Full-length feature film ‘Lock-In’ features 100 actors worldwide filming from their homes in quarantine

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 28, 2020

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Film to feature two actors from Clemmons

WINSTON-SALEM — “Lock-In” is an independent comedy-drama film shot at a social distance that hopes to explore some of the social strains experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. When Earth’s worldwide communications network is hi-jacked by a flamboyant alien entity named Flogg, humankind learns that it is about to become the subject of an intergalactic social experiment: What happens when you take a social species built around its ability to see, feel, taste and kill each other and remove their ability to do so? The film takes place just before the six-month mark of a complete and total global lock-in — every human being on earth has been physically constrained within the confines of their homes and offices, kept alive through provisional rationing by their mysterious extra-terrestrial warden.

The film features a cast of more than 100 filming themselves on-location from social distance in an interconnected tapestry of vignettes and insights into the lives and experiences of a captive species known as “Humans.” With narrative tones ranging from the heartfelt to the absurd, Lock-In is a morality tale disguised as an irreverent comedy which urges us to strip away the frivolities of life on Earth and discover for ourselves what is truly, universally important. The film also features Payton and Reese Gardner from Clemmons.

“We are not film producers, we are theatre producers,” says Erinn Dearth, executive director of Spring Theatre. “But we needed to do something different, to not only keep our community going in these times but to allow it to thrive.”

The show is rehearsed entirely online, with Dearth and Artistic Director Dan Beckman giving crash courses to the team in lighting, cinematography and performance for the screen. “Spring Theatre is about challenging the community to stroll out of their comfort zone — which is how people grow. We like when we get to watch people grow,” says Beckmann. “Everyone, including myself, is learning new skills every day through this.”

So why is a theatre company writing, directing and producing a film?

When arts organizations and venues began shutting down across the globe due to COVID-19, Spring Theatre — a nine-year old theatre company based out of Winston-Salem — was one of the thousands affected by this worldwide pandemic. Their season opener, Children of Eden , was scheduled to go into rehearsals in March, and with a diverse cast of kids, teens and adults and an amazing production team, it was set to be one of the highest-calibre shows Spring Theatre had ever produced. When the decision had to be made to postpone the show, Beckmann and Dearth felt called to create something for the community of artists who would no longer have a live audience to practice their craft upon.

“These are unique times,” muses Beckmann. “It’s kind of exciting, you know, as someone who prefers to practice their artistry off the beaten path, and to have this opportunity where it is not only encouraged, but necessary to get creatively weird… Ooh, did you feel that rush just now? I know I did. I’ve got goosebumps.”

Shortly after the cancellation, the board of directors at Spring Theatre announced the new plan: to open the Spring Theatre season with a Digital Performance Project — a fully-online, socially-distanced performance series. After hosting digital auditions, the production team was surprised to acquire a talented cast of 100 not only from their own community, but from Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, New York, England, Australia and more.

“The show is coming at a time where it is needed, I think,” Beckmann suggests, “where our patience for solitude is being tested and we’re all kind of locked up and afraid and are getting perhaps too much of some people and too little of everyone else. We’re writing this thing with the intention of addressing many of the everyday struggles we’re being faced with now, and to sort of bring a therapeutic quality with it; a feeling of connectedness. It’s lighthearted but insightful. It’s playing with purpose.”

As the project was beginning, a sense of community within the cast was one the most important things to Dearth. “When you’re in a community theatre production, it does so much for the soul of the performer, not only in what you give to the audience but in the friendships you make with your fellow cast members. In putting this project together, it was imperative that we made a way to foster a sense of community.” A couple of ways they do this is through regular online live cast meetings and a hidden Facebook group for all 100 of them, and through projects like music videos.

Their first music video — a cover of the Alex Boyé song “Lemonade,” was put together in just one week, and included the voices, singing talents and personalities of the full cast. The response to the video’s release online was so explosive it immediately caught the attention of the song’s original artist. “Such an amazing job, I’m feeling so blessed to have heard what you guys did to my song,” Boyé wrote on the theatre’s Facebook page.

After the music video was complete, Beckmann and Dearth created roles for each member of the digital project — including themselves — in an original revolutionary full-length feature film. The cast members — who vary in age from 8 to 69 — have never met, and they will be filming everything together from the safety of their own home with their phones. By getting online lessons, rehearsals and crash courses in lighting and cinematography, it is a truly collaborative project.

To watch the trailer, go to https://youtu.be/xHkCLIF8r5E . More information on the project can be found at www.SpringTheatre.org or at facebook/springtheatreorg. For additional media items, to set up interviews, or to be involved in any way with the project, contact erinn@springtheatre.org or call Spring Theatre at 336-528-5343.