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Super Bowl parties and Filmmaking both require a team

It’s Superbowl Sunday 2022. Although I’m making the main dish for our gathering this year, a smoked brisket, it takes a team to get the whole party done. Teamwork, another of the 8 core competencies that NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) identifies as a key to career readiness. To get to Superbowl Sunday I must communicate, which is a part of teamwork, know my strengths (main dish cooking), and collaborate with others. My wife and I figured out what chores needed to be done the day before around the house, as well as communicating to our friends other items that they can bring.

When teaching performing arts, it’s all teamwork all the time. Even in the loneliest corridors of film and media productions, the writer’s room, or the editing room, the long arm of the production team reaches. Every year, even during the height of the pandemic, our Film, TV, Media department at San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) puts together what we refer to as “large scale productions”. This is nothing new to colleges and universities, however these types of projects are usually done in Theatre and music departments. Essentially, these projects involved several classes that work together on one large scale show. We bring this type of energy to our film department. In our department at SBVC, we are immersive. Each semester students write different types of projects ranging from web series, hour dramas, sketch comedy, and feature films. Writers pitch their projects and our faculty choose the best possible project for our program for the following semester. We aren’t the only film program to do this, but we are in a rarified company. USC, to the best of knowledge, is the only other film program I know that collectively produces a large-scale show. Because we are attached to a local PBS station in southern California, we also just started a series production this semester (spring 2022) which will air on our local airwaves. Stay tuned to KVCR-TV!

I’m going to examine one of our productions that incorporate all the aspects of teamwork as outlined by NACE (listen, manage conflict, demonstrate responsibility, use strengths, compromise, collaborate, and build strong interpersonal skills). I will specifically highlight our workflow from script to screen for a web series written in Fall 2020, produced in Spring 2021, and with postproduction between Summer 2021 and Fall 2021. The final stages of this production, the producers cut, has yet to take place (this is my fault, my students completed their tasks).

First, note that at the community college level in California, we must identify for each certificate or degree what are known as “Program Learning Outcomes”. For all our degrees and certificates almost, all include portfolio development and collaboration. Then, all our classes possess anywhere from 2-3 student learning outcomes. This project incorporates 4 classes, 4 faculty, 2 department interns, and one staff member. You can already see from that we are hitting one of those NACE definitions of teamwork, collaboration, but let’s see how else we teach teamwork to our students as measured through our Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). In the screenwriting class, the SLOs all deal with writing. In Film and Media this ends up being a collaborative process. Not only in my program, but many others follow the following practice: the student pitches an idea, brings the ideas to the class, writes the pages, and presents back to the class to gain feedback. Based on that feedback, they will make changes or revisions. At the core, this is collaboration. Because our students know there’s a chance that their piece will get produced, we as faculty act as producers and studio executives that offer feedback. Once, we did this by producing a sketch comedy show to air on our PBS affiliate. Some of the feedback from the station had to do with content not breaking FCC guidelines- you know, the 7 words you can’t say on TV and issues of trademark. Being collaborative is following those directives so everyone has content to show. Getting feedback relies on taking feedback and compromising at times. Now the student has pitched their project and the department chose the production, we now move onto production the following semester.

For the Cinema Production Class, the SLOs include ability to plan, write, design, and light. Also, students will take on various lead rolls in the production. As a teacher and a filmmaker, I can assure you a good team is paramount (no pun intended) to a great production. Students first do a table read and put their writing and collaboration skills to the test. Then, the students are divided up into production teams where they listen, manage conflict, demonstrate responsibility, use strengths, compromise, collaborate, and build strong interpersonal skills. This is done through finding commonality on design of the project, casting, and scheduling. Sometimes the students argue with one another, but they all must meet the deadline of their production and they manage to find solutions to their conflicts often on their own. We as faculty are there to help, but I’m often pleasantly surprised at how they work through these issues. One issue on this set was that one day of production’s audio was terrible, almost non-existent. The group lead on that production group, the director, reached out to the team to first apologize, taking responsibility, and then asking if folks could do a whole day of reshoots to pick up audio or come in for what is known as ADR (Audio Dialogue Replacement). The students, irritated, but all rallied behind and got what they needed. I’m often proud of my students in the dedication they show to their art and each other. It’s quite a statement. Something else we teach are Coach Pete Carroll’s (Seattle Seahawks and former USC Trojan’s football coach) rules for success: always protect the team (which this most certainly is an example), no whining/complaining/excuses, and be early. Those three simple rules play out constantly on a film set. Once production concludes, the footage moves onto our editing classes in the summer and the fall. One of the things essential on a set is the use of meticulous reports, noting where all the assets (footage and audio) are located, and which parts of day’s footage is best for the initial stages of editing. Everyone on a set has a role to get this project done and you can’t do it alone, even though Robert Rodriguez wrote a book that said you could. (Even if you read that book, “Rebel Without a Crew,” Rodriguez had a team). Okay sorry, so then all this information goes to our editing classes.

Our editing classes’ SLOs are as follows: interpret what edits are most important for a scene, following the notes of the production crew, and to collaborate with the production team on the best edits to tell the story. The editor, through the initial reports, makes what’s called a “rough assembly”. Then the director(s) sit in to offer notes for a director’s cut, and that’s where we are on this project, as the faculty supervisor or producer I’ve yet to make my notes for a final cut. But all of this, as you can see, lends itself to an extreme amount of teamwork.

Our students can’t complete most of their classes without some sort of demonstration of teamwork. According to the bureau of labor statistics in 2019, the average person will change jobs about 12 times. I bring this up because I know not all my students will go onto careers in film and media, but all my students will benefit greatly from the value of working in a team as they learned in their classes in our department. Education is more than just getting a job; it’s about becoming something more than what you started as when you walked through the doors of the educational institution. That “more” will provide you what you need in this world.

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