Fueled by the racial unrest in 2020, Amelia Delphos (History ’22) and Heather Thomas (Media Studies and Social Entrepreneurship ’21) produced an incisive documentary, Black at UVA. Created as part of an independent study with Wyatt Andrews, Professor of Practice, the film explores the experience of Black students at UVA including how the local Black Lives Matter movement lobbied successfully for the appointment of the Racial Equity Task Force. For the film, Delphos and Thomas were awarded the 2020-21 National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Student Production Award in Non-Fiction Long Form. They credit Professor Andrews for his guidance and assistance in producing a professional and ethical news piece.
Featuring one-on-one interviews with Black students and faculty, the student producers sought to address the underrepresentation of those voices at UVA. “I think the biggest thing was visibility and provoking critical thinking with all the political and social turmoil coming out of 2020. UVA is still only six percent Black and we wanted to make people aware, make sure Black students at UVA felt that visibility,” said Thomas. Delphos added, “I really tried to focus on listening not thinking ‘Oh this is what we need from this person’ or ‘This is what a quote needs to be.’ I just facilitated the conversations.”
Producing the film at the height of the pandemic presented a unique set of challenges. “We were six feet apart in all of our interviews. We had boom mics that we extended to make sure the sound quality was good,” said Thomas. Delphos added, “with COVID it was especially hard when we were setting up shots, most of which were outside, so we had to deal with noise and people.” However, the duo rose the occasion and saw the film’s creation as a chance to engage during a time of isolation, Thomas shared, “The documentary gave us a way to connect in the community when we were otherwise stuck in the house during the school week."