PHAM and Mitch Dequilettes are roommates and directors. 'Everything's Cancelled' is a love letter to their friends and a time capsule of the quarantine that they spent together. "It was our therapy, our way of tuning out the anxiety," they say in a directors' statement. "It was our way of keeping in touch with our friends and finding comfort in our collective uncertainty."
Social distancing boundaries helped form a visual theme for their collaboration and allowed the pair to capture true, natural moments. They'd set up a shot outside a window and roll for 15 minutes, knowing they'd only use five seconds of it. After two months of shooting 40 plus people, the end result was this piece, an exploration of their "qua-routine" in Los Angeles and how each of them "cope to find a silver lining to this fucked up, once in a lifetime experience".
LBB's Addison Capper chatted with them to find out more.
LBB> What initially inspired you to both make a film together?
PHAM + Mitch> We are roommates and needed an outlet for our anxiety during the initial phase of quarantine. This project ultimately became a way for us to stay connected to our friends.
LBB> Once you had that idea in the bag, how did you land on this concept? How did it fit for both of you as filmmakers?
PHAM> The project started as a photo series I wanted to do with a friend to pass the time. Mitch saw the first few photos and suggested we create a film with a similar visual style. We started by just seeing which of our friends had a window that would work for a shot. While we set up the camera, we would chat with them and decide in the moment what to shoot that felt representative of their experience of quarantine. The idea became more and more concrete as we kept shooting, we started to develop themes we wanted to cover and began to shoot more specific scenes.
LBB> What were your main aims and ambitions going into the project? And what do you hope viewers take away from it?
PHAM + Mitch> At the beginning of the pandemic, all the media we were consuming just made us sad and depressed. Without ignoring the weight of the virus, we wanted to change the angle from which people were looking at the pandemic. We wanted to create something for our friends that spoke to our experiences, and would hopefully resonate with people outside of our circles.
LBB> The visuals are really interesting - it's almost like a series of gifs, a still image with a small snippet of moving image integrated or something like that. Why did you land on that approach? And how did you technically make it happen?
PHAM> The photo element was an important part to me and the style came out of the need to be able to shoot photos simultaneously without having to recreate genuine moments. I think it also plays with the theme of trying to keep some sort of momentum while everything around you is stagnant.
LBB> There's quite a lot going on from a narrative perspective - there are a lot of stories and perspectives. How did you capture each of these? Was it a case of calling friends and chatting? How much of it was scripted / directed?
PHAM + Mitch> It was important for the voiceover to feel more like conversations rather than an interview. We called some friends with a shortlist of questions knowing it would eventually just turn into catching up and comparing routines.
We ended up with about 10 interviews ranging from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. We went through several versions of edits before we found a direction we were happy with. In the end, there is one scripted line for transitional purposes hahaha. Can you guess which one?
LBB> From an aesthetic point of view, what were your main aims and inspirations?
PHAM + Mitch> We knew cutting from day to night would be jarring so maintaining natural progressions from day to night was important. We weren’t in a rush, so we opted to shoot a scene or two a day during golden hour to give ourselves options. Some scenes were filmed in several different lighting situations to have more options in the edit.
Sonically we wanted it to feel homegrown. We approached our composer Michael Lee with the idea of only using instruments that you’d find lying around the house. He came back with this beautiful piece of original music that really brought everything together. Our sound designer Michael O'Connor also recorded all of the ambient sounds during quarantine.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
PHAM> Definitely staying motivated to even finish. I think a lot of people felt pressure to be as productive as possible during quarantine, us included. We definitely hit a point where we realised that we needed to live in the moment for a little and not be so focused on it.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
PHAM + Mitch> Fuck Trump. Vote in November.