Writer/director Chris Blake discusses his new comedy ‘Distancing Socially’
Pandemic lockdowns shuttered the world and had people spending weeks inside their homes, communicating virtually whenever possible. Distancing Socially, a new feature film from writer & director Chris Blake, is elucidating the lockdown experience with heart and plenty of humor. The film, which was shot with iPhones at the homes of its stars, is composed of vignettes told through a video call application.
Distancing Socially stars Alan Tudyk, Sarah Levy, Connor Paolo, and a slew of other talented actors. We were lucky enough to have a conversation with filmmaker Chris Blake. We discussed his creative process, the unique challenges of shooting a film remotely, and what the future has in store for him.
What made you want to become a film director?
It was a natural progression for me. I grew up loving films and thought I wanted to be an actor. I tried acting and realized I didn’t like not having control over my character or the story. So I started writing. No one wanted to direct what I wrote, so I directed it myself.
Is there a particular film that inspired you to get in the business?
Jerry Maguire. I know that sounds strange. I was 12 when I watched that film. I don’t know exactly what it was about that film that fanned the spark into a flame, but I knew I wanted to make movies after I watched it. I’m still a major fan of Cameron Crowe.
You are both a writer and director. What comes easiest to you?
That depends on the day, but probably writing. When I’m writing a script, I’ll spend several days sitting on the couch watching tv or reading a book until my brain says, okay I’ve got something now. Then I’ll isolate myself in my office and won’t really come out until I’ve produced a first draft. I’m exhausted by the end of it. I love directing, but I’m also riddled with social anxiety. So, sometimes being on set is draining. But as soon as I wrap one film, I can’t wait to start the next.
As a director, what would you say is the most important job during filming?
Collaborating with your team while protecting the story.
Your latest feature, Distancing Socially, was shot completely on the iPhone 11. Can you talk about how this process came about?
It made the most sense. The iPhone offers valuable options for filming and we figured our cast was familiar with working smartphones. Also shipping bulky cameras around would’ve been really tough.
What was the most challenging part of solely filming with an iPhone?
It had its positives and negatives. We had some storage issues and some technical deficiencies that we had to work around, but production was otherwise smooth. The most stressful part of it was the logistics – scheduling cast, shipping phones, hoping nothing was damaged in transit, etc.
What did your writing process look like for Distancing Socially? How was that process different than your previous film, All Light Will End?
Well, for one, there were no turnarounds, and making call times was as easy as walking from the kitchen to the bedroom. We’d have a prep call the day before we shot. We’d go over the setup with the cast, as well as wardrobe, location, etc. By the time we all got on Zoom the next day we pretty much just started rolling. All Light Will End was a physical set with a lot of moving parts. This was as close to making a film from your bedroom as it gets.
Once you began filming Distancing Socially, did the script change?
I give my actors a lot of freedom. As long as the overall story isn’t moving in the right direction. I also ask for a lot of input from my team, and as they give me good ideas the story evolves. I think a story should constantly evolve from conception through completion.
Distancing Socially was shot remotely over Zoom. In the film, the opening of the app, Alicorn, features a sequence with people on a cliff and running on the beach. How did you get this footage?
We used stock footage to fill in some gaps because we weren’t able to film on location.
Actors Andy Buckley and Ted Welch were in your previous film, All Light Will End, and are both in Distancing Socially now. What do you enjoy most about working with them?
They’re both good friends, incredibly talented, and just an absolute blast to have on set.
Is there anything that you would like audiences to know about the making of Distancing Socially that hasn’t been revealed yet?
This is a true indie film. It was self-financed, made in our bedrooms/homes (literally, cast included), and we’re incredibly proud of it.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a character driven thriller, as well as a music-driven comedy. I’m hoping to be in production on the thriller in the Spring of 2022.