Hannah Bel Davis’ film Pandemic! provides an exploration of remote learning challenges

The short film gives students a survival guide for navigating learning during a pandemic

Currently a student herself, Davis’ film is created with an understanding of the effects of the pandemic on students. Courtesy of Hannah Bel Davis

By: Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate

This past summer, Hannah Bel Davis, an SFU graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and English and a Certificate in Creative Writing, was hired by a Université Laval (Laval University) professor to direct, animate, and write a script for a short film, Pandemic!. This first animated short of Davis’ not only acknowledges the problems associated with online learning but also urges students to remain diligent during the remote semesters.

 As a new transfer student, the thought of leaving behind the familiarity of my former university and starting at SFU this past fall was overwhelming but exciting. My experience as a cross-enrolled student in both online and in-person secondary schools exposed me to different teaching styles, which made me eager to hear Davis’ advice on remote learning.

Narrated by Davis, Pandemic! follows a purple character (designed to be “easy to reproduce, cute, and androgenous” for future use) struggling to adapt to online learning during the pandemic. The film addresses how the seemingly “intangible and unreal” learning environment may increase feelings of isolation and hinder one’s motivation to learn. Despite these challenges, the film advises students to remain resourceful and organized.

To prevent procrastination, Pandemic! includes suggestions on how to remain motivated, such as writing a to-do list and stretching. A common theme throughout the tips was maintaining a work-life balance; without taking care of one’s physical and mental health, the quality of one’s work declines and the tendency to burn out increases. 

During an interview with The Peak, Davis, who is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Concordia University, expressed her gratitude towards SFU’s film program and the short film assignments that prepared her for this film’s production process. 

When asked about the advice she would give to other students directing their first film, she admitted accepting constructive criticism and persevering despite difficulties are essential for one’s growth.

If you’re working on any sort of creative project, you always carry it very close to your heart [ . . . ] It feels like it’s an extension of you, and in some ways it is, but any time someone’s trying to give feedback, they’re trying to help [ . . . ] Just do your best just to remove yourself from the project for those feedback sessions and try to be objective when you’re hearing this feedback.”

Davis explained how the passion of creating a new project gave way to points where she felt doubt and a loss of motivation. Despite the challenges one may face, Davis encouraged students to keep persevering. 

She also suggested that students pursuing their first projects should stay true to their interests. “That’s how you develop a style and that’s how you develop what could potentially be a really unique voice that you have in your writing or your work or your film.”

Davis not only rose to the challenge of creating a short film but also presented online learning as an opportunity for students to grow. The film ends with an encouragement not to lose faith and hope: “We are each in different boats, but we are braving the same seas together, and we will get to calmer waters once again.” 

Pandemic! is available for streaming on YouTube.