Community, Features

FPS reinforces equipment policy, students struggle to create personal projects

Maggie Borgen, a junior in the College of Communication and Kilachand Honors College, arrived back on campus this semester with the intention of renting BU film equipment to film her latest passion project: a whodunnit web series called “Inattentional.”

Due to the recent enforcement of BU’s equipment rental policy, Borgen — and other students looking to produce projects outside of class — was left to search for equipment elsewhere.

Field production services
Director of Technology Brad Fernandes working at Field Production Services in the basement of the College of Communication. FPS is receiving criticism from students for restricting equipment rentals to only COM class assignments. TAYLOR COESTER/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

Field Production Service — which provides professional-grade film equipment to students enrolled in eligible COM courses — has strengthened its equipment rental regulations this semester due to limited equipment and staff, Chair of Film and Television Department Paul Schneider said. Stricter regulations mean that students are unable to circumvent FPS’s for-class-use-only policy to rent equipment for out-of-class projects as they had done in previous semesters.

“The advice that all young filmmakers are given is: ‘pick up a camera and make a film,’” Borgen said. “If we’re at a university where we’re paying tuition to be film students and to engage in a film community and really learn how to be great filmmakers, then we should be able to access equipment.”

Brad Fernandes, COM’s Director of Technology, wrote in an email that FPS has not changed its stance that equipment has always been for class use only. The policy states that equipment is only available to students for COM-assigned coursework, with the exception of a basic digital camera or audio recorder.

“What did change this academic year is that intermediate and advanced production classes no longer have blanket access to equipment when they log in to their WCO portal,” Fernandes wrote. “Each production group will have an ‘equipment liaison’ that will directly work with FPS to create reservations that will include a strict pickup time.”

This previous “blanket access” meant that any COM student could reserve any equipment for any duration, as long as they were or had been enrolled in a course that required FPS equipment.

“What’s happening now is you have to be in those classes currently, and [equipment pieces] have to be used for those classes,” said Owen Logan, a junior in COM and KHC who works as a Media Assistant at FPS. “Logistically, it’s the same, but [FPS] didn’t enforce the rule before.”

Schneider cited limited equipment and staff as the main reason BU has cracked down on rentals. He said that even rentals for students in film and television and journalism courses have the FPS staff “almost swamped with how much they have to do just to stay up to the level of all the checkouts.”

With an estimated 600 students in the Film and TV department, Schneider said it is “virtually impossible to have an equipment-on-demand policy.”

Students who planned to rely on FPS for non-class-related projects must now find new equipment sources. This is an issue for many film students, who maintain that obtaining equipment outside of BU is not viable for those without ample funds or connections, Borgen said.

Borgen has resorted to a combination of shipping older equipment from her home in New Jersey, borrowing from friends and crowdfunding to raise money. The “Inattentional” GoFundMe goal is $3,000, a number she said is still insufficient to fund the production. Ultimately, she decided to purchase a film camera herself to ensure it would be high-quality enough for the series.

Borgen said an inability to access film equipment through BU creates an issue of inequity.

“I’m very lucky that I have any equipment to go off of, but that’s not the case for everyone,” she said. “[This is] essentially saying that the people who can afford to rent or buy equipment are the ones who really get to make their passion projects.”

The policy states that students can acquire BU equipment for personal projects if they have a faculty member to sponsor the request. A sponsor’s job is to review students’ work, verify their equipment needs and vouch that they will adhere to FPS regulations.

However, needing a faculty sponsor inhibits students who want to practice with equipment outside of class, said Keevan Regan, a junior in COM who has relied heavily on FPS equipment over his three years as a film major. Regan, the equipment chair for BU’s cinema fraternity Delta Kappa Alpha, said he learns best independently.

Regan said he is “very grateful about the resources BU has” because finding high-quality and affordable gear is “just not very feasible to do outside of BU FPS.”

Regan said production for DKA’s semester film will likely continue due to the organization’s resources and connections, but the policy is “severely limiting how much film students can teach themselves, which is such an important part of growing as a filmmaker.”

Working at FPS, Logan said he has noticed that restrictions on students’ personal rentals have improved the service’s efficiency. Fernandes wrote that production groups would submit multiple reservations, which they were often late to pick up, thus backing up FPS’s operations.

“FPS last year was crazy,” said Jonathan Messer, a senior in COM.

Messer described FPS’s current operations as “a lot less chaotic and a lot more professional.”

“At the end of the day, FPS’s main job is to serve the school and the classes,” Logan said.

But some students maintain that out-of-class projects are as crucial to film education as the ones they make for class.

“The passion projects and internships, stuff [students] pursue on their own time is so important to a filmmaker’s career,” Regan said. “I think BU should really be supporting that as much as it can.”

Borgen added that only being able to use BU’s equipment for classes imparts pressure to “create within a specific BU ecosystem instead of also being able to go test outside of the classroom.”

For students looking to engage outside of the classroom, Logan said answering crew calls from students in production classes offers the opportunity to experience equipment on a film set. For passion projects, he recommends collaborating with fellow students, at BU or other Boston area schools, and sharing equipment.

Both Borgen and Regan have begun borrowing equipment from friends and outsourcing their own, but Borgen said she feels it unfair that students must find a solution to what she deems a university problem.

“While there are solutions that can be made by the students, I don’t think that the University should be putting it on us as students to make that the permanent solution,” she said.

One possible solution the Film and TV Department is investigating is a system for students to request to produce personal film projects using BU’s resources. Production for these projects would occur during periods when FPS is less busy, such as in the intercession between semesters or over the summer, Schneider said.

While the department is still unsure of the logistics — such as submission approval criteria, faculty supervision and the number of possible projects — Schneider said it hopes to institute some version of the plan for Fall 2024.

“We are going to make a real effort to see if we can have some personal projects made,” Schneider said. “We just have to figure out exactly how to do it.”

For Regan, a solution can’t come soon enough.

“It really is in BU’s best interest to figure this out soon,” he said. “The more students are able to teach themselves, the better filmmakers will come out of BU.”

More Articles

Comments are closed.