April 20, 2022

A project about Zoom... Zoom... Zoom, on Zoom

Student-faculty project reflects pandemic-era woes from UCR students' perspective

Author: J.D. Warren
April 20, 2022

A pair of short films were a hit at the April 13 “Filmworks – Original Short Films” held at the University Theatre, drawing attention to a suite of pandemic monologues and songs professor Bella Merlin created along with students, entitled “20:20 Vision.”

For the first time this week, the short film/music video “Zoom,” and other components of 20:20 Vision are publicly available on YouTube.

The song "Zoom" is part of the larger "20:20 Vision," a suite of monologues and songs that address the student pandemic experience.

The whimsical “Zoom” is an element of 20:20 Vision, which was created entirely through Zoom as what Merlin calls “a musical-theatrical-filmic hybrid.” Other segments of the hour-long 20/20 Vision are the songs “Through My Screen,” which is a doo-wop throwback, and “Turning 21,” which includes the memorable line “I’m gonna fly to the moon and back/With Elon Musk and a freeze-dried snack.”

20:20 Vision is 16 autobiographical monologues in which the students reflected on their experiences of COVID-19, along with five songs – “Zoom” is one of them – that Merlin composed based on sentiments she had heard from students. 

“I was due to be directing Three Sisters. But it seemed irrelevant to take a classic off the shelf and squash it into the online format: why not create our own original piece instead? We wove together the form (being remote) with the content (how the students were dealing with COVID lockdown),” said Merlin, who is a professor in the UCR Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production.

Through My Screen
"Through My Screen" is a song celebrating vicarious, virtual travel, featuring Emmalee Brooks on lead vocals. It's part of the "20:20 Vision" suite, which is posted on YouTube.

Zoom’s editor and 20:20 Vision lead editor is senior Ankai Cai, who Merlin said “worked like a demon of precision to manifest my detailed vision for this song.” Other students involved included storyboard artist John Vu and student editors Maxine Garcia, Grace LemMon, Richard Robards, and Adan Perez Reyes.

"Not to mention the 16 heart-felt monologuers and the eight singer-dancers," Merlin said. “Collectively they brought a ray of hope during a frustrating time." 

Since it was completed last year, 20:20 Vision has been presented at three conferences, and is presently competing in multiple film festivals. 

The April 13 festival also featured 19 other works from the UCR Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production, including student works such as from Maxine Garcia, winner of this year's LeMond scholarship. 

Merlin is an actor, writer, and singer-songwriter. She is also an actor-trainer and has written several books on acting. She is internationally known as an expert on Konstantin Stanislavsky, presenting workshops on the Stanislavsky acting method in more than a dozen countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe.

20:20 Vision is posted in its entirety on YouTube

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