Covid has made the most basic of everyday tasks near impossible, let alone the efforts it takes to get something artistic. Theater, films, television – all of these art forms are group endeavors and require people Boris is not keen on at the moment.
AND YETAt the height of the UK pandemic, me and a small team did the impossible … make a movie.
AND YES, I know half a dozen celebrities did the same thing, but to be fair, teams of professional Class A crews were sitting in LA waiting for the big boy productions to resume so they don't get the same "brownie" got points “like us!
All of the skills and information you need to get a movie going is online. GOV websites have posted guidelines and sure-fire ways for production to move forward, and while it doesn't seem to work for larger productions (Jurassic World, Mission Impossible, etc), there's no reason why low-budget indie filmmakers should Cannot thrive with a small crew this time.
I've broken down all of my notes below in the hopes that others like me will get creative asap. If you want to save your time, you can check out my breakdown video at the link below:
AN ODE TO TOM CRUISE | HOW TO MAKE A FILM DURING COVID:
The script– –
The reason I was confident enough to even attempt a production during Covid was because of the script; I had a story I wanted to do next, and it seemed to fit with what we had available.
It was 1x place, so minimal movement of the crew and maximum time with the camera running. It was a 2x cast story, and they randomly interacted through a computer screen so no one ran the risk of exchanging germs during the performance.
After all, it was a short and sweet 8 page story that was meant to pull your heart out and get started AWWW;; No overly complex monologues, no stunts, no camera movements or VFX required.
It was a simple story!
The problem with casting now is that it is difficult to securely share physical spaces.
I opted for purely online auditions, which I had never done before. I know from previous experiences that I like to shake hands with someone (NO) or have a little chat (NO), but that wasn't an option, so I had to use Zoom to create an open and inviting space for the performers.
I recommend having a handful of agencies you've previously contacted who you can send the script to and ask for self-tapes of talent you like, or even ask them to suggest people in their talent pool. That's like … their main job.
All of the self-tapes that caught my eye got a 20 minute audition slot in a shared Google Doc at a time of their choosing. The auditions themselves consisted of a quick hello, an overview of the project, and a read-through or two of the script.
The positive aspect of online auditions is that you can record performances. When choosing, I edited the recordings of various performers to compare the pairings and made a decision from there.
Also, if you have the time, I would suggest arranging a "trial occupation" to introduce all of the cast before filming so that everyone knows each other before starting the set.
After the casting was over, I thought about the logistics of the day of shooting.
The best way to save time on set is with a plan.
This doesn't have to be set in stone and most of the time once I'm on set I stick to maybe 50% of my plans, but especially with Covid, you have to take time into account. Do what you can to plan ahead, not keep people over time, and be open to changing your plan once you're on the set.
I took photos of the room we would be shooting in to give the DP an idea of the room and then picked out some angles that I wanted to use specifically for the camera. I also made a bird's eye view plan for placing the camera and blocking the characters for each shot to give the crew clarity and a clear picture in my head again.
Health and safety preparation – –
I used a location that I had personal access to at the time, which means that I was able to create very detailed safety measures for Covid Safety throughout the shoot.
Before the shoot, I received a “ScreenSkills certification for basic Covid safety training” that anyone can do for free! I also assured that there were at least 2x other people on set who had completed the same / similar training, so multiple eyes on set looked for risks.
I also determined the "maximum capacity" that each room can handle while following security procedures. All plans and safety points were emailed to the cast, crew, and all agents involved 2 weeks prior to filming, giving all parties ample time to look around and ask safety questions.
We have ventilated the site as well as possible; Rooms that were not being filmed in had open windows to allow air to circulate inside.
Gather the crew – –
Collecting crew members during Covid was particularly difficult; Even though people are more available, they have to be paid – fair enough!
Fortunately, I work regularly with filmmakers and do favor jobs. I was lucky enough to bring together a small team of high-profile talent and low daily rates. They have all done really well, and I cannot stress enough the importance of getting the right people to work on every project.
Addressing availability has been difficult, but once again I've left it in the hands of the "gods as Google Docs". I shared a schedule and asked for dates when everyone was available. Skype and long distance calls were held with all departments as needed to ensure they were well prepared for the day of shooting.
To save time on the day of shooting, we also pre-lit the set, which means my DoP and I could go through our plan and even take some test shots, as shown below:
We started the day by all of us gathering (while practicing social distancing) to read through the script. While I know everyone has probably read it through before the day of shooting, it makes a difference that everyone hears it out loud and gathers as a team before work begins.
Throughout the day of shooting, we followed our set schedule and record list, changing and adjusting when we were inspired or an idea came up, and ended up winding up 1 hour ahead of schedule. (Which made me very, very, very happy after having worked a lot as 1st AD!)
During packing, the set was dismantled department by department. The crew and cast have cleared the set and left the camera department to clear the kit. Then Production Design returned the set to its original state, and then I went in to clean it. To make sure everyone was okay, everyone went one at a time and was encouraged to call in if they felt sick for the next 10 to 14 days. Fortunately, there has been radio silence since then!
Filming right now is of course a real challenge, and certain scripts or projects are just not possible. But this was a great experiment to see how a small cast, a single place, and a small crew of really talented crews led to something really interesting.
If you found any of this useful, please check out my other projects on YouTube and Vimeo and think about what your project might look like during Covid-19.
************************************************** ******** ****************************************** **************** **********************************
Additional filmmaker links:
Kill Norwood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5Xo0ktyNQ0&feature=youtu.be
Award-winning short film that won the festival:: Independent Blue Whiskey Film Festival, OUTshine LGBTQ + Film Festival, LA Live Film Festival, Changing Streams Film Festival, Pinewood Lift Off Sessions, Tallgrass Film Festivals, LesFlicks Cinema at LFEST, GeekFest Toronto, Women's Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival
* Exclusive Raindance *
Three Triple A: https://vimeo.com/497256442/0509426385
The film was made during Covid and described in the article above.
I've spent all of my savings on film festivals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc_l0w5nTLE&feature=youtu.be
How to Make a Movie During Covid: An Ode to Tom Cruise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmjtfEFr6c8
* Did you miss anything from the above article? Check out the video breakdown with visual examples