From TikTok videos of Zoom classes gone wrong to Youtube sketches on the perils of a sanitizer shortage, lockdowns – of varying degrees – have allowed many creative minds to express themselves in more unique ways than ever before. However, this creativity is not limited to the online diaspora, but is actively engaging traditional filmmakers to take up the challenges and narratives of these times.
The current situation has inspired many Youtubers, Tiktokers and even talented filmmakers to use these circumstances as an opportunity to provide “season” specific quarantine content. They are not only using the ongoing global pandemic as a major plot device, but are even integrating features of the “new normal” into their films, things as mundane as showing people celebrate birthdays on Zoom calls and how many of us seem to forget to wear masks outside.
Some prime examples of good quality content being made to entertain viewers stuck at home include even the likes of Netflix dipping their toes. Even though Netflix added up to 16 million new subscribers in the first three months of 2020, they strived to serve content that was more “relatable” to the times we live in today. Directed by filmmakers- Sahirr Sethi, Anubhuti Kashyap, Tanvi Gandhi and Ashwin Laxmi Narayan, Netflix India released a series of short films on their YouTube channel raking in over hundred thousands of views. Written, shot and produced during the lockdown, these short films give us a glimpse into what life has been looking like these last few months. From a cheery food delivery guy to a couple getting married over Zoom, the series is compelling and a taste of what some stories coming out of this quarantine period will look like.
Moreover, actor and YouTuber, Eric Tabach and Emmy award winner Christian Nilsson released the horror flick, “Unsubscribed” based on an internet troll tricking and stalking famous Youtubers, where Zoom and actual Youtubers like Michelle Khare, Thomas Brag from Yes Theory and Zach Kornfield from the Try Guys shared the screen with Wyatt Langmore from Ozark fame, with the sole intention of having the film top the box offices in America.
Due to the lockdown, theatres all over America are virtually shut down, with some drive-in movie theatres operating and most films being directly released online. Tabach and Nilsson realised that they could use the ‘four walling’ system to buy out an empty theatre, screen the movie a few times and get back the money they put in. This bizarre success story not only ensured that the plot of the movie had the context of this pandemic play a role but so did its release.
Furthermore, Mostafa Keshvari’s “Corona” revolves around the predicament of residents of a building, stuck inside an elevator and their fearful responses towards the virus that illicit xenophobia and racism. It’s one of the first low budget, single-camera feature films to have been made on the topic and is ready to be released. Additionally, Michael Bay is gearing up to produce what is likely to be the first major film shot in Los Angeles during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. The film-Songbird takes place two years in the future, where the coronavirus continues to mutate and lockdowns are still well-underway.
Endeavours to create and tell stories that have been inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic only makes sense. Especially since it feels like we’ve been living eerily similar lives to those shown in pandemic movies like Contagion. Retelling our versions of that reality is a given. With film productions slowly but surely being reinstated, with necessary precautions and safety measures, it’s only a matter of time that more stories will emerge. The fact that we never faced a lack of content during this lockdown is a testament and gives me great hope that the generation-defining events of 2020 shall not only aid in the evolution of modern story-telling but its production as well.