Not willing to let their creativity be stifled by the never-ending lockdown, JumpCut Studios’ very own Jakob Lewis Barnes and Sam Comrie set to work on a secret short film project back in June which would cater to a small-scale, remote shoot. Yesterday, this shoot took place, via a rather unorthodox process. The film, titled EDEN, encapsulates the lockdown spirit, but introduces a few twists along the way, both in terms of narrative and from a production point of view.
On the origins of the project, co-writer/director/producer Sam Comrie had this to say: “At the start of the year, as a company we laid out our production slate for the foreseeable future. The circumstances of making films in 2020 have changed exponentially, but it doesn’t mean that our goals have. Whilst most of the JumpCut Studios team have been separated since March, we’ve still been tinkering away behind the scenes. Eden is one of those things we were tinkering. Jakob approached me with the initial idea not long after we had shot The Grim Truth. Jakob being Jakob, with his usual brand of tenacity and desire to keep creating, his infectious attitude is always a bonus to get a new project out of the woods.”
And that they did. And quickly, too. Once the first draft of the story was completed it was sent out to two actors who Jakob and Sam knew would be the perfect fit for this kind of challenge – Niamh O’Donnell and Adan Osborne. From there, the script was refined, the characters developed and the rest of the crew was assembled. Jakob details this pre-production journey here: “We had worked with Adan already and we loved his energy and passion, so we really wanted to get something going again with him. As for Niamh, she is someone that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing perform in person, and she is a formidable talent. We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to collaborate to come up, and she was so keen to take on this challenge. Initially we were going to get the actors to shoot this themselves, but we realised that for them to do their characters justice, we needed a spot of help. That’s where Shaun Stone-Riley and Caitlin O’Donnell come in. They would be our eyes on the day, as DOPs in their respective locations. So we basically had two directors, two locations, two actors, and two cameras. Not how we would usually do things, of course, but it was a very exciting concept.”
This team set to work on building convincing set designs within the actor’s homes, conjuring up ideas for shots and blocking, and thrashing out all of the usual challenges you would find on any film shoot. The only difference was the lack of actual contact. And so ensued a multitude of Zoom meetings and group chats to try and get a feel for the locations without actually being there, and working out how to make this socially distanced film, feel cohesive and connected. Sam breaks down the obstacles, and opportunities that this process presented: “Sparked by our separation and isolation, Eden was our way of getting something new into the world without any of the normal restrictions a typical film set would present. The experience of shooting was far different to anything I’ve worked on before. Directing a cast member who lives in Scotland, remotely from my living room? Not what I saw on the cards for this year. Alas, this was a learning curve that in the end became an incredible lesson in adaptation, collaboration and efficiency. In the same vein as shooting The Grim Truth in March, our core ethos of making the sets a collaborative effort was a big value we wanted to maintain despite being away from the cast and crew. It was a challenge to get used to this way of directing, as you can’t just hop behind the camera or scope the location with crew members as normal. It’s an entirely different level of trust compared to a normal set experience.”
Once the preparation was complete, and the date was set, Jakob and Sam then divided up their responsibilities and managed a location each, to ensure maximum attention was devoted to all aspects of the production. Jakob details how the actual shoot played out here: “It took some getting used to, a day full of communication over Zoom, for sure. But by the end of the day, it was as though we were actually on set with these guys, laughing, joking, sharing ideas and creating something special. The team spirit was a joy to behold, and what was wonderful to see was the way the cast and crew all just wanted to aim high and do the best job possible. You know, no one was afraid to want another take, try something different, and it was so great to finally be creating something again, with a team that were all on the same wavelength. It wasn’t easy though, by any means, because for every element of filmmaking that we didn’t need to worry about due to the nature of the shoot, there was another, new problem to solve, and as Sam says, it ultimately came down to trusting each other and being open and co-operative.”
Now, Jakob and Sam will undertake the editing process, again working remotely to ensure the film melds together in the way they envision. Despite the difficulties this can create, this short, experimental project is being eyed for a relatively quick release, with the team eager to get something out into the world and showcase what they can do under the circumstances. Whilst this may not be the normal or ideal way to make a film, and hopefully we can all get back on film sets again soon, this concept certainly opens up new options for any filmmakers out there who are craving creativity during these difficult times.
Keep an eye on the JumpCut Studios Twitter account for more updates on this exciting project as they come.