Written by Shona Smith on Apr 21, 2020. Posted in Production News

Creative projects are documenting life under lockdown

Documentary features, scripted drama shorts and web series are being made that capture the world during this unprecedented time.  With much of the world under lockdown measures, sets and studios are empty but local production companies are using the time to make creative projects under the new, challenging conditions.

In Italy, one of the worst hit countries in Europe, Pharos Film Company has connected directors across the country to make a feature documentary that tells stories of Italy from empty streets under lockdown. Rosita D’Oria, executive producer at Pharos, says “the documentary has the purpose to celebrate Italy and Italians. All the pieces of art we have not in the museums but around the country on the streets. Rome is Rome at the moment, and it is beautiful”.

Made up of twelve short films from each city, small crews of three to four people have permission to shoot in the streets, adhering to restrictions on personal distance and security and using gloves and masks. “We are all working with different cameras but we have a single standard for shooting, the sound and all the technical side,” says D’Oria. The documentary has been shooting for over a month spending four to five days in each city.

The project involved twelve directors local to each city who are able to tell compelling stories about each location. D’Orio says “we started with a little group of five directors that we knew in five cities; Turin, Milan, Rome, Bologna and Naples. In the other cities we asked around and found the best directors in each place. Now we have 12 directors that have no connection before we started to work together. They work together on the heart and the creativity because some ideas for one city can translate to another - we have a Skype group, a WhatsApp group talking about every detail. It is an experiment”.

When it comes to distribution, Pharos hopes to enter the feature into the Venice Benniale, which is still going forward as planned. “The project has a commercial and an artistic soul which we hope to have a little space in a big festival. If theatres are open in September we might look to get theatrical distribution – I hope so because I miss movies on the big screen!”.

In South Africa, Bozzi Media are working on a documentary project looking at the impact of lockdown on the nation. It is about the “impact of that going forward, as a labour intensive low skilled country, mining and factories and retail stores have put people out of jobs. Should we have shut the country down, because people are already to starting to get restless? It is a difficult question. As a filmmaker it is my duty to find balance and find enough leadership opinion on both sides of the question to start a conversation," says Glenn Bosman, Executive Producer at Bozzi Media. "What does make it easier is that people have lost 80% of the excuses as to why they might not be available. No planes or trains or business lunches!” he adds.

Interviewees include Bonang Mohale, Chairman of The Bidvest Group, Herman Mashaba a South African Entrepreneur, politician and former mayor of Johannesburg and economist Iraj Abedian. “These guys we have interviewed via Skype or Zoom, and if this project does roll out as a three or four episode documentary, hopefully as we get to further episodes the lockdown may have been lifted and we can get to interview them again in their office or home environment. Until that happens, we have to do it this way, and as a director I am happy with this, because this is how the whole world is  dealing with lockdown at the moment, and I think it will be a sombre reminder in six or seven moths time of what we had to go through to get any form of communication done".  Bozzi Media are looking to distribute the project on the international stage with broadcasters and to launch via YouTube.

Low budget scripted series reflecting life in lockdown are also being made in isolation. Scripted Romanian web series Discutabil has been an online hit for production company ATIC Pictures. The scripted series features popular actors playing themselves discussing various zeitgeist topics under lockdown via internet calls, which have all been rehearsed before recording.

In the UK, broadcaster ITV has ordered a four-part series Isolation Stories from Stan and Ollie writer Jeff Pope. The four part drama shorts reflect life in lockdown and are to be written by award-winning screenwriters.

Executive Producer Tom Dunbar said, “Exceptional circumstances require us to think in a brand new way about creating drama. Our priorities are the safety of all involved in the production and finding a way to work within all the restrictions to create something relevant and resonant.”

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