A team of eight dramatic arts minors at St. John’s University created a short film about the pandemic that was showcased recently at the prestigious Toronto Shorts International Film Festival.
The virtual event, which took place January 14–15 from its base in the heart of Toronto, is the largest short film festival in Canada, annually attracting filmmakers from around the world. During the past seven years, the festival has emerged as a career steppingstone for filmmakers, some of whom became Academy Awards nominees, including 2018 Oscar nominees Watu Wote –All of Us (Germany) and The Eleven O'Clock (Australia).
The St. John’s students who performed in the 37-minute production of Pandemic: Monologues from Lockdown, were directed by Richard “Rex” Thomas, Associate Professor, Performing and Visual Arts; Program Coordinator, Dramatic Arts Minor and Photojournalism Minor, in the Division of Mass Communication at The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS).
“I could not be prouder of my students’ incredible work to be recognized this way. It is well-deserved, as they did a tremendous job of writing and acting for this important short film,” said Prof. Thomas. The short was filmed in The Little Theatre located on the Queens, NY, campus.
In Fall 2020, during a surge of the virus, he presented the students with a challenge: write a monologue about what the word “pandemic” meant to each one of them. "I explained to the students that there were no boundaries as to how they could conceptualize that word,” the professor said.
After weeks of writing, revising, and rehearsals spent honing their acting skills to deliver their monologues, the students created a series of vignettes of “intensely effective and raw performances that explore abandonment, death, racial and gender inequalities, the toxicity of social media, and loss of the self in a world ever connected but dangerously divided,” Prof. Thomas said.
Savanna Schaefer ’21CCPS dedicated her monologue to caring for her beloved dog as he neared the end of his life. “My dog really was my best friend, so it seemed right to honor his memory by dedicating my monologue to him. It’s also a topic that many can relate to.”
“The experience of creating this short film was also a terrific way to underscore the feeling that, even though we were all in lockdown at home, we are not alone in our tough situations,” Savanna added. “We are all, essentially, in this together.”