In mid-March of 2020, I was one of thousands of performers in NYC who lost gig after gig to COVID-19 closures. Quarantined in my Queens apartment, I was nervous about my acting career, my collaborative relationships and my ability to keep growing as an artist. I watched my friends getting stir-crazy, especially those who are high risk for COVID-19, and I wanted to find a way everyone could keep creating and growing, no matter their health or mobility restrictions.
I started The Sequestered: A Micro Short Online Film Festival with a few parameters: submissions must be 1-5 minutes long, be created in quarantine in a week, and be shot on a phone. No experience or fee necessary - accessibility was key.
Within seven days, we had our very first screening with 10 original short films. As of now, over 130 short films have been created with The Sequestered, and a handful have been recognized in competitive festivals.
My goal was to give people - myself included- a creative outlet. An excuse to keep hands and minds busy, if health allows it, and an opportunity to take control in an overwhelming time. Even if just for 1 to 5 minutes.
Yours in isolation,
The Work's "Actors Leveling Up" Interview Series - Annie-Sage Whitehurst talks to Timothy Huls about The Sequestered, motivation and creation in quarantine.
Unless you're quarantined with a full team of filmmakers (looking at you, Hoff Kilter), chances are you will be in charge of writing your submission, filming, and editing it yourself - not to mention, acting in it. If you haven't felt challenged creatively so far in quarantine, this is it. Side benefit: more empathy for the crew next time you're on set.
This is a strange time, and it can help to channel your energy to something creative, if you're able. If you could write yourself any kind of character, what would it be?
It can be frustrating to start something new, especially if you have high standards for yourself. I loved the idea of writing and filming a short piece by myself, but my ego wouldn't let me start out as a beginner. It felt like all eyes were on what I made, and of course, since I would be trying something completely new, chances are it wouldn't be that good. This festival is a place to explore your creative impulses without judgment. Literally, there's no judgment for the submissions. No prizes, no popularity contests, no losers.
The idea of an endless amount of free time can be a relief to some, and overwhelming to others. As actors have watched all of their bookings and commitments get postponed and eventually cancelled during the lockdown, The Sequestered's weekly deadline helps make some of this new time feel more manageable.
Since the festival is online, there's no need to collect everyone's submissions and control where they are hosted. Instead, they ask for films to be uploaded to the filmmakers' own Youtube/Vimeo account, so they get the traffic and view counts. This also means a higher chance that if a viewer likes the submission, they'll check out what else is on the channel.
If nothing else, the weekly prompt announcement will let you know it's Saturday. You made it!
Each week, a prompt announced 12pm ET on Saturdays. Filmmakers have until 12pm ET the following Friday to create an original, prompt-inspired short 1 minute to 5 minutes long, and can only film on their phones and within quarantine/their shelter-in-place location. All submissions that follow the rules are included in the weekly Facebook screenings on Fridays, 8pm ET. Films are also shared in the weekly email with the new prompt, and are available via the filmmaker's Youtube/Vimeo link on our website, www.sequesteredfest.com.
Everyone's priorities are shifting right now. If this project adds another 50 tons of stress to your life, it's okay. come back later.
No one will know that you signed up but didn't submit, and there will be another round next week.
But if you're like me and getting restless without structure or assignments, are losing track of days, or need the pressure of a deadline to fuel you, this is for you.
Let's come out on the other side with something we made.
Not everyone has access to professional equipment, and this is open to anyone with an idea.
Sure, some phones are better suited to filming, but no one should feel like they can't participate because they don't have the right camera.
Later editions might have some flexibility on this, but not now.
On. Your. Property.
You can only use a location that is part of your "shelter in place" / quarantine/home. This can include your apartment's lobby, but not across the street. What stories can you create within your own four walls?
Nope, only submissions made in a week are accepted. The Sequestered is more like a clubhouse than Cannes. The focus is on giving filmmakers a concrete deadline to test themselves and make something new, to celebrate creativity in a time of chaos.
Absolutely! In fact, every fifth week is a "revision edition." where submissions can include previously submitted work that's been refined or a new piece inspired by a past prompt. A handful of past submissions have been selected for bigger film festivals, and I encourage filmmakers to keep working on their shorts and see where they can lead.