VIRTUALLY SINGLE, 15min., USA, Romance
Directed by Amy Gardner, Lorien Haynes
It’s lockdown. Emboldened by red wine, a fortysomething woman braves her first Zoom date with a guy in snowy Montana. A short play devised through improvisation, VIRTUALLY SINGLE explores the tragicomic challenges of dating during the pandemic.
Get to know filmmaker Lorian Haynes:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Amy Gardner and I have been working together since my film project – Everything I Ever Wanted To Tell My Daughter About Men – [23 shorts, directed by 21 women, making one feature to support survivors of abuse] and subsequent to that on Good Grief; a virtual interpretation of one of my plays, which Amy approached me to do at the beginning of the pandemic. Our aim was to help sustain theatre during this time and it was doing Good Grief that made us aware of how important it was to develop creative work, despite the extreme restrictions Covid presented.
As friends, we talked a lot about isolation and how on earth people were supposed to find love and break through loneliness during Covid. I had just returned to the UK from living in LA for 15 years and was living in a 10ft square room in my mother’s house – going slightly mad. And it was from these conversations that the idea of a woman’s first ever zoom date emerged and we started trying to work out the challenge of how to do it. What was it? Was it a short? Was it a series? How did we make it with zero budget and no way of leaving the house?
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
I think it was about three months. Travis Leete and I had worked together as actors in acting class in LA and on a series of mutual projects and had used improv before. So we decided the best route to do Virtually Single was to do a series of structured improvisations, around a plotted storyline – from which I would make selects and edit the short. We did HOURS of improvisation and the real time the film took, was going through all that material – hours of it – to decide what to use, in what order – and building the story from the best of the footage. It was like doing a documentary really – reverse engineering - and very dependent on the patience of our editor Elijah Wood, [who put together the brilliant opening sequence and created the three-dimensional dating app idea]. This edit process took about a month and we were doing it all remotely – rather than in an edit suite together.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
I didn’t see anything as an obstacle, to be honest. My only concern was Elijah’s time and how much that cost – as we were trying to keep everything minimal. I don’t think post is ever the problem. Distribution and getting your work out there is the real challenge with indie low budget projects. We made the film as an examination of how hard it was for people to connect during the pandemic and we wanted people to see it, to know they weren’t alone – y’know. There was some method to our madness. And we are still looking for a home for it now. But we are hopeful – it’s doing well on the festival circuit.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Cannot tell you how lovely it was to get the feedback and to know people enjoyed it and got what we were trying to do. I was a bit overwhelmed and teary to be frank.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Always. Whether acting in them or making them – I have loved film all my life. It has got me through tough times. As a child – it was a fantasy landscape I needed to escape into. As a teenager, I saw myself and came to a further understanding of the world, through film. I studied film and drama at university. I was writing film and reviewing films simultaneously as an adult – and one of the best times in my entire life was making Everything I Ever Wanted To Tell My Daughter About Men. It has taken 5 years and blood and sweat and tears but all I want to do now it make the next one. And I’m incredibly grateful that I have just been asked to direct the next one. Who would’ve thought it?
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
So many – Tootsie – Cinema Paradiso – Pride and Prejudice [Joe Wright] – Spy – Call Me By Your Name – I watch films I love over and over. Usually because I need to laugh – or cry – or feel how they make me feel.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Keep calm and carry on. Festival support is the only way at the moment to get smaller projects seen – so what you are doing – with audience feedback – with your lines of inquiry – is invaluable.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
As above – FilmFreeway is a lifeline for low to no budget work. As a filmmaker it’s the only way my work has garnered recognition thus far. If you don’t have a team, or budget beyond the film for press and marketing and sales – you’d be completely fucked without it.
10. What is your favorite meal?
RANDOM!!! At the moment it’s anything I’m eating while I’m sitting next to my boyfriend. Don’t even notice the food.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
Yes. We’ve been lucky enough to be approached about shooting the film Travis and I created and I wrote – The Lift. It’s in CAA’s hands at the moment and unannounced but I cannot tell you how excited I am to get on with it. Meanwhile I’m working with REFUGE – the UK’s largest domestic violence support agency – to produce my next play – a comedy set in a trauma recovery group – which we are putting together as a non-profit for them.