Film During the Pandemic with Ms. Hoenig


John Wilson/Universal Pictures a

Photo Courtesy of WIRED

Will Kanny

Film during the Pandemic is a new Patriot series that will interview students and teachers regarding film class during the pandemic (this is issue #3). Ms. Hoenig is the film III and IV teacher who has helped many students with their filmmaking skills. Over the course of her years teaching at Viewpoint her students have created acclaimed short films like Cat, Starfish, and Static under her guidance. 

How has teaching Film III been different from previous years due to the ongoing pandemic? 

There has been a huge difference teaching over zoom, because normally the class is heavily project based, so I had to think of ways to transfer my curriculum into a pandemic teaching environment. The most fun thing in the precovid film III class was that the students could pick their own crew positions and practice it on many film shoots as they wanted to, and obviously this was a no can do in the new covid world. So I supplemented the group projects for individual projects which meant that the projects became smaller and shorter, and the students must do all the crew positions on the film project themselves. So, the students wrote, directed, acted, produced their own films, which was actually a benefit to the students, because the students learned all positions on a film crew, even the ones that they did not want to learn, and they produced some wonderful films that reflected who they were as a person. I also had individual zoom meetings with the students, and I learned more about them than I would have if it was a traditional size class in person. 

How has teaching Film IV been different from previous years due to the ongoing pandemic? 

Similarly to Film III, the project based aspect of Film IV was unfortunately abandoned due to the pandemic. The Film IV projects are big projects, we normally make one film over the course of the year and because of that fact we could not shoot the movie, because of all the COVID restrictions and safety guidelines we had to follow. Instead, some students actually created animated and zoom movies, since they could not get together to create their own films in person.

How has teaching online improved how you teach film? 

One way in which my teaching skills have improved were by learning the strengths and weaknesses of my students by learning more about them. Also, the students had to learn how to do each film crew position themselves, because of these individual projects I was assigning which increased their technical knowledge of how to do each position. This made students do some crew positions they probably wouldn’t have done if we had normal film crews. I thought this was amazing so I am probably going to assign more individual projects at the beginning of the year in both Film III and IV in upcoming school years so they could practice each position. I also presented some keynotes that went over some key film lessons like why do directors make some of their visual choices in their film.

How has the process of making films been different this year than previous years? 

I had to rethink the projects that I was assigning so I started to give more individual projects to my students. I had them create youtube channels in which they could post their films that they created such as their “how to” videos or other original narrative films they created. Also, I liked the idea of incorporating Youtube in my class, because some filmmakers are discovered on Youtube and many people use the platform, too. Colleges are also asking students to film a video about themselves instead of having an interview, and I thought it would be a good way for students to practice how to make these videos. 

Do you think going back to school is going to disrupt learning, and make it harder to learn about film? 

I am figuring it out like many other teachers are, and my classes were flowing well over zoom so it will be a new puzzle for me to solve when some students are at school and some students are over zoom.