Jesse Hunt is one of those individuals for whom the pandemic is uniquely scary and dangerous.
Ten years ago, the Toronto-based commercial director received a kidney transplant that saved his life but left him with a compromised immune system. That means that COVID-19 poses a much greater threat to his life than most.
His wife, Lindsay, is a dispatcher with Toronto EMS, and throughout the pandemic, she has been fearful of bringing the disease home to her husband.
Their life at home during these challenging circumstances is touchingly depicted in “Meet me at the stairs,” a new short film that Hunt recently produced.
When the pandemic hit, Lindsay moved into the basement of the couple’s home. The film shows how difficult a simple life at home becomes for two people forced apart by the fear of a deadly disease. The title refers to the couple’s face-to-face meetings: Jesse at the top of the stairs, Lindsey at the bottom.
Jesse shot the four-minute film himself, setting the camera and then leaving the room. “I’d do my best to find the focus and then I would hit record,” says Hunt, whose reel includes work for brands like Casper, Registered Practical Nurses of Ontario and Mastercard,
There are a few out-of-focus shots, but he’s okay with that. “The whole locked-off shot thing worked for this, and I knew early on that was the vibe I wanted to go for,” he says. “I also wanted it to feel kind of like a nostalgic, analog film. I used really old lenses and so some of the softness really worked from a tonal point of view.”
The film is a story about a young husband and wife living in extraordinary conditions, during a historic moment in time. But it is also portrait of the emotional costs endured by so many people during lockdown.
“I just thought that what my wife and I were experiencing was unique in a sense, but also extremely relatable,” he says. While there have been lots of stories about the challenges faced by workers during the COVID crisis, he wanted to show what people are going through once they left work.
“We weren’t really seeing what sacrifices they were making on the back end of it, their home life, and what that meant to their families. So I thought that this is unique and this is important for people to see.”
The better weather means that Jesse and Lindsay can now spend some more time face-to-face in their yard. But as the world around them starts to slowly open up, the still-real danger of COVID keeps them apart. The couple continues to get “masked up” any time they are close, and more than three months after it all began, Lindsay is still living in the basement.