Lockdown wasn’t easy for anyone. Many people couldn’t see family members for months on end, and other loved ones were kept a long reach away. Now, in 2021, things appear to be getting better; but the world isn’t back to normal just yet.
Various short and feature-length films have been made focusing on the topic of lockdown; some showing how hard it can be away from family, others depicting what it was like not being able to see partners or living alone.
The Man at the Bottom of the Garden is a short YouTube film about a family of three; parents Marji (Denise Black) and her husband Joe (Paul Bradley), along with her daughter Jess (Clare Calbraith). The family communicate via FaceTime and, while the mood seems rather comical, there are tones of real life melancholy and worry.
Joe has gone to live in the shed at the bottom of his garden in order to fake isolate; he tells Jess that he needed some space and so did Marji, and the couple begin to play jokes on one another, creating a funny and realistic atmosphere.
Director, Paul Blinkhorn, stated that he chose to keep Marji and her husband apart (Jess calls them separately) because he ‘knew of people who had isolated themselves from their households when they’d gotten Covid, or as a precautionary measure if they were awaiting results, or had vulnerable people in their household.’
Many people at the start of lockdown decided to keep themselves away from those they lived with or loved, in order to prevent anyone from getting ill. This short film shows that while the couple are separated for comedy reasons, there is real thought behind them living apart.
Blinkhorn incorporated every aspect of the pandemic as he could, including the odd obsession many people had with stockpiling toilet paper; ‘It felt like it would have been remiss of me not to have mentioned panic buying in some way. Toilet roll had the headlines for a while in the early part the pandemic…’
The Man at the Bottom of the Garden went on to show that despite the hardship and stress everyone went through, things would still work out alright in the end.
The director stated that he chose a comedic angle, rather than a dramatic one, because ‘I do like a good drama, but it didn’t feel like the right time. In part I made The Man at the Bottom of the Garden to nudge myself into a positive headspace.
‘I wanted to spend time developing something that was comic and uplifting’, continued Blinkhorn, ‘and I felt pretty confident that audiences would be up for it. I wanted to entertain people.’
During the hardest months of the pandemic, many people wanted to give thanks to NHS workers; people did what they could to thank those risking their lives to help stop the spread of Covid.
When asked about Jess’ occupation, Blinkhorn said ‘I knew pretty early on when I was writing the piece that I wanted Jess to be a Nurse. I certainly set out for her reveal at the end as a celebration of the medical professionals working during the pandemic, as well an acknowledgment of some of the strains and sacrifices they have endured.’
This celebration of NHS workers was subtle but brilliant, as Jess comes home to FaceTime her mum, and is clearly tired and overworked. Blinkhorn definitely showed a small snippet of what medical professionals felt working during one of the scariest events.
As the film was shot remotely, with each actor and member of the crew being on their own, this presented some challenges for Blinkhorn and his team.
‘Contending with the technology was probably the biggest challenge in prepping the film,’ says Blinkhorn, ‘Thankfully when it came to working with the cast, we all had sometime in advance of the shoot to have a chat over Zoom, as they did all of their own costume, make-up, set-decoration and lighting on the day.’
Shooting a remote film wasn’t easy, but Blinkhorn had a great cast to work with, as well as a wonderful crew, including Karen Newman and Ben Cogan.
When asked about what he hopes people will take from this short, Blinkhorn replied ‘I hope that those who watch the film want to share it far and wide. If it made people laugh or smile, then we’ll have done our job.
‘I’d like to think that those who see the film see it as an acknowledgement of the very difficult time we’ve all been through in one way or another’ Blinkhorn continues, ‘and decide to cut themselves, and others, a little slack.’
Watch The Man at the Bottom of the Garden below.
Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal
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