Multimedia Storytelling documentary projects helped students cope with pandemic
Students in the Department of English, Communications and Media’s Multimedia Storytelling class always get a chance to learn challenging new techniques when it comes to storytelling — like learning the Adobe Creative Suite, operating a DSLR camera and editing footage into a documentary. But as they wrapped up the 2019-2020 academic year, their efforts took on an even bigger meaning in the midst of a global pandemic.
“The central heart of the class is utilizing the media theory they’ve learned before coming to see me,” said Gary Vaspol, adjunct faculty for Multimedia Storytelling. “And then I … take those ideas and concepts, and teach the students how to put them in motion with actual camera shootings, writing the scripts, teleprompters and editing.”
One of the big assignments of the class is to produce a mini-documentary. Because students had to go remote during the pandemic, being apart and handling some of the required skillsets to complete their documentaries was admittedly tough — but Vaspol was so proud of what students were able to produce from their homes.
“I asked them to document their COVID-19 experience in a creative manner — showing us what’s going on in their lives and how they responded in such abnormal circumstances,” Vaspol described. “Give me some story here.” He also decided to give them an option to document other subjects, in case COVID-19 was too heavy of a topic for them, and he wanted to be sensitive to that.
Not too many of the students had cameras, so they had to become backpack journalists with iPhones documenting their stories, according to Vaspol. Students were able to download the Adobe Creative Suite onto their laptops for free until May 31 so they could edit their projects at home.
Alongside U.S. students, Vaspol had students from Japan, Sweden, Uruguay and Egypt in his class, and he is very proud of the work they’ve produced — some from across the globe.
“They’re doing outstanding work,” he said.
Student multimedia mini-documentary projects
Here are a handful of the Multimedia Storytelling mini-documentary projects, along with some insights from the students as to their experience making these projects.
Maria Dayana Tolosa Zugarramurdi, FLTA Fulbright Scholar
Maria Dayana Tolosa Zugarramurdi is from Uruguay. Her field of study is education and teaching English as a foreign language, and she heard about Salve Regina after she applied to the FLTA Fulbright Scholarship. During her exchange experience, she taught Spanish at Salve Regina and at Pell School, and she held Spanish language tables, movie nights and cultural activities. Her mini-documentary focused mainly on many of the international students who remained on campus during the pandemic and their thoughts and reactions to what was going on.
“Creating my multimedia project was the highlight of the quarantine,” Zugarramurdi said. “It really helped me analyze our lives at Salve before and after the COVID-19 outbreak with perspective, and it gave me a purpose during those times. Also, it worked as a linking factor between all the international students that were staying on campus. It gave us the space we needed to be transparent about our fears, thoughts and concerns.”
Ahna Baccala ’20, marketing major with communications minor
Ahna Baccala, who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, was intrigued to learn more about topics within multimedia. Because she was a marketing major while at Salve Regina, she wanted to learn more about how to create and promote original content online, and this class was extremely beneficial to get her feet wet. Baccala chose to make her documentary about her Italian family, because they were her biggest support team during the coronavirus.
“My family is very close-knit,” Baccala described. “We all live in the same neighborhood, so I see them very frequently. Due to the pandemic and quarantine, we did not get to celebrate Easter as a family for the first time, which was a big adjustment for all of us. My family is big on holidays, so I wanted to use this opportunity to document our traditions since we couldn’t carry them out as we usually do.”
Frida Noren ’21, Exchange Student
Friday Noren is originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but she is studying at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. In 2019-2020, she was doing two semesters abroad at Salve Regina, and as an English communications major with a social media minor, she felt that Multimedia Storytelling would be an ideal fit for her to take in order to learn how to tell good stories.
Noren chose to tackle the subject of surfing, since she was forced to remain on campus during the quarantine due to being an international student. “The mini-documentary was probably my favorite project,” she said. “Being in quarantine with friends who were surfing almost every day, I just felt like that would be the perfect topic. It was easy to get a lot of B-roll footage, but putting it together with music and using the elements of a documentary was the best part!”