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“All of My Supporting Artists Were Testing Positive” | Nida Manzoor, Polite Society

A young woman wears a green gown embroildered with gold details. She wears an ornate gold headpiece and holds her hands up in combat.Polite Society, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Every production faces unexpected obstructions that require creative solutions and conceptual rethinking. What was an unforeseen obstacle, crisis, or simply unpredictable event you had to respond to, and how did this event impact or cause you to rethink your film?

At the beginning of the film there is a big school fight between Ria, the main character, and the school bully. I had always imagined it being set in this grand, round school library, filled with rabid teen girl spectators, creating a bloodthirsty gladiatorial image, a feeling of epic spectacle. When it came to the reality of filming, we were hit with a huge bout of COVID. All of my supporting artists were testing positive and as the shooting of the fight progressed we had dwindling numbers.

Luckily we had kind and willing production assistants jumping into uniforms to help fill the numbers. Myself and DP Ashley Connor composed every shot to maximize our few supporting artists and maintain that bustling feel and lastly we had our VFX team to help us bulk out the numbers where needed. I had the incredible support of my crew and a very stressed but skilled script supervisor keeping continuity in check as much as possible. Everyone pulled together to keep the vision intact!

See all responses to our annual Sundance Question here.
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