As high school life moved out of schools and online in March, a group of Winnipeg film students decided to capture teen life in isolation during the pandemic in a new mini web series.
The nine-episode dramedy, Isolated, opens with an eerie montage of empty Winnipeg streets and a theme song echoing the vibes of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things.
It depicts a group of friends trying to track down a classmate who has dropped out of communication during isolation.
Students from Oak Park High School’s film production class wrote, filmed, directed, acted and edited the series almost entirely remotely with cell phones, digital cameras and video chat apps.
Nicole Lavallée, 16, said the idea was sparked by the isolation she and her own classmates were experiencing.
“I think that everyone can kind of like relate to it,” she said. “Especially like our character who is stuck at home without communication and trying to get in contact with people you haven’t seen and just feeling kind of lonely.”
The episode Lavallée directed was entirely filmed via Microsoft Teams, the program students used for remote learning.
She said the project was no simple endeavour.
“I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to turn out,” she said. “There were a lot of bumps in the road trying to get everyone’s footage in but seeing the final product [I’m] pretty happy with it.”
Teacher was impressed
James McLellan, Oak Park’s film production teacher, said he is impressed with what his class of Grade 9 to 12 students pulled off.
“If there is something that I got out of it, (it) was just how many kids didn’t pack it in,” he said. “We’d meet on Teams and just talk about what can we do here? What can we make?”
Initially the class was assigned to make a series of short films before the pandemic hit.
Days after many of the scripts had been fully written, students were abruptly sent home in response to the province’s first cases of COVID-19, McLellan said.
But the class swiftly shifted gears and came up with the idea to put together a pandemic-themed web series.
McLellan said the process began with virtual brainstorming sessions and writing the series. Then it came time to film.
“They were all at their houses and some of them were just using their brothers and sisters [to film them],” he said. “It was just so many different, like daily, surprises of what this was going to look like when it was done.”
McLellan said students would upload the videos through the school’s online learning platforms for other students to then download and edit.
In total, the class put together an nine-episode series under a bizarre set of circumstances. McLellan said the class’s commitment to the project was encouraging to see.
He said some of his Grade 12 students continued to work on the series to complete it, even after they had officially graduated.
“I was proud of so many of those students,” he said. “They could have mailed it in but they didn’t.”
Madison MacIsaac, 18, who plays the school president the series, said at a time when students were mostly checked out, this project kept her focused.
“Everyone at that period of time was so out of it, nobody wanted to do anything,” she said. “But this was actually such a purposeful experience. It gave you something to do when you had nothing to do and it was something that we loved.”
The series is published on Oak Park High School’s YouTube channel.
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