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An Interview with the Creators of 19 Covid Lane

A few weeks ago, Atlanta Film and TV had the opportunity to chat with the Film It 4 Fun Founders, Carlos Velasco, Hamid Thompson, and Ryan Monopolous about their short film 19 Covid Lane.

19 Covid Lane is “a dark comedy in the style of a psychological thriller depicting three isolated strangers in a basement bunker struggling with the COVID crisis.”

Atlanta Film and TV: How long did the production take from conception to completion?

Film it 4 Fun: It only took less than three weeks. During the process it was stressful and we didn’t get a lot of sleep, but we all were working hard daily, from morning into the night. We did this only because we wanted to get it out while it was still prevalent.

Derek Russo as Bruce

The whole point was to create something that would hit the zeitgeist with Film It For Fun. That’s what we do, we create projects from conception to completion that celebrate artists in the Atlanta community and connect like-minded professionals. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something that we could do with all the out of work local people in the state in a reproducible way, and prove stuff could be done during this time and also something that would have a mass appeal on a global scale.

Angelie Simone as Sarah

Atlanta Film and TV: In what ways has the pandemic affected or changed your approach to the production process?

Film It 4 Fun: With the new world that we’re living in, there were a lot of safety precautions. Every crew member wore a mask on set, and we did it out of the safety concern of our cast and crew members. Any of the props we used that were handled between our actors were sanitized and disinfected in between each use. Our crew was limited to very minimal people to only the essential crew members. A lot of us doubled up in crew positions as well, just to support the production and to keep it minimal. But, safety was our number one concern and we wanted to be sure our crew and cast were taken care of. We took an extensive survey of people and whether they had prior symptoms and if they were around people who had symptoms and we tried to follow the CDC guidelines as much as possible because our main concern was we wanted to make sure that we were shooting this project and doing it right.

Additionally, we shot the film in Ryan’s 15 by 18 ft. dugout basement, which we converted into a set. And believe it or not, we all live with groups of filmmakers. And it just so happened that between myself and where Hamid lives, we all had been quarantined together which made up 85% of our crew.

Justice Leak as Trevor

Atlanta Film and TV: What measures did the cast and crew take to ensure health and safety on set?

Film It 4 Fun: We had multiple handwashing stations, and we pretty much stayed separate from each other and kept it very minimal. There were never more than ten people inside one location at a time and honestly, it was probably less than that. Everyone was pretty much self-quarantined and we made sure that everyone was comfortable and not experiencing any symptoms.

We designed everything so that staging for the crew and cast was outside instead of inside. We followed certain guidelines by keeping people indoors and enclosed areas and spread out amongst multiple stations and an open yard so that we could maintain distancing. We also did everything from running rehearsals to crew meetings virtually. Additionally, we made individual meals for talent and crew so that everything was packaged specifically for them and there wasn’t anything communal, where people were touching into the same area. It was unfortunate that we had to go that route for the environment, but it was best for safety.

Atlanta Film and TV: It must have been difficult shooting this project under quarantine restrictions. What was the greatest challenge that it posed and how did you overcome it?

Film It 4 Fun: The greatest challenge was how do we create something that is supposed to scale globally? And, how do we do it in a way that we know is responsible and something that is perceivably responsible? In a way, 19 Covid Lane is in itself artistically and thematically a response to all the ways people overreact to situations like this one. Not that it's not a serious thing, and of course many people have died from the Coronavirus and we can respect that. But, it's also how people like to cycle and circulate misinformation. A lot of what happens on social media channels is that everything becomes a witch hunt waiting for people to do something wrong so that everyone can have an execution publicly. Unfortunately, that’s the way things have been done and with Film It 4 Fun, we’re against that. We believe in real inclusion, in the way we create our projects and use real information and critical thinking. On our end, we have to make sure that we follow safety protocols, but also go above and beyond to make sure that people might misperceive as unsafe.

Even during the writing process, we were doing our best to figure out what the dialogue was and what the theme was, and we wanted to be sure that we weren’t disrespectful to the nature of the Coronavirus or anyone who had health issues or passed away from it. That was interesting and challenging while keeping the story cohesive and complete, which was the first step we had to take at the beginning of the three weeks. Film It For Fun, hasn’t had any sort of distribution channels set up, our main focus was just creating the content. And, getting this thing out there has been pretty much a difficult process. But, luckily we’ve had help from Mollie Ritcher of our Distribution Team, and our Associate Producer, Chris, and other team members to help get the word out about our project.

Sometimes people forget that yeah, you’ve created something and that’s only the first half of the battle. But, the question is how do you get relevance and how do you get it seen? That is where Mollie has been a great help and along with some connections from Hamid and with the essence of what we’re doing with Film It 4 Fun, an international effort to get our film seen. We’re standing right now starting with no social media presence, whatsoever, and will have hit one-hundred-sixty-thousand views in less than two weeks that our film has been out. And, we’re happy to announce that we just officially announced that we partnered with Funny or Die, which has about 32 million users within their reach. This could be available on a bunch of streaming platforms because we do believe we successfully hit the zeitgeist. This has come through in the reviews we’ve received so far and in the interest, we’ve received in the world’s leading comedy platforms.

Atlanta Film and TV: What advice do you have for other filmmakers and artists who want to create right now, but are struggling due to a lack of projects and resources during this uncertain time?

Film It 4 Fun: I would encourage filmmakers to go for it. There’s a lot of like-minded individuals that are willing to get together and put their heads down and create. Something we did ourselves is that we saw an opportunity where we wanted to create something and continue to progress and evolve. We took a little bit of a risk with doing a project like this. As long as you’re safe about it, and you are well educated in what the Coronavirus is and the potential of spreading it - it’s a possibility. As long as you make the ask, someone is always going to say “yes.”

Also, even if you don’t have the resources, equipment, or team you can still improve on your craft. Whether you're a writer, consider exploring more avenues of writing. If you’re a camera operator, learn more about what you like within different projects that you’ve seen and why you like those projects. And, try to understand exactly what makes you tick and what makes your artwork or other people’s artwork. The most important thing is, if you don’t feel safe being on set or if you don’t have access to anything, be sure to take the time to improve yourself is the most valuable thing you can get out of this time.

Just think about it. If you were to tell somebody that you get to take a month and a half off to work on you, what would you do with that time? I would say, take the time to perfect your craft, learn, communicate with others. Network in ways that you might not be able to get a hold of people you normally couldn’t because they’re all hanging out too. Ask yourself, what is it that you want to do as an artist and creator and the rest will naturally flow.

* It is also important to note that “all of the money we raised with this project will be donated to the United Way. They will be using these funds to help families and people in need, access critical information, and services like food, shelter, and more through the Unite Way network. Donations will provide relief to those left vulnerable by the pandemic.”

For more information, check out the 19 Covid Lane website. You can also follow 19 Covid Lane on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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