Creating a short film in the time of a pandemic

College student, Kai Vargas created a short film from home during a pandemic. Courtesy/Kai Vargas.

Saddleback College freshman tells us how filmmaking courses operate during quarantine

Kai Vargas is a freshman at Saddleback who wants to pursue a film career in the future. He is currently enrolled in a video production class and was assigned a project focused on creating a three to five-minute short film. 

Typically, the project would be done in a classroom setting with peers and an instructor. However, life in lockdown has changed how things are currently done. “Use what you got” is a short film project assigned by Professor Tomlinson that emphasizes the importance of being resourceful with the situation at hand. 

“I used my camera, my gimbal, some lenses and a really crappy microphone,” Vargas says. “I mainly drew inspiration from ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ since I saw it recently.” 

“One Last Job” is a short film centered around a man struggling to support his child but gets offered a shady job that puts his values to the test. Vargas wanted to use different lighting and angles to catch certain moments of the short film. His set consisted of his apartment hallway, bedroom, kitchen and the parking lot of his apartment complex. 

“Working in one place definitely makes it easier,” he says. “However, it also has its own challenges, like figuring out how to make the setting more visually interesting.”

Vargas enjoyed waking up in his own set as it helped the process and allowed him to visualize what shots would work best with the short film. He utilized different lighting situations and angled to give certain scenes a different feeling.

As for his cast and crew, Vargas was limited to his neighbor, younger brother and himself. Timing and scheduling were some of the more challenging parts of the project, as he had to organize a day and time they could all work together to film the video.

“Now I realize how much it helps to have a crew when working alone,” he says. “It gives me an appreciation of the production process and what it means to work on a team.”

The last time he filmed a project with a team was in high school last year. Vargas is looking forward to the future and its opportunities in collaborating with others and working on a team. Receiving more hands-on training to get more comfortable with the equipment and the production process is yet another aspect of filmmaking he craves during a time of isolation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I really want to work with others,” he says. “It’s cool working with family, but getting other people’s input outside of your sphere of influence is very helpful.” 

Vargas is anxious to learn more about the film process as a whole, as well as the editing process. This project offered him the chance to take his creative freedom to a new level while working with resources up close and personally. Despite the challenging experience, he could write and produce this film by himself with a couple of people.