By Ben Bashor
VALENCIA – “Role sound. Role Camera,” was the last thing I said before being interrupted by the roaring engine of the approaching park ranger SUV. Even though we were moments away from getting the last shot at a secluded Sand Canyon look-out spot for our student film project, our time was about to be cut short.
On March 6th, 2016, myself and the rest of my group, including fellow COC students: Antonio Fanelli, Gabby Abeyta, Alonzo Torres, and Gabbi Latade, were aggressively approached by a park ranger who proceeded to issue all five of us citations for filming without a permit, which included a mandatory court appearance.
While it was true that we were in fact filming without a permit, this was a student project. Often times when law enforcement are informed that it is just a student project, that isn’t being made for a profit, they will just ask the students to leave.
Unfortunately, we were the first film students ever from College of the Canyons to receive citations for filming off-campus without a permit.
While my group and I were very upset about the whole situation, it was the reaction from the film department’s professors that was shocking.
Besides the fact that it was ridiculous and almost unheard of to cite five students who are just filming a class project, the main reason for the department’s anger over the situation was in regards to a much bigger and long-term issue that I was unaware of at the time.
For quite some time, the film department and its professors have been trying to get COC to provide insurance for students to be able to film off-campus.
While the school has provided coverage for on-campus liability, there would need to be an additional insurance plan for students to be able to film off-campus that COC has failed to provide.
“We’ve seen quotes for annual insurance from $2,500 to $8,000,” said COC film professor Sara Caldwell on clarifying that the additional cost would not be enormous. “There are many insurance companies that work specifically with film schools to offer affordable insurance policies.”
As the film department has approached the administration many times with information on these affordable policies, they have seemed rather “closed about that issue,” said Caldwell.
Besides the financial side of the additional insurance not being huge at all, and the fact that only general liability would be needed since the school’s equipment is already insured, the students and film department have yet to receive the proper off-campus coverage.
Caldwell explained that the college’s main reason is in regards to the “risk and liability of what could happen when they are not in control of students doing their own thing.”
While it is understandable that the college does not want to risk having to deal with a potentially much bigger issue if a problem were to occur off-campus, film classes are basically asking students to go out and film illegally.
By not having the proper off-campus coverage and not being given the proper film permits, students are practicing guerrilla filmmaking. Guerrilla style film shoots are often done in real locations with low budgets, whatever props are available and without the proper permits.
While students could try and provide their own film permits and insurance coverage, the costs range from $100 to $600 depending on where the filming is taking place.
However if COC were to provide the film department with the additional off-campus coverage, guerrilla filmmaking would no longer be a concern and the proper permits would be available for students.
“Being able to shoot in more interesting locations without worrying about getting another citations would be great,” said Gabbi Latade who was one of the film students who received the citation for filming off-campus.
While the citation was dismissed by the judge after seeing how ridiculous it was to issue five citations for a student project, the entire ordeal of having to appear in court in the first place would not have had to happen if COC had provided the additional insurance.
Gaining off-campus coverage would bring many benefits to the film program and students such as making them “more competitive in being able to access locations and permits on a more professional level,” said Caldwell. “How many projects filmed on-campus are people really going to want to see?”