Cinemas along with all other aspects of the film industry have closed or slowed down, along with the rest of the world. Photo by @edwinhooper

Filmmakers have had to adapt quickly to the drastic and sudden changes to the media industry.

Professional practice in the film industry has been hurt and suffered many setbacks as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While existing productions and the organisations running them have struggled, they have largely survived and adapted to the new normal relatively quickly.

For up-and-coming filmmakers, such as independent filmmakers and students, this has not always been the case.


Among the people affected are an aspiring cinematographer and member of the British Film Institute Alumni,

both of whom shared their personal story and gave insight into how the film industry has been affected during the pandemic.


British Film Institute Academy Alumnus- Ashleigh Gooding

Ashleigh Gooding, TV and Film Production student at Teesside University

Ashleigh Gooding has pursued a career in media for several years.

She started by doing a media course in college and throughout her time there took on several work experience opportunities within the industry and was accepted into the BFI Academy as a result of her dedication.

During her time at the BFI, she helped to create a short film while learning valuable skills and earning an ‘Arts Award’ for her work on the course.

One of her peers from the academy described her as: “A reliable and fun person to have around on set.”

Unfortunately, no one in the film industry has had the luxury of a carefree experience during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ashleigh was working through a TV and Film production course at Teesside University when the pandemic hit.

With the pandemic came a laundry list of rules and restrictions that had to be followed while filming.

Ashleigh said: “The restrictions on filming because of Covid meant that we had to halt a project halfway through filming”
This led to the project being abandoned and “never complete.”

A portfolio is important for anyone trying to get into the film industry and having an entire project unfinished can be demoralizing for anyone, considering these projects equate to hours of hard work and stress.

The projects that weren’t left incomplete were now subject to very tight timeframes too. Ashleigh explained: “We had a short filming window for our final year production” and practical help was limited because “All teaching was online except a few seminars.”

The shift to online learning has taken its toll on other students but Ashleigh considers herself somewhat lucky because the change worked in her favour in a few different ways, she explained:

“I’m looking to go into Editing or content creation

“Personally I didn’t mind the online teaching as it made lectures easier to understand because now they can be paused

and moving things online has opened up the opportunity for remote working, something that I am primarily interested in.”

Ashleigh recognised that the future of film production will likely be online for some people working in the industry, specifically editors.

With much of film production being practical hands-on work on set, moving things online isn’t always an option.

The transition to an online working environment was easier for some, like Ashleigh Gooding, but for many others, it is an unwelcome and difficult change that they will be forced to adapt to.


Aspiring Cinematographer – Caleb Dean

Caleb Dean – Northumbria University student and Independent Filmmaker.

Caleb Dean had a very strong passion for film and the creative process behind it.

He also did a media course while at college and gained a lot of work experience in front of and behind the camera.

A former colleague of his said he was a “real morale booster on any project he worked on.”

Caleb was always outgoing and friendly and has never been camera shy, he was even featured in two episodes of ‘Celebs go dating’ in the tv shows’ fifth series.

While he did plenty of work in front of the camera, it was his work behind the camera that Caleb really enjoyed and had a passion for.

Caleb said “Cinematography and camera work are the jobs I like most in the film industry, I know how to be creative and get those shots people want without having to be told explicitly. I can just see it, and I like experimenting to make a scene look really good.”

Caleb wanted to go down a path that would give him the freedom to be a cinematographer or camera operator or both and so he became a student at Northumbria University, to make use of their film equipment and to meet other filmmakers.

“My time at university was supposed to help me to create a good portfolio for myself for when I’m looking for jobs in future, but the virus has destroyed a lot of projects and ideas I was working on.”

He continued: “It was almost impossible to find people willing to meet up, especially back in early 2020 when fears were high over the virus.

“We were told by everyone, the government, the university, the news, to stay inside and avoid going out as much as possible. So it pretty much made it impossible to be creative and make things with people.

“The university didn’t allow us to hire equipment until very recently [April 2021] and even then time with equipment was very limited.”

Caleb continued by explaining what this meant for him financially and for other filmmakers in his position.

“I had been working as a barman but because of Covid, I lost that job so money was scarce. If I wanted equipment during the lockdowns I’d have had to have paid for it out of my own pocket, so I pretty much had to wait until the university was ready to open up its services again.”

Renting just a camera alone for a film can cost between £30 and £400+ depending on the quality. Include other costs such as tripods, microphones, cast and crew and you’re looking at some very high production costs.
Those prices can be a massive hurdle for people trying to create their own films, such as Caleb.

Much like Ashleigh at Teesside, Caleb’s university also shifted to an online teaching model but for Caleb, this was one of his biggest challenges yet.

“When I’m forced to sit and stare at a screen in a zoom call for 3-4 hours a week [his university cut down the weekly learning hours for his course] it just kills any creative motivation I have. My creative spark died during isolation.

My mental health deteriorated and because I couldn’t go out to film, I ended up switching my focus from cinematography and camera work to scriptwriting, which isn’t even something I’m really passionate about, but it feels like the only viable option since I’m stuck in my room all day [in student living halls] and all the while I still need to pay rent.

“Being locked away in one room for days on end took a massive toll on my mental health and I ended up in some dark places and I had to start taking medication for it.”

Caleb suffers from epilepsy too, that paired with his deteriorating mental health led to him having a seizure from medication withdrawal during a lockdown.

“I’ve asked if I can delay my final year at university too, I can’t get any real work done right now and I need a break so I don’t end up hating film production.”

When asked what he thinks about the future of film Caleb said: “We’ve already seen how it’s going to go, everything is just online now and the only thing people can watch is Netflix and other streaming apps and I don’t want to end up working in that after university, I liked real film and cinema but it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any real choice.”

Like Ashleigh, Caleb also recognised the shift to online entertainment and the decline of traditional cinema.


The Future of Film

Up-and-coming filmmakers have been forced into an unpleasant and uncertain position because of the Covid pandemic.

The biggest hits have been to their portfolios and opportunities for professional work experience.

Streaming apps are becoming increasingly popular after gaining a boost from lockdowns, but this also closes many doors for traditional film/cinema since streaming apps look to be the most profitable business to be in right now.

With it being made obvious that online entertainment is the future, it looks like anyone looking to get into the media industry will need to look for jobs online or work for a production made for streaming apps if they want reliable work.

Many aspiring filmmakers are left in positions similar to Caleb, in which they feel like their only option is to abandon their dreams in pursuit of something more reliable. This could leave an impact on the next generation of film since there will likely be fewer people in the talent pool for film productions.

Millions of people have had their first dose of the covid vaccine now which has brought about a glimmer of hope for the film industry, as restrictions will be lifted as more people are vaccinated.

Cinemas will be allowed to reopen which could mean people like Caleb will see a future in traditional film.

But with streaming services becoming more popular, the future of film seems uncertain to say the least.

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