The first few days of lockdown, which started for me a week before everyone else when my cinema job was put on hold, set the tone for the last four months. They were largely spent catching up with films I hadn’t seen from various directors, some of whom, such as Pedro Almodóvar, I already loved while others, like Richard Linklater, I developed a renewed interest in.
While Almodóvar’s films remain masterful, it was in the work of Linklater and Jim Jarmusch and their debut features – It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books and Stranger Than Paradise – that I found something more resonant. Both are not entirely successful but they each have their own clear voice and were made with substantially fewer resources than either director’s later projects. Seeing them at a time when conventional filmmaking practices are deemed potential health risks does make you feel, as restrictions are slowly being lifted, that creating new pieces of visual work isn’t completely beyond reach.
Another source of inspiration came in May when Elizabeth Sankey’s feature-length video essay Romantic Comedy was released. Comprised entirely of clips from films in the eponymous genre and largely driven by Sankey’s observational narration, it ignited something in me that I hadn’t felt from other films released online recently.
It was Sankey’s film that ultimately inspired me to create ‘This Is…’, a video tribute to some of the films and cinema-going memories that have shaped my interests over the years. I’ve even wondered if I would’ve made the video at all if it weren’t for the tremendous anxiety I feel towards the future of film exhibition at present.
And then there are the stories I hear of filmmakers diving back into their work irrespective of limitations. Bait director Mark Jenkin is currently between projects, as is Almodóvar who completed a long gestating script entitled Madres Paralelas during lockdown and is now filming an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice with Tilda Swinton in the English language.
Almodóvar even marked the occasion with a picture of himself wearing a face mask as he held a clapper board, a sentiment echoed by Kevin Smith as he shot his own short film under similar measures. As the state of the world changes on a daily basis, I look to these individuals and what they’ve accomplished for the sense of encouragement that helped me to finish ‘This Is…’ and will hopefully help me realise many more projects soon.