If you haven’t already checked out our YouTube Channel, then what are you waiting for?
There are some fantastic pieces on there now as we began uploading them towards the end of 2020. But how did we do this when we couldn’t leave our homes or go into the theatre? Well, it wasn’t the original plan but just like everything we do at the Lantern, we had to be creative!
It all began back in March 2020 when we knew immediately that if we wanted to continue providing entertaining pieces for our members and audience, new writing was likely to be the best way for us to go. This gave many people the chance to be involved both on camera and off screen. So our creative team began looking for pieces that would work for us. The intention being that we could film them on our stage, or maybe on location, after lockdown but following socially distanced guidelines and taking all the necessary precautions.
We managed to film one piece, T’Yorkshire Counsellor, as part of a shared project with the Leeds Pub Theatre event featuring our members in the writing, acting and directing roles. It was great to see it come together and it was filmed on location with the measures allowed at that time. While this was happening we were able to go into the venue and begin preparing it for socially distanced filming on stage. Protective screens were bought, sanitising purchased, masks were ordered, floor signage ready to go down and a one way system devised. But then, everything changed again. Overnight, we could no longer enter the venue unless the person going in was on their own. As each of our new monologues would need a lighting technician, camera operator, actor, director and producer/co-ordinator we were stuck. So plan B was needed.
We began thinking how we could continue to film the pieces remotely with actors being directed over video calls, then filmed in the same way. A plan was hatched and we tested it in October with Magpies. It was a little ambitious for the first one considering we would need special effects and sound, an atmospheric setting and we would only have the webcam on our actors computer to film with. But it turned out to be great fun to shoot and edit thanks to the brilliant help of member Chris Webb, who did a great job working on the footage to bring the story to life.
But we still had more to do. So we filmed Onion Gravy in a back garden with only the people who lived there involved in the filming. We had I Know Where She Goes filmed by the actor on their webcam. We also uploaded a brilliant behind the scenes video that was re-edited especially for us from when we performed Blithe Spirit, just for good measure. But the Christmas project was going to be something different.
The Christmas videos were originally going to be filmed on our stage, with a set that changed according to the time period of the piece. Props would be swapped out and subtle changes made so that every video was on the same overall set but would be tweaked as needed. It was a simple but effective idea. But not being able to enter the building again meant we would be working remotely. But we really wanted each video to have a very Christmassy feel. So we thought “Ah, we can drop a green screen off, house to house, on the doorstep, after each shooting, so no contact is made and they can film in front of it and we can then drop different backgrounds in afterwards! Let’s price that up.” A great but, again, simple idea. The following day, we could no longer do that as the rules changed again. So we were back onto a zoom call to work out how we could this without the luxury of green screen. Once again, Chris came to the rescue with an idea that if our actors performed in front of as plain a background as possible we could use software he had to essentially cut them out of the background and let us replace it with something else. It’s not as quick and easy, or effective, as green screen but it would work well enough and, let’s be honest, the actors would be so engrossing who’s going to notice the odd bit of blurring when they move. So we were off!
Scripts came in, directors found, actors were cast and a release schedule put in place to bring five Christmas shorts to you over the festive season. Oh, did we mention we are also going to perform Twas The Night Before Christmas with ten different actors to be edited together and create a ‘radio play’ with the DGP Youth Group? All in four weeks, using zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp calls to do it. Not to mention the little launch video featuring members of our board and creative team which needed to go out the week before it. So that’s eight pieces in all.
But, we did it and the results are fantastic. It was such a great project for everyone involved. It was so nice to be creative again, rehearsing online, finding additional music and footage to edit in and laughing (or having a tear in our eye in some cases) just like we would if we were on the stage. We might have missed the rehearsal cups of tea and biscuits, but we still had a great time making them. The feedback has been amazing and people very kindly made donations to us which warms our Lantern hearts. These have paved the way for more to come this year. It’s been a great way for us to remain connected and still enjoy the amazing community we have at the Lantern even when we can’t actually be there, together, in person (having a cheeky drink or ice cream at the bar).