Up & Coming Film Makers Talk About The Pandemic
The days of ambling around your local multiplex, waiting twenty minutes in the confections queue because they’ve shut down the counters solely for ticket sales, and then walking on your tippy-toes through the screening room to avoid the patches of half-dried Pepsi and discarded popcorn might be coming to an end - Enough nostalgia to make Buzzfeed wretch.
Do you think that your average Tom, Dick or Harry is going to drive to their nearest cinema, go to a car park for £3 an hour, pay £10 for a ticket, £4 for a can of pop, £9 for a wildly-overestimated bag of pick-and-mix, all of that to watch... Nothing, because the film that Tom, Dick or Harry wanted to see has been delayed six months.
As much as people want to go to the cinema, the pandemic has made it more difficult for people to enjoy it. Why watch Cruella with an audience, when you can stream it at home? I miss the cinema experience, so back in March I asked a bunch of up & coming filmmakers about their last cinematic experiences.
In a somewhat wholesome experience, Karsten Runquist’s last cinema experience was a way to catch up with an old acquaintance - “I went to see an early Q&A screening of Saint Frances at the Hollywood Arclight.” Much like seemingly everyone else’s lives, their last cinema trip was all the way back in March. “Alex Thompson (the director) was actually my professor for a film fest class in 2019, so I mostly went to the screening to catch up with him.”
Elsewhere, Rebecca Mrazek (pictured) recounts her glamorous last cinematic experience; “I went at the start of 2020 to movies for the film festival Berlinale.” She continues with “It’s like Berlin turns for about a month into some fairy tale place. The best thing for me was the fancy food, though.” Berlinale must have food good enough to eclipse her experience of watching All The Dead Ones... No, I hadn’t heard of it either.
Like many people, the last film which Francesca Colpitts-Swaby watched in a cinema was The Invisible Man. “As someone that makes films, you always want to go to the cinema and see the latest releases, however, for me I had to move back home before the first lockdown.” I’m sure many people are in the same situation. “Even if I had wanted to risk going, there weren’t many options for where I could go.”
Contrastingly, Daniel Richardson can’t even remember his last film in a cinema. “It’s weird, it used to be an almost bi-daily occurrence for me since I had a membership to my local cinema. If I could, I’d see more films than there were days in the week. Now I can’t be sure when I last went and I can’t remember if I saw Sonic The Hedgehog or Birds Of Prey last.”
Richardson, a filmmaker based in the North East continued - “The cinema experience here is practically non-existent. Like yeah, technically speaking I remember Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Tenet released but I don’t know a single person who risked seeing them at a cinema. I still haven’t seen either.”
Both Richardson and Runquist don’t want to be in theatres during the pandemic, with Runquist going as far as wanting to be vaccinated. “I’m in Chicago and it has been a series of waves. Theatres have closed and re-opened inconsistently and if I’m being completely honest, I don’t even know if they’re open right now. I have no interest in going to theatres until I have the vaccine.”
All four of these filmmakers have migrated their interest to streaming services. With the release of recent films like Army Of The Dead, The Mitchells Vs The Machines and The Tomorrow War has meant that Colpitts-Swaby has been watching more films on Netflix and Amazon Prime; “The benefit of them as well is that they’ve managed to buy a lot of films that were due for theatrical release, so you are still getting original films that should have came out (in cinemas).”
“I’ve rented and streamed more films than I ever have in the last few months.” Said Runquist, which mirrors Mrazek; “I’ve been streaming movies over Netflix and Amazon Prime for almost a year now.” However Richardson isn’t happy with the current state of streaming. “It’s no replacement. My internet at home is incredibly poor. It can run Netflix and YouTube pretty consistently since I guess they’re the best optimised but it often struggles with (Amazon) Prime and Disney+ just isn’t an option for me... More niche streaming services, things like New Japan World (a pro wrestling promotion) for example have absolutely no chance.”
When it comes to the actual making of films, all of them have faced setbacks. Mrazek had to direct a short film within the bounds of Germany’s housing legislation, which limited the number of people allowed in a household at one time, which then led to Mrazek filming a horror short film with her own parents.
Taking a more pragmatic approach, Colpitts-Swaby highlights an important aspect of current filmmaking. “Covid has definitely effected the filmmaking projects that I’ve been a part of. Unfortunately I think that this has been a problem for every film that’s currently being created.” Filmmaking as an industry has been hit, not just certain parts of filmmaking. A skeleton crew working on an indie documentary in Manilla is facing the same issues as a Hollywood crew working on the next Mission Impossible film.
However Runquist, although having to cancel two film projects, has found some opportunities over the pandemic. “There has been a small amount of good. I’ve reconnected with a high school friend and we’re workshopping some script ideas around. I don’t know if her and I would have had the freedom to work together if not for this.”
It seems as if the pandemic has changed everything about filmmaking. Richardson plans to make a new video every month for his YouTube channel. “I don't want to plan anything huge right now and then have to sit on my hands waiting for a time it can happen and resenting the smaller monthly projects for not being the thing I really want to do.”
“My next project is a music video.” Says Mrazek, who has somehow managed to find paid work during all of this. Colpitts-Swaby has turned to screenwriting for her next project; “I’m writing this (so) I’m able to have more freedom with the story and ideas compared to if I was actually one of the shooting crew. The hardest part is trying not to write in too much physical contact between the characters in case there are more shooting problems.”
Runquist even plans for a feature film; “I’m drafting up a script for a short (film) based on a bicyclist that I’m hoping to make this month. It’d only require one actor and would take place entirely outdoors so I’m crossing my fingers that me and my DP (Nicholas Emmanuele) are able to make it happen, but obviously it’s up in the air. I’m also in the midst of writing an anthology-style feature about three pairs of people experiencing different stages of a relationship in one park. But once again, it’s up in the air.”
As much as it may seem that Coronavirus has ruined the film industry, in many ways it has shaken things up, and with these four up-&-coming filmmakers it is clear that film isn’t going anywhere just yet.