An assignment for a Digital Media Studies class directed us to explore storytelling without verbal cues. We were given the task of making short films about a issue college students face with no dialogue. All background noises had to be recorded separately from the video and added during editing.


Experimental Documentary


University of Rochester


October 2016

My Role

I wrote, filmed, edited, and directed my own short. I also individually recorded 10 sounds for use in the project.


As a student, I know all too well the struggles of late nights in the library, fighting the urge to forgo homework for Netflix, and powered only by caffeine fumes. My final product, a short film called ITS – named after (and filmed in) my study spot of choice – was designed to be a snapshot of the power anxiety has over students.

I decided to film organically, as if I was making a wildlife documentary about students. Of the four people who appear close up on camera, only the main subject, Andria, came into ITS with me with the intention to be filmed. The other three were there to study and agreed to be in the background. The homework they are doing is real, the faces of aggravation and frustration they make are real. I gave Andria a loose outline of what I wanted her to do in a given scene and let her improvise to get the most genuine "Andria under stress" experience as possible.


I decided to mainly use noises that would be found in a study space with two major exceptions: the ticking clock to show time passing and the heartbeat. The heartbeat sped up as the character got more anxious, ultimately flatlining near the end.

The background chatter was recorded by me standing in the middle of Starbucks with my recorder over my head. Sounds of cans being opened and books being slammed were filmed in my room. The only hard sounds to get were the inorganic ones. I got the heartbeat and the clock by recording a friend who beatboxes. The flatline was created from a high note on the piano.

Exploring and Creating
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© 2021 by Kalila Shapiro