Recently we had the pleasure of premiering ‘Parting Us‘ on our Youtube channel. The short documentary by Irish film makers Albert Hooi and TJ O’Grady Peyton captures life during the first phase of lockdown in Ireland through the lens of 15 different people.
It’s a poignant visual collage documenting a range of contrasting perspectives in order to paint a vivid image of the challenges that people from different walks of life are facing during the pandemic. The film features affirmations and intimate vignettes into the experiences of front-line workers, creatives, students, elderly people, athletes, actors, poets, small business owners and various people dealing with extremely challenging circumstances, such as the nursing home tragedies.
Well known personalities such as the artist, Maser as well as retired WBO World Champion, Andy Lee feature in the film. Other well known contributors include RUFF MERCY, Kevin McLoughlin, Feli Speaks, Gemma Dunleavy, Sorcha O’Higgins and Thomas Kane Byrne.
Ahead of the documentary’s release we spoke to Albert Hooi and TJ O’Grady Peyton to find out the inspiration behind the piece and how its core tenets emerged.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt through the process of making this?
AH: One of the most important things I’ve learned from making this doc is that working within the constraints of a lockdown is still possible, it was amazing to see everyone adapt so quickly to the new rules and to see how it developed throughout our shooting process was very interesting.
Having to interview people on zoom, work with an aerial cinematographer that was shooting solo and working with an editor and sound designer remotely as well as producing the doc ourselves has been tough at times but over all was very enjoyable and a huge learning experience. It was great to have such a talented group of people that we trust to work with.
What did you want to capture most during the production?
TJ: Initially we felt that seeing recognisable empty city streets could be an extremely eerie and poignant visual, but soon we realised that ever filmmaker on the planet was thinking the same thing! After noticing that trend emerge, we figured out that it was even more important for us to try give the film our own signature.
Overall we wanted to capture the feeling that people were experiencing and the mood of our contributors on camera. Each had their own unique perspective and were at various different stages of life.
What was the initial inspiration for the film?
AH: The initial idea was to make a series of 6 films, each focusing on one person and their experiences. We felt everyone was experiencing the lockdown in a different way and we wanted to see inside people’s worlds and find out how they have been coping with the situation. I found myself looking out my window a lot during the start of the lockdown and the idea of shooting portraits through people’s windows came to mind as it would be safe and could be done from a distance and with a layer of glass between us so we wouldn’t need to make contact.
TJ and myself had been chatting a lot about how crazy the lockdown was and we were trying to think of things we could shoot during the lockdown. The idea of doing a doc got us both excited so we decided to develop it out further and make one longer film that dipped in and out of several people’s lives.
What inspired you to feature the specific people?
AH: We wanted to get a broad range of people from different backgrounds to get a varied perspective of the situation. We also wanted to make sure to speak to some of the people who have been most affected by COVID, especially frontline workers and the elderly. A lot of the people featured are also friends of ours and people we have worked with before. It was really interesting to speak to so many people throughout the project and I think they inspired us a lot to keep going. Each time we did an interview we got more excited about how the project was coming together.
Ireland has changed so much since the first phase of lockdown, are you surprised at how different the country is now compared to when you were making the film?
AH: Yes, really surprised, when we first started it all seemed so bleak, our first shoot day in town was crazy, we went in at sunrise and it was like a ghost town, it was really eerie and felt very apocalyptic. At that time it seemed a bit like the world was going to end but I think now we are almost through the worst of it and there is a completely different vibe around town, people and shops are starting to come back to life and there’s a feeling that COVID is now a thing of the past. It was really hard to gauge what way it would go when we were filming, everything kept changing so quickly and dramatically.
What was the most satisfying element?
AH: Making the end sequence was one of the most satisfying parts of the project for me. We had been collecting lots of illustrations, artwork, photographs and footage from people throughout the shoot and it was just really nice to see it all come together in the montage at the end of the film. I think it has a really happy uplifting vibe, which was something we always wanted to end on. Big thank you to all of our contributors!
TJ: I always enjoy the act of collaboration when making something. Everyone goes on this collective little journey, then you put it out there and go on to the next thing. It’s an addictive process and one that is constantly changing. I also enjoy gaining experience and ultimately trying to become a better storyteller.
‘Parting Us‘ Premieres on our Youtube channel at 18.00 tomorrow.
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