How a group of directors filmed a horror movie entirely in quarantine
Isolation was conceived and shot under lockdown.
Creatives in every industry have been forced to think further outside the box since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and Hollywood has been particularly at a loss. With widespread theater closures and halted productions, how anyone was supposed to keep on keeping on with their craft became the biggest question mark. Some, however, stepped up to challenge the constraints of lockdown in interesting ways — like the group of 11 filmmakers who worked together to shoot a movie entirely in quarantine using only the resources around them.
On Wednesday, filming officially wrapped on Isolation, a horror anthology feature that started shooting in early March. Producer Nathan Crooker came up with an overall concept — a fictional world set months in the future that's based on the current global pandemic — and then the directors set out to make nine short, interconnected stories.
"At the start of quarantine, I found my feature film that was in pre-production put on hold due to the pandemic," Crooker said in a statement. "I knew that other filmmakers were in similar situations, but that they still had a burning desire to create even though we were in lockdown. As a filmmaker, I see this moment in our history as our time to be more creative. By leaning into the limitations we have, we can as a community be inspired to create bold, new, thought-provoking, socially relevant stories and that's exactly what these filmmakers were able to achieve. Isolation will not only be a thrill ride but a time capsule for future generations. I am in awe at the level in which these filmmakers not only embraced the rules we set for them, but greatly surpassed our high expectations as to what they would be able to deliver."
Speaking of rules, the filmmakers decided not to use any video conferencing service, such as Zoom; they could only use the equipment and resources that were with them when they entered lockdown, including cast and crew. They also needed to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
"Some people baked bread, we made a movie," said James P. Gannon, another producer on Isolation with Sophie Gold through Crooker's Ghost Gang banner.
The directors at the helm of each of the nine parts of Isolation are Dennie Gordon (Jack Ryan), Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter), Bobby Roe (The Houses October Built), Andrew Kasch (Tales of Halloween), Zach Passero (Wicked Lake), Christian Pasquariello (Alien Invasion: S.U.M. 1), Alexandra Neary (The Innocent), Alix Austin and Keir Siewert (Retch), and Kyle I. Kelley and Adam Brown (The Music Lesson).
"Isolation explores the human condition through a genre lens, weaved together in an anthology experience," Crooker said. "The films live under a banner of survival and deal with relatable themes such as: human connection, paranoia, hope, love, escapism, fear of the unknown, abandonment, and opportunism… Like any good horror film, the themes transcend the genre."
Ghost Gang is currently in talks with distributors for the movie.
Other projects, particularly in the indie space, have been slowly trucking on in quarantine, even as Hollywood at large attempts to bounce back. Director Rob Savage (Dawn of the Deaf) made one such project remotely: Host, about six friends experiencing a séance gone wrong over a Zoom call during lockdown. His actors, including Haley Bishop and Radina Drandova, filmed themselves with their own cameras. Host will premiere on AMC's horror streaming platform Shudder on July 30. Another project of this nature is Social Distance, a thriller about the pressures of isolation that was written and directed by B. Luciano Barsuglia. Filming — which, as the title of the movie suggests, was done with social distancing in mind — finished in June.
Jurassic World: Dominion was the first big studio production to return to filming during the pandemic with new safely procedures in effect for the cast and crew. Uncharted, Sony's video game adaptation starring Spider-Man: Far From Home's Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, also started filming Wednesday, per an Instagram post from the actor. Being that there are now new spikes in COVID-19 infections still emerging, especially in the U.S., it's hard to predict when everyone might be able to get back to business as normal.
At the very least, Gold hopes Isolation "will inspire other filmmakers to create and tell their stories no matter the circumstances."
For the latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19), including how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you are sick, please visit coronavirus.gov.