work of the graduating undergraduate film class. The website will allow the directing showcase to follow in the footsteps of the screenwriting competition by honoring students at the end of the school year despite the obstacle of the pandemic.

“Our number one option is still in-person, no matter how long we have to wait, but we want to have something in the meantime,” Rocha said. “We want to feel like the class of 2020 undergraduate film class.”

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