Students enrolled in a multimedia storytelling class at Columbia Journalism School had nearly five months to create their own documentary films on any subject of their choosing. With topics ranging from athletes with disabilities to trans people encountering harassment in homeless shelters, these students had ambitious projects that would require deep reporting, technical knowledge of camerawork, and a sense of aesthetic filmmaking.
All that came to a close on March 18th, when the school received notice that due to concerns about the coronavirus, all in-person reporting (including filming) was prohibited for the next six to eight weeks, at least.
After a brief period of grief and introspection, our professor Duy Linh Tu, and adjunct professor Julian Lim, proposed a collaborative film project that would document how people around the world are continuing their lives through the pandemic. Using nothing but our cell phones and recorded video calls (and sometimes coordinating with our international sources to film what we direct), these exclusive stories cover regions as far from Columbia University as Kenya, Hungary, and China, and as close as California, New York, and Florida. Due to political ramifications around the world, we’ve had to learn to entertain ourselves at home. These films are bite-size pieces of visual journalism that capture much of the essence of life during the pandemic.
This particular film, created by Brandon Drenon, features a psychotherapist from Spain who explains the effects of quarantine on mental health. Drenon spoke to us detailing the origins of this film. “My younger brother was studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain when the pandemic outbreak was peaking, before he was sent home early. His host on that trip was the psychotherapist featured in the video. During quarantine I’ve been dealing with my own mental health issues, which sparked the idea to better understand what I was going through and how others who might be going through the same thing can cope.”