Film producing under a pandemic

Saddleback College film students practice COVID-19 safety measures on their set. Byron Morse/Courtesy

Saddleback film major Byron Morse shares what it’s like to film in the pandemic

This year may just be considered Hollywood’s longest hiatus. Resulted from the pandemic, Hollywood film sets and employees were placed on this elongated hiatus for public health and safety precautions. 

For many A-list actors and directors the past few months of quarantine stay-home order might feel like one long vacation. In contrast costume, set construction and camera crew are unemployed or furloughed until further notice. In addition film students following the stay-at-home order are overcoming obstacles of not having full access to their campus’ media lab centers, materials and film equipment. 

Byron Morse, a Saddleback College film student, spoke on how the film department continues to persevere amidst the current pandemic. Morse, originally from Vermont, moved to California to attend school and pursue a film career. 

“I always loved movies and began filming things when I was around nine years old,” Morse says. “I heard nothing but good things about Saddleback’s film department and faculty, and after touring, I realized I wanted to go there.”

Morse hopes to one day work with director Christopher Nolan. He has a deep admiration for the Hollywood mainstream producer.

“His films are extravagant, exciting and captivating,” Morse says. “Nolan has a great vision and knows exactly what he wants.”

Following this film buff discussion, Morse comments on the sudden changes involved with implementation of virtual classrooms. The main concerns surrounded the film courses. 

“The film department is definitely having difficult with the pandemic, as a lot of film classes are hands-on and require on set experience,” Morse says.

The young film student explains that in-person experience is crucial in developing etiquette, known as set etiquette. This implemented etiquette will assist students in preparation for the industry. However Morse is optimistic despite these obstacles. 

“As for the production classes that require studio or lab work, Saddleback is letting students back on campus to get some hands-on experience,” Morse says.

He has found that Saddleback’s campus as well as the film department has done a job well done in keeping their student’s health in consideration and a high priority.

“They are all required to wear masks and face shields in the studio when working with the equipment,” Morse says. “Afterwards, all of the film equipment is sanitized in preparation for the next class.”

As few film students were returning to in-person classes an even smaller amount of film students took the liberty to resume student productions as well. 

“Film sets usually have large crews, crowded rooms, open shared food and many hours spent together in small areas,” Morse says. “All of these things have to be minimized as much as possible in order for a set to be COVID compliant.” 

Morse explains that his experience included having a COVID Compliance Officer during the entire duration of the film set hours. The task of the officer is to inspect that the film crew are following COVID-19 safety protocols for virus spread prevention. 

“Crew members maintain social distance as much as possible,” Morse says. “Some student films are being shot completely outside to allow for both social distancing and airflow.”

Although the protocols can take extra work and delay productions Morse agrees that it is all worth it for the love of film. Despite current circumstances the students in the Saddleback film department seem to hope for an optimistic future in the film industry starting with preserving public health and safety for all.