2020 has been a brutal year, with every industry and every individual dealing with the pandemic in their own way. Many hard-won work leads, or well thought out plans were swiftly overturned in the face of new fear for our collective lives. The entertainment industry took a huge hit with all traditional film and TV productions postponed or cancelled. Meanwhile screenwriting and development could, at least in theory, continue unabated. Yet falling ill, additional caring responsibilities, or anxiety about the danger/isolation, are just a few of the things that could get in the way of that. It’s certainly been a year of ups and downs for the In Development members, but perhaps we can agree to hope for better days to come in 2021! As we prepare for a Covid Christmas here’s a few hellos from the lockdown lives of the In Development crowd.
Additional care for parents and children has been a prime factor of 2020, whether arranging for loved ones far away, or moving right in. Development producer Janet Awe has stayed with her elderly mother over lockdown and beyond, which has made working from home, developing film & TV projects ‘interesting’ - the key word for the year. TV and theatre writer Sumerah Srivastava got back from abroad just before lockdown. She says, I ‘lost my mind home schooling my kid, walked more, shopped less, but still put on weight’. Film-maker Justin Edgar, (a previous featured member), has been running 104 Films from home and spending more time with his two small children, which inevitably has its up and downs.
Like a lot of people, I found a ridiculous new hobby this year. I bought the pink suede roller skates of my childhood dreams and have spent many happy hours trying very hard not to fall over.’
Writing has been a lifeline for many in lockdown. Sumerah Srivastava says, ‘For my sanity I kept writing - I have written in anger (#846Live a response piece to the killing of George Floyd) I have written for joy (one of #12tinyplays for children at Christmas), I have written for another language’, French crime series LUPIN, for Netflix, coming in January.
Helen Kingston says ‘I was in a zoom writers’ room for a YA show this summer and although it was a shame not to be in an actual room together, bonding over pret sandwiches and after work drinks, I enjoyed every minute and felt very grateful to be working with a group of great writers. I don't think I'd realised before this year how lonely this job can be, and from now on I will choose projects that involve co-writing or collaboration’.
Getting outdoors was certainly a big theme. Actress and Writer Shobu Kapoor returned from a work trip to India and marvelled at the quiet skies with planes now grounded. With on-set assignments now shelved, ‘I also thought, like many others, that lockdown would be the perfect time to get my house in order, do my tax, write a play, get my first collection of poetry sorted.’ But instead, it became a time of contemplation and conservation at her home near the Thames. ‘I only left my house to go for walks and to the supermarket. I walked a lot.’ ‘I can only hope that we pull out of this better, greener, more together in real ways. Meanwhile, I’ll try and keep my carbon footprint as small as my size 3 shoes, by walking whenever and wherever I can and not taking up smoking again (now 3 and a half month smoke free, yay!)’ And hopefully that’s many more months by now.
Creativity has gradually found a way around the need for social distancing. Writer Mark Lindow had his play ESTIMATED WAITING TIME, which is set in a playground, staged in a park in Wandsworth. Local residents sat to watch at 2 metre distances. Staying engaged with the world, Sumerah’s monologue SAY THEIR NAMES was one of a handful featured in the 846Live event in September, part of the Greenwich & Docklands Festival in conjunction with Stratford East Theatre, (picture right).
Lynn Robertson Hay realised there could be no public readings of her preteen books, so threw herself into the world of internet broadcasting. ‘With so many children confined to home, I took my readings online with live Zooms and a
Andy Wooding got down to writing and directing (remotely or socially distanced) a short mockumentary COPING WITH COVID 19: LIFE DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC. Darren Rapier rearranged his short pilot ‘
Work-wise, launching a company during lockdown was a challenge but despite it, we managed to adapt and prosper: we have already had one programme broadcast, two more are in post and several in development. One of our aims with the company is to bring fresh and rarely heard voices to tv: those of minorities, from the regions, and from different social backgrounds. Finding and connecting with that talent was made much more difficult by lockdown.’ But now this has eased, socially distanced meetings are proving rewarding and he looks forward to more.
All in all, we find ways to cope and ways around new restrictions, we gradually emerge and if we’re lucky find ways to keep working, however small or large. We also look forward with hope to safer, freer, healthier, and happier times in 2021.
I leave you with a very 2020-style bauble from Sumerah’s Christmas tree. Stay safe and well and connected. And maybe we can meet up in person some time in 2021! Merry Christmas!