Adapting During Remote Learning: My Dramatic Evolution

Photo of Marisa Razo

How I became an actor filmmaker during the COVID-19 pandemic

Let’s go back to the spring of 2020. COVID-19 disrupted so much of our lives. And, as students, we weren’t sure how to move on. At the time, I was in the second semester of my sophomore year in acting school. For most students, remote learning was a a big change, but it worked. Our faculty worked with us to figure out how to adjust to remote learning. But, for some of us, it just didn’t work. I was in a house full of grandparents and cousins, where I had many responsibilities to accomplish daily. I knew I needed help. So after speaking to my advisers and adjusting my studio program, I found the perfect solution to diversify my skill set! I decided to take a break from studio acting and pursue my Film and Television minor full time.

Choices, Choices, Choices!

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Tatianna saying her catchphrase, “Choices!”

My Minor Found Me!

Originally, my end-of-sophomore-year project was going to be an in-person showcase of original work. When we transitioned to remote learning, it became a sort of film festival. Each day, we were allowed time to film and received virtual one-on-one help from our professors. This was extremely similar to the original plan but with so much more freedom. I found myself falling in love with film. And after voicing my concerns, my adviser suggested looking into it academically. I was about to start my junior year, and I didn’t know if it was possible to start and complete my Film and Television minor that late. My adviser assured me the adjustment would work out, and it would be the beginning of my dramatic evolution. Out of the confusion regarding what to do because of COVID-19 came the solution that changed my career path for the better.

Film Minors During the Remote Semester

My minor took me a single year to complete. When I decided to put studio on hold until we were fully in person again, I began my life as a film student. I loved it! I was editing and diversifying new skills every day. Remote learning made it easier to complete the film curriculum. Introduction to Screenplay Writing with Jeffrey Stanley, where I found my passion as a writer, was my favorite class. We wrote on our own and met once a week for table reads and feedback. The professor adapted incredibly to the virtual platform, and I left the class with what would become my first feature film! In particular, he was wonderful at creating engaging lectures for students who had busy schedules being back home. He recorded himself delivering each lecture and incorporated the audio into a PowerPoint. He was not only funny but excellent at explaining ideas. His main goal was to offer us the flexibility to attend the lectures on our own time, while our table reads were shorter and, therefore, easier to pay attention to.

I was able to be at home and adapt my schedule to my needs. I learned so much about my passions while learning so many new skills. The feedback from my professors was helpful and encouraging, and now I can really define myself as a multi-hyphenate. As a Black Latina woman in the arts, I am constantly thinking of how to represent my communities well. Now I have the skills and confidence to create the art I want to experience in the art world.

The author outside of Tisch pointing to a work by Eric Hart Jr.

Keep Adapting

My dramatic evolution wasn’t over yet. It was time for me to go back to studio! It had been a full year since I’d been in an acting classroom. I was so nervous to go back to the schedule, and there was still the newness of COVID. However, from my first day at Stonestreet Studios, I knew it was the path I was meant to take. The minor I completed the year prior made the adjustment to on camera acting almost seamless. I was in a studio working with the equipment I had spent learning about for a year! Our professors knew the art world had changed too and adapted with it. We worked on self tapes, cold reading auditions, both in person and virtual, and found guidelines to make each actor comfortable in the space.

The professors are as dedicated to their students as they are to acting. They knew that the acting world was still alive and strong, so we were too! We shifted and adapted where we needed, and began to focus on and diversify the skills essential in the new world. I now feel so comfortable not only submitting self tapes but making sure I stand out in a world of virtual tapes and auditions.

Beyoncé asking, “You ready?”

Reflection

Reflecting back on the spring of 2020, I felt so lost with what to do. But, with the help of my adviser, and the faculty in the drama and film and TV departments, I am full of new skills. I am graduating NYU with a sense of purpose I didn’t have before. I have a feature in development, a writers group I founded with other Black women, and many short films under my belt. I know now what works for me as an individual and where my passions are. From fear came the future, and I am so glad I had the chance to adapt!