Extreme story-telling: Life during a pandemic

First annual Denison University Narrative Journalism film festival

Some of the most interesting stories explore what happens when lives are interrupted — so students had plenty of good material to share in short films about their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professional videographer Doug Swift was teaching “Storytelling with New Media” when the COVID crisis hit and students were sent home mid-semester. The visiting assistant professor of English and narrative journalism pivoted his class, and reassigned students to tell stories about life at home.

“But when it came down to it, I realized the most interesting and the emotional subject was right in front of me.”

“Trying to come up with an idea for a documentary at home was a tricky thing,” says Eili Wright ’22 (English creative writing major with a narrative journalism concentration). “But when it came down to it, I realized the most interesting and the emotional subject was right in front of me.” Wright shared the story of her father and his new puppy, Rona.

The eight films capture poignant moments that are humorous, sad, longing, insightful—and depict surprising moments of connection. They also provide an ideal theme for a film festival, Full Story Film Fest. Denison Documentarian-in-Residence Luke Lorentzen, director of Midnight Family and Last Chance U provided mojo for critiques and prize-giving.

Abby Scully ’21 (Health, Exercise, and Sports Studies major) focused on her parents and their worry for their daughters while shifting their own teaching to an online platform in her film “Looking Ahead.” “I tried to capture the emotions, experiences, and comic relief of a family of four navigating the new and ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.”

“The experience was a jolt of energy for several of the participants to be encouraged to continue with future work,” says Swift. “It’s not often you see schoolwork merge with real life so thoroughly.”

This event was made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as an extension of the “Writing in Place” initiative and a gift by alumna Sue Douthit O’Donnell ‘67.

December 2, 2020