The most difficult aspect of film-making whilst under quarantine is the existential threat to our entire art form. For the past six years I’ve been working at The New 400 in the heart of Rogers Park, starting as a black shirt and working my way up to assistant manager. During my time at the theater, I’ve spent my free time making movies in the neighborhood. I completed my second feature “Clean Sheets” last year and have been waiting as it makes the rounds through the festival submission process.
Then the theater closed. Then the city closed.
My roommate Hilary is one of the several people who had been imploring me to transform my film into a YouTube miniseries. Throughout the pandemic, the film festivals I’ve entered have still managed to offer me — what’s a nice phrase for a “rejection letter?”
“Clean Sheets” is a black and white comedy shot almost entirely in Rogers Park. Starring Dakota Loesch ( Netflix’s “Love Shot”), Sally Anderson (Amazon Prime’s “Scrapers”) and Marz Timms (Netflix’s “Easy”).
Sally and Dakota play Bebe and Buzz — two low-level gangsters conning their way across Chicago on the night of Bebe’s winter birthday. It’s a short feature film structured like a pulpy crime novel — a mad-cap nerd noir inspired by the works of Elaine May, early Scorsese, and Ralph Bakshi. It’s been a labor of love for some time.
Another reason I dove back into “Clean Sheets” is because my next movie completely stalled in the water. I have a script, good to go, and was excited to dive into pre-production: finding a cast and more crew, locations — planning an entire feature film. How can anybody schedule anything amidst this viral craziness? All production has halted around the world — from the smallest indie short to Marvel’s next multi-billion dollar juggernaut.
The future of distribution hangs in the balance as theaters remain closed. How does anybody know what to write if they can’t plan for a budget? How can they find a budget if they can’t create a schedule? How can anyone schedule if they can’t cast? It goes on and on. The quarantine has created an incredible maze for fringe filmmakers — truthfully, for all filmmakers at the moment.
Now that I’m stuck inside, I’m watching more content than ever: long movies on Amazon Prime and Oscar winners on Netflix. Between Hulu and Disney+, I can keep my cartoon fix rolling for hours every night. I’m also clocking an impossible amount of Game Grumps on YouTube. A lot of us had the TV on a lot before we were shut in for weeks on end.
My unending thirst for content mixed with my impatience for these silly film festivals, so I spent a full week transforming “Clean Sheets” from a short feature film to a solid YouTube miniseries. What a phenomenal way to kill time. I got to design new credit sequences, curate new music from the prolific and see my work in a new light, with a new pace. Now that the show is uploaded online — instead of spending my time waiting and sitting on my art, I can share it with everybody.