Students in The Industry adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines while working on the student production of "Survival Mode Generation Z." (Photo: Aleesa de Castro)
Grady students adapt EMST club to handle COVID-19 changes
When The Industry was created in the fall of 2018, then-freshmen Ashton Bruce and Emily Minnick had no idea they’d be running the club in the middle of a pandemic during the last semester of their college career.
The Industry provides a variety of opportunities for students to connect with each other as well as recent alumni in the entertainment industry. Due to the coronavirus, Bruce and Minnick had to adapt, moving club meetings on Zoom and complying with department standards to limit student production crews.
Bruce is a third-year from Dawsonville, and Minnick is a fourth-year from Canton. Both will be graduating this spring.
The club works to send out cast and crew calls for student film productions and conducts a small writers room, where a handful of students peer edit scripts and work with Professor Matthew Evans to find their screenwriting voice. They also host screenings of student work and Q&A events and panels with industry professionals.
Despite the challenges, both Bruce and Minnick said there’s been a silver lining for their club in the middle of the pandemic. They’ve heard from new speakers and actively engaged with new club members.
“I think our numbers have done really well to sustain considering that we’ve gone entirely virtual,” Bruce said. “I’m really happy with how we’ve grown through the pandemic.”
The Zoom meetings have included more appearances from industry professionals outside of Atlanta, like Los Angeles and New York City. Post production and writer’s rooms for television are based in Los Angeles, Minnick said, so students who are interested in those specific areas can understand the different career possibilities on each coast.
“I think it gives people who are interested in the industry but don’t know where exactly they want to settle a better insight to make decisions for their future,” Bruce said.
The remote workforce has expanded within the entertainment industry due to COVID-19, but upcoming graduates are nervous for their future careers. While Bruce and Minnick admitted that’s always been a pre-pandemic reality, they feel just as prepared to graduate in part because of the emphasis the EMST department has placed on safe productions that mirror the industry itself.
Some of the new logistics to produce student films include downsizing crews and placing an emphasis on working with others near your bubble who follow COVID-19 safety precautions.
The pandemic has also changed how entertainment and media studies students tell their stories. Minnick explained scenes between characters have become less intimate to allow for social distancing, and typical themes cover isolation and technology. When the pandemic hit, Bruce and Minnick had just begun their second semester in the major, which means they still don’t know the reality of producing without these guidelines.
They hope the changes they made because of the pandemic will help make the club more accessible in the future to students who wouldn’t have been able to attend meetings previously. Minnick said having online meetings and presentations would have helped her get involved earlier.
“There was a lot of hesitation, being like a first-generation college student, not being familiar with the film industry at all and also being a woman in film,” Minnick said. “I think I felt very scared to put myself out there and just like go for it. So you know, very much encouraging people to get in on it as soon as they can and not being afraid.”