Seven directors from seven countries but who directed / produced the whole project?
Yes, our film was very much a personally-driven project actually. I felt quite chilled by the initial outbreak of the virus and the moment that governments started locking down their countries, one by one, I quickly sensed this was becoming a ‘moment’ in history which would change us all forever. Whilst nobody could foresee quite how devastating the impact was going to be, I did instinctively feel – right from the outset – that we should be documenting this somehow.
It felt like a watershed moment in our lives. Clearly unlike anything any living person had experienced before and one that would force some serious re-thinking in our societies as well as our personal lives. It was this idea of preparing for a ‘reset’ that really struck me.
When I talked to my various directors around the world, I realised this was an instinct shared by many of my team too. It quickly became obvious to us that we should make a film, not a polemical or social comment type of film, but more of a poetic response that captured a moment in time. Trapped at home, each of the team reported the same paradoxical feelings from one country to another. So we decided to focus the film on one thing…the beauty in isolation. The strange conflicting feelings of both re-awakened appreciation and relentless separation.
How did you brief the directors and to what extent was it mapped out before the seven shoots began?
We set about capturing this as best we could, knowing that we would have to do it remotely with all the restrictions and lack of control that would entail. But we all agreed this was the perfect opportunity to make something collective. A truly collaborative film in the spirit of ‘all being in it together’. We agreed that no single director would ‘lead’ it and that it would need to take its own shape organically. I wrote a brief for everyone to read and feed back on. And after a lot of WhatsApping & emailing between us, we refined it to this concept of ‘beauty in isolation’. We then worked out what each director was able to get access to – locations, talent, crew, etc. – and started planning the various shoots.
Any specific challenges for the directors?
With the virus taking hold at different pace within each country, we found we had different challenges on every shoot. In Brazil, one of the worst hit nations in the crisis, social distancing restricted The Fridman Sisters to people-free interior shots in their own apartment; whereas in Germany, Marko Roth was able to capture exterior street scenes quite freely, and in Australia Edward Copestick had the freedom to shoot drone footage of lapping waves and meditating friends. It was different in every country, but the shared emotions were the same.
We’re so familiar seeing lockdown / protest films shot on i-phones but How The Light Gets In feels cinematic …. were there socially distanced cinematographers on hand?!
In some cases, directors were able to bring in the help of cinematographers but only where social distancing allowed for it. We felt strongly that we needed to be careful to respect the rules throughout the process. Production value was crucial for us, however. We’d already seen way too many zoom & iPhone footage Covid films. Our mission was to reflect what was going on as cinematically as possible. And show what is possible with a little ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Did the film come together in the edit – please tell us about that process. Did a lot of footage end up being shelved?
It took a little longer than usual to get the footage into the Avid, as you can imagine. With broadband streaming under the greatest global pressure it had ever known, transferring large raw files became almost as big a challenge as the shooting. Director Alex Tiernán, for example, had found himself holed up in Algiers on his way back to Dubai. And after working around daily curfews to capture his particular footage, had to spend the next two days trying to send it to London.
Once everything was in the hands of the editor though, we set about crafting a tone & structure. The incredibly-talented Ellie Johnson at Ten Three really excelled here, striking the perfect balance of emotions from the footage and voice recordings she was sent. Jack Sedgwick at Wave weaved in some perfectly understated sound design and Toby Tomkins at Cheat brilliantly managed to grade everything together into a seamless piece of cinema.
Production Company: You Are Here
Executive Producer: Jeremy Goold
Assistant Producer: Luca Antoniazzi
Directors: Alex Tiernan – Algeria // Sebastian Linda – Germany // The Fridman Sisters – Brazil // Marko Roth – Germany // Edward Copestick – Australia // Ryan Schude – USA // Jesse Lewis- Reece – UK
DoPs: Joshua Stabler / Pedro Tejada / Will Lambert (Additional Photography: Jeremy Goold)
Editor: Ellie Johnson @ Ten Three
Colourist: Toby Tomkins @ Cheat
Sound Design: Jack Sedgwick @ Wave
Titles: Tom Wansbrough-Jones @ Unit