Disclaimer: Chris Panella is an arts editor and a columnist at The Tufts Daily. The Daily’s editorial department acknowledges that this article is premised on a conflict of interest. This article is a special feature for Commencement 2021 that does not represent the Daily’s standard journalistic practices. Chris was not involved in the writing or the editing of this article.
For four years, Chris Panella has been a jack of all trades at Tufts.
As a teaching assistant, resident assistant, tour guide, board member and teacher for the Experimental College, and writer for Jumbo Magazine and the Daily, Panella has done just about all that is possible on campus.
Panella has worked extensively for the Daily, with many of their 111 bylines falling under the Arts section. They spoke about their journey through the Daily.
“I joined the Daily actually as an opinion writer, my [first-year] fall,” Panella said. “I was writing opinion pieces, but they were all arts-related. I wrote one about why Rihanna is the most profitable person in the music industry.”
Though a core member of the Arts section since their first-year spring, Panella’s fondest memory at the Daily came during their stint as executive social media editor.
“That [memory is] my favorite because that … was when I was executive social media editor with Sean Ong,” they said. “And Sean and I won the section of the semester, which was insane because we were just … social media. But we had worked really hard to revamp social media, so we were really proud of that win.”
Two of Panella’s other main involvements, the aforementioned roles of board member and teacher for the ExCollege, will undoubtedly have a hole to fill with his departure.
This semester, Panella taught their third ExCollege course — a semester-long analysis of the villains in Batman stories. The other two courses he taught in the past focused on female characters in “Star Wars” and love in modern film.
A cinephile at heart, Panella has also devoted much of their Tufts academic career to studying the development side of moviemaking. In fact, for his thesis, he took on the task of writing a screenplay.
Panella cited “Moonlight” (2016), “Little Women” (2019), “anything Greta Gerwing has worked on,” “The Way Way Back” (2013) and “The Florida Project” (2017) as sources of inspiration for “Grasswater,” which is a feature-length screenplay they are currently writing.
Panella said the screenplay focuses on an 18-year-old man who is exploring his sexuality and preparing to enter college over the course of the summer in South Florida. He has a conflict with his single father and is hesitant to attend the prestigious art institution he was accepted to in New York.
Asked whether he drew on experiences from his own life for the script, Panella referenced a Greta Gerwig quote when she was asked a similar question about her film, “Lady Bird” (2017): “It’s not true, but it rhymes with the truth.”
With the end of his undergraduate years in sight, Panella says that what he’ll miss most are his friends and professors.
“[I’ll miss] the feeling of walking into a space and knowing everyone [and] the feeling of … going through four years at an institution with people who you met on day one, and now you know until the end,” he said. “That kind of community, I’ll really miss. But I’m hopeful that I can replicate that community or a sense of that community in a job.”
After graduation, Panella is moving to Los Angeles. They plan to work on the development side of visual media.