From the Perspective of an Educator – Teaching Film Amidst a Global Pandemic
One thing everyone in the world has in common right now is uncertainty. This prevailing feeling has plagued many, regardless of age or industry, as they scramble to keep up with the ever-changing global pandemic that we are facing. COVID-19 has changed every facet of the world, ranging from something as small as wearing masks out in public to something as serious as the global economy.
Education has changed drastically over the last few months with more lessons having to shift online. Educators have had to completely switch up their teaching methods to comply with home-based learning. However, with teaching film related subjects such as acting, filmmaking, scriptwriting etc, the human touch and interaction is vital. As such, Sinema.SG caught up with LASALLE College of The Arts Film lecturer Wesley Leon Aroozoo to find out how he has adapted his teaching model since.
What are the challenges that you and your colleagues are facing? How have you overcome them?
Wesley: For my colleagues and I in the programme, we prepared earlier and took initiatives even before the circuit breaker was implemented. For instance, to slowly ease everyone into home-based learning, some classes were migrated early to online teaching so that everyone could familiarise themselves with softwares such as Zoom. Thankfully, these softwares are extremely user friendly.
Having online consultations did feel odd at first, both for myself and the students. However, in time, communication over a webcam started to feel second nature. Through trial and error, I learnt how best to conduct my classes virtually and for it to be as beneficial as possible for the students. As an educator, be it physical or online classes, the students’ experience is of foremost importance in a learning environment.
From the perspective of your students, how has the way they learn changed? What could be better?
Wesley: I’m very proud and impressed with how resilient and mature my students have proven, in dealing with the challenging circuit breaker period. They are quick to adapt to situations and are very understanding about the obstacles we face from time to time, which we must solve together as a team.
At LASALLE’s Diploma in Broadcast Media and BA Film programme, technology has always been a mainstay. My students are thus much more tech-savvy than the average student so this migration from physical lessons to online courses has been smooth.
There are aspects of learning that have changed with this new and unprecedented pandemic. As mentioned, consultations with students regarding their projects are now carried out via Zoom. For filming, there is social distancing and the size of cast and crew has to be adjusted to adhere to the regulations. Interestingly, working in smaller group sizes has taught students to depend on each other more, to be more self-sufficient and take on multiple roles when needed.
In terms of scheduling a shoot, students also take into account that filming may take longer than usual, which then evidently equates to a higher cost of production. All these restrictions teach students to work with what they have and to be as efficient as possible, in the process. It also teaches them that more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Being passionate, having heart and thinking on their feet are traits that surmount any size of production and eclipse any amount of budget. I am very proud of the dedication that the students have put into their video projects, which has resulted in some of the best works the programme has produced over the years.
Here are the links to some of the posters and trailers:
New Dogs by Lucas Kua
What We May Be by Ashwind Menon
Do you think this change is permanent? Which parts of it should be adapted or let go of?
Wesley: I hope this change is not permanent but I can foresee how some changes may have permanent effects on how filmmaking will be carried out. Personally, I am an advocate for smaller group sizes in filmmaking, be it for students or professionals. For students, this smaller group size will enable them to learn more as they may need to double up on roles or make do without certain roles on set. This is no doubt tougher, but it does enable more hands-on learning for the students.
What does the media/film space look like for the graduating cohorts of this year (and possibly the next year)? What can be done to help them?
Wesley: For graduating cohorts, online platforms are highly important to showcase their works. Some film festivals are taking a short hiatus this year, but many others are also moving to an online platform. Submissions to these festivals are very important to increase the visibility of the students’ work. We, therefore, encourage our students to reach out to platforms such as Viddsee, to show their work and Premise, to connect with other filmmaking individuals. There are many other platforms, of course, and as a school we are actively looking to these alternative platforms to help current and graduating cohorts integrate better into the industry.
Words of advice you would like to give to media/film students to encourage them?
Wesley: Use this time to write scripts, develop a portfolio site and enter competitions such as Sinema’s Inciting Incident Screenwriting Competition. This is a fantastic platform to participate in, to keep your mind active and test new ideas.
Find alternatives and be flexible to changes. Continue to make films, even if there are constraints. For example, with the National Arts Council and The Strait’s Times’ collaborative effort: 30 Days of Art, individuals were commissioned to create videos while in the comforts of their own home. The videos produced were creative and surprising as to how so much can be done with so little. An example of one is by theatre actor Erwin Shah Ismail, titled Views.
I am positive the film industry will be back on its feet and stronger than ever someday soon, and when it happens, you have to be the best version of you, ready to take on any opportunities that come your way.
Banner image credits: booksactuallyshop.com
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