Artists found themselves in one of two places during the pandemic: creating content non-stop as a result of the excess of free time they suddenly had, or struggling to find inspiration within the unchanging four walls of their bedrooms. Student filmmakers at the University of Georgia were not strangers to this dichotomy.
The Beginning: Quarantine
Bing Bishop, a senior finance major, created several short films with his older sister Hannah Bishop before COVID-19 and submitted them to film festivals –– many of which were, unfortunately, canceled.
“We were kind of at a loss,” Bing Bishop said, referring to the quarantine in the spring. “We thought, ‘What can we do with this time? How can we be productive in spite of everything going on?’”
In a leap of faith, the siblings decided to work on their first ever feature length film: a psychological thriller that they are writing, producing and directing. They will film from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8 and anticipate having the finished product ready in January 2021, Bing and Hannah Bishop said.
Alaina Booth, a junior entertainment and media studies major, was also greatly disrupted by the COVID-19 shutdown. As an event videographer, many of her events were canceled, and she found herself struggling to create.
“I felt like there was nothing to draw inspiration from,” Booth said. “You can’t really get out into the world to see...other people and nature and other things that normally would inspire you.”
Putting in the effort to create
Mary Williams, a sophomore film studies major, tried to find ways to persist in her screenwriting work this semester. She joined The Industry’s Writers’ Room and is working on a full script for the first time.
“The benefit is that you have people to talk to,” Williams said, referring to her meetings with The Writer’s Room. “But I think it is a lot harder to do it digitally...Bouncing ideas back and forth is easier without that technological barrier.”
The Bishop siblings said they watched movies constantly as sources for inspiration. They also found the simplicity of daily life could be enough to spark an idea.
“It could be at this point, you know, listening to a new song or a brief encounter I have walking past somebody in the street,” Hannah Bishop said. “[Creativity] is just coming in different ways now.”
Whereas Bing and Hannah Bishop took upon a major project over quarantine to fill their time, Booth made the decision to let herself take some personal time off from creating.
“I think sometimes as creators we push ourselves thinking that we always have to be creating something,” Booth said. “Just because I pawn myself as a creative doesn’t mean I have to be creating all the time.”
After Booth drew back from the pressure to create over quarantine, she found herself more excited and prepared to get back to filmmaking once fall semester began.
The impact of COVID-19
Williams found that the change from traditional classes to online ones made it more difficult for her to write.
“I’m someone who likes to try to write every day just to keep ideas flowing and to keep some sort of practice in place,” Williams said. “But it’s harder, especially with just keeping up with classes the way things are. It’s definitely harder to find an incentive.”
In an effort to confront the feelings of isolation, Williams got involved with The Writer’s Room and is also on the crew for a student short film this semester. She said connecting with others is the best way for her to confront creative stress.
Having written their script over quarantine, Bing and Hannah Bishop were mindful of the constraints they would have to work with in the production of their film. According to the siblings, their cast and crew is made up of only eight people and the shooting will take place in mostly one location.
“[There are] lots of isolation themes inside the script,” Bing Bishop said with a laugh, recognizing the impact quarantine had on their writing.
Meanwhile, Booth found the shift to online classes and the less interactive nature of college actually opened up a myriad of opportunities to her.
“What I found this semester is that there’s such a demand right now for people in our major, people who know how to work a camera because of the fact that we all can’t be in person,” Booth said. “A lot of people can’t show up to these weddings, so it’s all the more reason to have a video to send it out to them, to show them ‘Hey, it’s just like you were there!’”
Booth said she’s more focused on filmmaking now than she was in the past. The less demanding nature of online classes allows for her to travel to different cities and states to work on shoots while still attending class.
“I actually do what I want to do, and actually do my real job rather than just focusing on school,” Booth said. “I wouldn’t be able to do that in a regular semester.”
Though their experiences are vastly different, all of the filmmakers agree they’ve learned to be more comfortable with uncertainty.
“It’s okay to be unsure of things and not have all the answers,” Williams said.
Williams tries to divert her attention to other things when she hits a creative block before returning back to the issue.
Booth advocates for creative rest, reminding artists once again that they do not –– and should not –– be creating all the time.
The Bishop siblings are looking forward to movie theaters reopening after the pandemic.
“There’s just nothing that’s quite like a dark movie theater to sit down and get some popcorn and drinks with some friends,” Bing Bishop said. “I think that’s something that we’ve all lost is that community, and getting that back would be incredible in just so many different ways.”