Sidelined creatives find an outlet for their talents

Creators are gonna create. It was probably inevitable that creative people who’ve been sidelined by the COVID crisis would find a new outlet for their ideas, and they’ve been popping up online over the last two months.

This week two new “homemade” videos were published, each taking a decidedly different approach to documenting the uncertainty, malaise and sheer boredom arising from self-isolation and social distancing.

The first, an animated video conceived and written by director Edward Andrews and freelance creative director Jonathan Guy, directly addresses the fear and uncertainty kids (and even some adults) might be feeling during the COVID pandemic.

It uses animation from Animism Studios and its co-founder Jeremy Stewart, with assists from producer Kelsy Wittmann and an original score from Montreal’s SNDWRx and its founder, Didier Tovel.

Most of the principals had worked together prior to this, with Andrews and Guy having previously collaborated on the YMCA’s “A World Without Y” campaign, which ran early this year.

The new video follows a young boy making his way home from school, watching in dismay as the world shuts down around him. Along the way he encounters the repeated message “Stay home. Stay safe.”

But while that might help prevent sickness, it doesn’t ease the mental burden of being isolated. The video ends with an entreaty for people to reach out to others, ending with the message “We’re all in this together.”

There is no client attached to the project, which required about six weeks from conception to completion. Instead, Andrews says it was developed simply as a creative outlet during a slow period in their professional lives. “We started out just wanting to stay creative and do some good during this time,” he says.

The spot does specifically address some of the unease that younger people are feeling during the COVID-19 crisis, however. Earlier this month, the crisis line Kids Help Phone said that demand for its services has skyrocketed in recent weeks, with service volumes up by 112% over the comparable period last year.

The second video, developed by the Toronto creative team of Derek Silveira and Jason Lee, with input from editor Joey Whitelaw and director of photography Troy Manning, takes a more lighthearted approach to documenting the sheer boredom of being stuck at home during the pandemic.

It shows a homebound man (played by Whitelaw) trying to resist the siren call of his running shoes and the outdoors. “Don’t do it,” says the super in a not-at-all subtle twist on Nike’s famous tagline. “Stay inside.”

“We’re all just sitting around playing too many video games, and I just can’t sit still,” says Silveira of why they decided to create the ad. Its humorous tone is a direct rejoinder to the sombre themes that have become so pervasive during the COVID era.

“We got the feeling that maybe people were too afraid, or too sensitive, to do something really creative, so we said ‘Let’s do something that nobody’s doing right now,'” says Silveira.

While running isn’t forbidden during the lockdown period, Silveira says the idea arose out of seeing hundreds of people running alongside each on the Toronto waterfront. “We were like ‘That’s ridiculous, I don’t know if you’re supposed to be doing that.”

Silveira and Lee storyboarded the whole spot, which was shot inside Lee’s apartment over the course of 2-3 hours. All of the spot’s “effects” were done in-camera, augmented by some post-production work by Adam Damelin at Eggplant Music + Sound and Clinton Homuth at Artjail.


Chris Powell