Making Things Count: Pandemic Postcards Documentary

Graeme Bachiu takes us inside his pandemic documentary journey.

I decided fairly early on in the pandemic (late March or early April) that I was going to have to do something while I was stuck at home, projects cancelled and clients gone radio silent with 4 and a half year old twins trying to grasp junior kindergarten delivered by hardworking teachers suddenly thrust into an uncomfortable situation. Yet I noticed on social media some interesting stories in Haldimand Norfolk as the pandemic progressed.

Of course, I knew that I’d have no real ability to produce content in the conventional way, the before pandemic way…I’d have to come up with a new way of doing things. I collaborated with some close friends on some text message brainstorming and put together a bit of a plan.

on left is a photo of a senior man, on the right he stands at a window, with assistance, and looks at guests outside

Roy Alton, a long term care home resident in Dunnville who appears in the documentary, visiting with his family through a window.

 

For over a year I had been delivering low-key one-on-one cellphone filmmaking training sessions and I figured that would be the most likely way to capture content and stories for a documentary film. I created a six minute tutorial video which I sent to my eager potential storytellers and asked them to answer some questions by speaking directly to the camera at a quiet moment. I wanted the end product, a series of vignettes about how people were coping or in some cases thriving, to be personal and introspective. I set them loose on shooting some b-roll and asked for everything to be uploaded to Dropbox at which point I would begin to do some editorial.

Of course, there’d be some revisions and re-shoots and I enlisted my regular team of professionals to do an audio mix, colour correction and some motion graphics. We accomplished this all on shitty rural internet, using Slack to keep the team in touch and the wonderful folks at frame.io to pass our footage back and forth. We shot some footage ourselves, observing strict distancing, leading me to believe that this is the first 100% socially distanced documentary series produced during a pandemic in Ontario…and possibly in Canada?

split photo - on the left a photo of a man in an audio recording set-up, on the right the same man sits at a desk

Filmmaker and Musician Craig F. Watkins, from Delhi, has made hilarious music videos from his basement during the pandemic.

 

After I finished a provisional edit on the first episode (I had about 4 planned) I contacted Bell Media who I had a previous business relationship with and they were very excited, opting to purchase and air three episodes. In the middle of a serious public health emergency I was able to produce an hour and a half of interesting stories with a rural perspective, get it sold and aired on a national broadcaster and pay my crew. We turned the entire production around in 5 weeks…timely, quick, entertaining and poignant. It featured child care workers, a long term care facility, songwriters, cafe owners, people thrust into working in agriculture and some of the first people in Canada to test positive for COVID-19, all told in intimate stories and knitted together with sea shanties, old-timey banjo music, brass quintet music from 150 years ago and funk songs about not showering in 10 days. I figured what the hey, the broadcasters have never been more desperate…time to up the weirdness. If I didn’t have kids I would have shaved two weeks off the turnaround.

Executive Producer Carole Aeschelmann and I have a passion for telling stories about the rural areas of Ontario and Canada and, aside from the thrill of creation and the pride of doing something different and unprecedented I take great pride in generating some revenue for the people who work with me.

A blonde woman in a light green top plays guitar and sings. She is sitting in front of a wood pannelled wall.

Singer/Songwriter Whitney Fowler from Cayuga talks about running her cafe during the pandemic.

 

Making Things Count: Pandemic Postcards is now available to Bell Fibe subscribers on Bell Fibe TV1, channel 1.

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