'Homemade': Netflix anthology was filmed using drones, GoPros, screen grabs and Zoom calls during the pandemic
The short films are minimalistic in terms of direction, staging and blocking, with storytellers playing the actor, cinematographer as well as editor
Netflix's latest offering 'Homemade' is an anthology of 17 short films from across the world. What's unique about these films is that almost all of the short films were filmed in their entirety during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as filmmakers tried to adhere to social distancing and lockdown regulations that have been in place to ensure the number of infections does not rise. In 'Homemade', filmmakers ranging from Maggie Gyllenhaal to Gurinder Chadha employed what may be considered unique styles of filming – though they are not. All said and done, they could signal the future of filmmaking as COVID-19 infections continue to rise and experts suggest that the coronavirus may take years to go away, if not stay permanently.
As such, industries will have to adapt to continue thriving in a new world, and the entertainment industry is no different. Many of the techniques used by the filmmakers involved with 'Homemade' have been used for years by amateur filmmakers, whose efforts we can see online on platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. So, Netflix's endeavor is not unique. What it does suggest is that award-winning filmmakers now have to learn the tricks of the trade from those who excel in short filmmaking, those who are often working from the confines of their homes and limited budgets even before the pandemic.
Unique tech used for filming
As viewers would have guessed (and read from the end cards), a lot of the shots were filmed on phones. Drones were also used, as were GoPros. Phone cameras have advanced manifold over the last few years and perhaps the pandemic offers an opportunity to decentralize filmmaking. No longer will it be restricted to those who are able to afford the best cameras if this is the new norm. Drones have also been used in the past, but perhaps not as extensively – the same goes for GoPros.
One filmmaker used a very different technique – Rungano Nyoni's short film told us the story through a series of texts between groups of people. Nyoni's short film is an example of how filmmaking need not be constrained to a particular style.
Another, Pablo Larraín – the Chilean filmmaker who is also one of the brains behind the anthology – used the computer to showcase his short film through a series of Zoom calls. It was funny and captivating.
Again, these were not unique methods -- amateur filmmakers have long used these forms to tell their stories.
New styles of film direction
Minimalistic filmmaking is catapulted through the films of 'Homemade'. Free-flowing, hand-held shots make up most of the films. The work is minimalistic in its direction, staging, and blocking. The stars here, are, of course, the cinematographer and the editor.
Most of these films are driven by action and feature documentary-style handling of cameras. Take Maggie Gyllenhaal's short film, 'Penelope' for instance. Sweeping shots of the undisclosed location in Vermont, shots of Gyllenhaal's husband, Peter Sarsgaard in his unnamed role, are quite simple and straightforward.
The focus is also on the actor, as evidenced by Sarsgaard's and Kristen Stewart's performance (in her short film, 'Crickets'). Subtle expression changes strong enough to bring the emotions to the surface, help make the films that much more impactful.
'Homemade' is now streaming on Netflix.