The restrictions imposed by the pandemic took us all by surprise – the university shut down at noon on a Monday, so that the classes programmed in the morning took place, but those in the afternoon did not. However, since we prioritize everybody’s safety – the professors’, the students’, not to mention the technical staff who helps us out when we get lost in a yarn ball of cables –, we tried to reorganize as well as possible for going online.
First of all, we are grateful to blind chance that Sars-COV2 didn’t make an appearance until 2019, when downloading two-hour-long audiovisual files only takes a few minutes. Part of the infrastructure was already there, given that for several years we keep in touch with students by email to inform them of their weekly workload in an organized way. Also, several of us in the department use Classroom to keep each semester’s bibliography and filmography in good order. (As a bonus, UNATC benefits from a partnership with Google that offers unlimited online storage. Plus MUBI subscriptions for staff as well as students.) Basically, the biggest change was that before class, rather than picking up the key to the classroom, we generated a Zoom link.
Moreover, we think that in Screenwriting/Film Studies the students’ preparation is more lockdown-friendly than the routine of other profiles. Like in the “What I really do” memes, being a screenwriter, script doctor, film critic or scholar means spending a lot of time with text editing software. Many flu seasons have passed us by, and only rarely did we have to miss classes.
Did it feel the same to immerse ourselves in the history and practice of cinema in the middle of a deadly pandemic? Of course not. We had all the motivation to stay indoors, and yet the pages didn’t turn (or scroll) by themselves. The time we once wasted going to school gradually turned into a cherished memory. As did queuing for endless minutes in front of the cinema. But as it is, one full semester went by and we’re good and healthy.