Being a Filmmaker During a Pandemic.

On hiatus indefinitely – but still present.

I’m a filmmaker.  My husband is an actor.  So things have been pretty quiet for him and his career for the past few months, as you can imagine, as well as mine.  He’s been writing a lot and we have tried to do a bit of filming, but after a couple of close calls with covid and crew and friends, we have officially decided to cease any work that involves being around people,  for now.  At least until we are all vaccinated, which seems like it might happen by this time next year.

It’s a shock.  Honestly there are people having to make far more serious decisions than “I guess we can’t shoot now” – far, far more serious. Life and death decisions. Shall I pay the rent or eat decisions, shall I move back in with my parents, sell something or can I live in my car decisions.

So our quandary seems small. But then we all have more than that in our heads right now, don’t we.  I worry constantly about the creative industries.  Not writers, or painters, or anything solitary so much. Although those artists need to make money and there is far less of that about.

No, I worry for the arts that need people. People to perform, or construct, or light or fill the air with music, or act in or sing or produce or sit in seats they paid for. I worry about the millions of people that live that way and do so at a perilous cost single every day anyway, without the threat of a pandemic.   I worry what will survive, what theatres, what record labels, what acting schools, what prop shops, or equipment houses, or actors.  Most of the creative people I know who have additional jobs to cover the periods when they don’t work have also lost those jobs. So we are all deep in the shit, as we say in England.  This phrase seems so fitting lately.

So what can we do?

I suppose that depends on so many things. I’m writing. But I have to admit that this has also thrown me so far for a loop that I find it hard to.  It’s difficult to focus on scripts or production when not only is the prospect of filming far, far in the future.  Now that we are all trying to basically stay alive, so that even when we can film somehow. Should we?

I know there are things being made, my husband is auditioning, online of course.  But these are big budget projects, with the money to follow all the rules and fly to Iceland or wherever.  I had an opportunity to help on a little short film that someone I know was trying to get done, having already postponed it several times because of covid.  I had to say no.  In the end the project has been moth balled.  I wasn’t the only participant not relishing the risk apparently.

We have to measure the odds at this point. The odds of getting sick, the odds of putting those we love at risk, just for the – and trust me this is true -now mostly joyless few hours on a stressful set.  It doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me right now.

I know this is supposed to be an article on filmmaking, but I want to write from my heart, with honesty.  We are going through a painful, difficult time when even with a room full of equipment, many stories ready to tell and the willing hands to help us tell them…we are frozen.  We don’t really even have November 3rd to look forward to, since we won’t know that day probably and even if we think we do, there will be lawsuits and stand offs and drama and guns.  I’m as jumpy as a pea in a frying pan quite frankly.

I think we need to be very kind to ourselves.  Lower our lofty expectations and allow our minds to wander as they need to through this mess.  Beating ourselves up for not getting more done creatively is pretty pointless. But we also need to actually support our choice to stop the endless shuffling of projects and shoot dates and calendars.  The world is on hold. There is a reason for it all and acceptance is the first step in basic survival right now. There will be time again for all of this. Time for planning and goals and work.  But right now we have to let go of all that, and letting go is, of course, not a trait I am bounteous in.

As a means of encouragement there is a project that I found worth checking out.  HBO and filmmaker Joanna Johnson managed to create something out of this chaos, early on in the pandemic, before we all lost the plot a bit.  Below is a very good article in the LA Times about it and you should check it out on HBO. “Love in the Time of Corona” is a series of films shot using almost ridiculously careful separation of human contact. But the results are pretty great.  Parameters, however they occur, can force creative beauty and make us so purposeful that the energy buzzes and blossoms.

Perhaps soon we will all blossom again, in the mean time be kind, be careful and be hopeful.

Here’s a link to an LA Times article about “Love in the Time of Corona”, the HBO series filmed this year.

Photo credit:

Joanna Johnson, executive producer, and Marco Fargnoli, director of photography,” on the set of “Love in the Time of Corona.” (Freeform)

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros
Author: Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer and filmmaker living In Los Angeles.