Director Chris Blake Talks Upcoming Quarantine-Inspired Comedy Distancing Socially
While most productions shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, when the world was still figuring out how to handle the pandemic, writer/director Chris Blake (All Light Will End) got creative and shot the feature, Distancing Socially using remote technology. Distancing Socially takes a humorous look at love, friendship, and the idea that a world of increased connectivity naturally allows for greater miscommunication. Composed of a series of comical vignettes shared across a telecommunications app, the film focuses on the everyday problems of a group of loosely connected characters that play out virtually across a world in lockdown. When discussing making the film Chris says, “I’m always amazed at our ability as a species to connect, even in the absence of each other, and we wanted to make a film highlighting our unending potential for laughter and hope. Not only is this film a love letter to all of us, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell this story, at this moment in time.”
The film stars Alan Tudyk (Resident Alien), Sarah Levy (Schitt’s Creek), Rory Scovel (I Feel Pretty), Andy Buckley (The Office), Jim O’Heir (Parks and Recreation), Jessika Van (The Messengers), Melanie Chandra (Code Black), Connor Paolo (Gossip Girl), Emma Fitzpatrick, Blythe Howard, Ted Welch, Jay Larson, Graham Outerbridge, Dawan Owens, and up-and-comers Sierra Katow, Matthew Hancock, and Willie Macc. Distancing Socially will be released by Cinedigm October 5, 2021, on digital and on-demand.
Read our exclusive interview with Distancing Socially writer/director Chris Blake below.
–Distancing Socially was shot completely on an iPhone 11. Before this film, had you shot extensively before on an iPhone. How did you know the quality would be good enough for theaters?
No, I’d never used an iPhone to shoot anything other than social media clips or personal videos. Initially, we weren’t sure how it would hold up, but we did some tests and spoke with several other filmmakers who had done it. If I’m honest, we still weren’t sure what we would end up with once we wrapped, but we were confident it was the best choice for this project.
-Do you think shooting feature films on iPhones is going to be the new wave of the future?
I definitely think it has its place in independent filmmaking. It’s a valuable and efficient tool that offers many freedoms that you don’t get with the bigger rigs. It’s not the same filmmaking experience as shooting on an Alexa with Cookes and good follow focus, but there are plenty of stories to be told that the iPhone would serve well.
-Not only did you direct Distancing Socially but you also wrote it. Were any of the characters in the film based off people you know in real life? How long did it take you to write the script?
I think all of the characters I write are, at least in part, based on people I know or have known at various stages in my life. I don’t think I do it on purpose; I think it’s just something that intuitively happens as I’m writing. The first draft took about 12 days.
-Did the idea for this film come about from just wanting to keep busy during quarantine?
No, we had a couple of other projects we were hoping to make in 2020, but COVID firmly squashed those aspirations. So, it was more of a pivot. Everyday life felt bleak for many of us in 2020, so we started tossing around ideas of putting something out there that was fun and hopeful. It was meant to be a little film we made with friends then put out there for people to enjoy, but once we started shopping the script around, the cast really grew.
-There are some films shot similarly to Distancing Socially, such as Universal Pictures’ Unfriended. When doing research for this film, do you go back and watch any of those?
I watched a few of them. I specifically remember watching Searching and Host. Both of those were so well done. Other than that, I watched a lot of Edward Burns’ films, early Woody Allen, and the Duplass brothers.
-Fans of Schitt’s Creek really fell in love with Sarah Levy’s character from that show. Are there any similarities between Twyla and Chloe?
Chloe is brave, empathetic, and kindhearted. So, yeah, I’d say there are some similarities between the two characters.
-After filming began, did one aspect turn out to be easier than you expected?
I was concerned with how the actors would handle filming themselves, but it was, surprisingly, a smooth experience for the most part.
-Don Bitters III, whom has worked on everything from The Haunting of Hill House to Empire, has a Visual Effects Supervisor credit on the film. What exactly did he do on this film?
Everything outside of the actual footage in this film is VFX. Don and his team built our Alicorn platform (the Zoom-like interface you’ll see in the film), desktop backgrounds, logos, changing clocks, folders, platform functionality, social media, etc. It was an extremely detailed build.
-What is the main theme you would like moviegoers to take away from watching Distancing Socially?
Even in the most difficult of circumstances, no matter the current state of the world, love, family, and friendships will always carry on. There is always hope.
-What are you working on next?
That’s tough to say. It feels pretentious to say I have several projects in various stages of development, but the truth is I have several projects in various stages of development. But I never know which one is going to happen first. I can say that the plan is to be in production on my third feature in the spring of 2022