On May 1, an email was sent out to staff, students and faculty with the subject line “SENDOFF BABYYY—TONIGHT!!” Rather than announcing anything to do with Summer Sendoff, the email included an invite to an upcoming Zoom screening of senior film majors’ thesis projects, featuring the works of Sophie Barrio ’20, Nick Culbert ’20, Jacob Gusentine ’20, Elizabeth Iduma ’20 and Katrina Peterson ’20. Normally, these would have been shown in the Community Foundation Theater but, as a result of the pandemic, they were reformatted for a computer screen.
Both the senior film majors and the department itself deliberated over the most effective way to showcase these students’ hard work. In the past, when the films were shown in Gund Gallery, “People were literally sitting in the aisles and in the front on the floor and I remember sitting in that audience feeling all of the love and support for all of the film majors,” Barrio described in an email to the Collegian. “I couldn’t wait to be able to be a part of that event myself my senior year.”
The seniors and film department decided upon a video call “because we wanted to keep the ‘live’ feeling of a screening,” Gusentine wrote in an email to the Collegian. After many email reminders and a public Facebook event to save the date, the Zoom call was filled to its 100-viewer capacity.
Including pre-production, most of the filmmakers had worked on their projects for upwards of a year. Luckily, everyone had finished collecting and recording footage before spring break, although many seniors had to make their final edits from home.
“A lot of the editing had to be done from my laptop at home which was significantly slower and more fragile than the Macs in Horvitz [Hall] or the Hill [Theater] computer labs,” Gusentine wrote. Peterson expressed similar sentiments, noting in a separate email that “Not having access to my studio in Horvitz or a lot of the equipment at Kenyon has hindered my ability to work the way I want to.”
Moving away from school—where students had equal access materials—has caused issues with creative final theses. Nonetheless, each movie was finalized in time for the much-anticipated screening.
Because of the flawed nature of Zoom’s screen-sharing tool, the film majors decided it would be more enjoyable for the audience to view the films on their own on Vimeo, and then report back after. However, this didn’t account for every issue: “Though many people got to the Zoom on time and followed the directions to the Vimeo page pretty seamlessly, some people were definitely confused and I couldn’t enjoy the moment as much as I wanted to because I found myself fielding so many questions from friends and family who joined the Zoom late or didn’t understand how to watch the films,” Barrio wrote to the Collegian.
After the showing and hourlong Q&A, the filmmakers had varying reactions to what would normally be a major stepping stone in a film major’s college career.
“Although the event itself was overall very celebratory, I did get a bit emotional comparing the way things are now with how they would have been in normal circumstances,” Peterson wrote. “I especially missed the communal aspect of watching the same films sequentially, as an audience.”
Meanwhile, Culbert reported in an email to the Collegian that “Seeing everyone’s films on the computer screen was actually not sad at all. It was really cool that, despite the quarantine, we were able to organize an event with such a great turnout.”
The thesis screening is a reminder of the fundamental dedication the Kenyon community has for one another despite being away from campus. The new form of support is to be willing to show up on a Zoom call and participate in a Q&A, which has proven to be adaptable, at least for now.