Drawing upon years of sketch comedy experience, these filmmakers made a hilarious pandemic comedy for SXSW.

I’m a firm believer that art should reflect life, even when life kinda sucks, like it has for the past year during COVID-19. Everyone joked last spring about how many coronavirus screenplays would come out of quarantine, but to be honest, the saturation hasn’t been that high. We’ve gotten gems like Recovery at SXSW 2021, stories full of heart and populated by characters who are struggling to figure things out just like the rest of us.

In Recovery, sisters Jamie (Whitney Call) and Blake Jerikovic (Mallory Everton) have their lives turned upside down at the start of lockdown. When they learn their Nana (Anne Sward Hansen) is in danger at her COVID-infested nursing home, they decide to brave the wide world on a pandemic road trip to save her.

The film captures something nostalgic about the beginning of the pandemic. The uncertainty. The nerves. The obsessive sanitizing.

Call and Everton wrote the script. Everton co-directed with Stephen Meek. They all share experience as sketch writers and performers in the popular comedy show Studio C, and you can definitely see this experience paying off in their snappy dialogue and tight editing.

The three of them were kind enough to Zoom with No Film School ahead of their SXSW premiere to talk about the development of the story, how they shot and edited during the pandemic, and why it’s important to just go for it. Enjoy!

‘Recovery’Credit: Sorø Films

Editor’s note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: So Recovery is about COVID-19, and you shot it during COVID-19. Practically, what did your production look like?

Whitney Call: Different! I think our biggest motivation behind this whole film was to—we wanted to get it out as quickly as possible. Mal often talks about just how… When we were saying, “Hey, should we make something about COVID?” We thought, “When are people going to stop being interested in watching something about COVID?” So we thought, “Let’s make this as quickly as we can so that it’s still relevant, so that it still hits people in an interesting place.” And so that in and of itself made the process just super streamlined. We had to do what we could with the people we could, and also staying safe and [in] our budget. It just made us have tiny crews. We had, I think about seven people on set, including Mal and me when we were on camera. Very bare bones and just keeping our distance and trying to keep locations minimum.

I mean, you can see it now in all of these COVID movies coming out, there’s a lot of very simple productions. We had no idea that doing a road trip was going to make it feel less confined because for us, that’s the simplest way we could think of to make this story. We didn’t have access to testing because at that point, unless you had symptoms or unless you had a doctor’s referral, you couldn’t just go to Walgreens and get tested. So it was more just like, “Hey everyone, let’s form a double bubble for two weeks and let’s try and make a movie in two weeks, and then no one gets sick.”

Stephen Meek: It was pretty wild.

‘Recovery’Credit: Sorø Films

NFS: Oh, that is amazing, but I love that you just went for it.

Call: That was the whole motto of this movie. Just go for it.

Mallory Everton: There was this strange feeling, like time had stopped, and Whitney and I were talking the other day about how prior to this pandemic, we dreamt about making a feature for a long time, but we had done mostly sketch comedy work and ads and some web series as well, but we just didn’t have time to work on something like that. Or it felt like, “Oh, we’d be giving up this job, or we’d be giving up this opportunity to make money.” And then this pandemic rolls in and time just stops, and we thought, “Man, we just need something to do. Let’s try and see if we can make some kind of movie. Whatever kind of movie we can make, that’s the movie we want to do right now.” And so we just tried to be as resourceful as possible. And once we came up with the rescue road trip idea, it just sort of flopped out and we thought, “Okay, we gotta do this.”

NFS: One thing that I think is so effective is that it just has this energy. The writing keeps things moving so well because the jokes keep hitting you. I’m interested in how you struck a tonal balance in the writing. Because it is a serious topic, the actual pandemic.

Everton: Right. Just a broad-strokes approach for us was we just wanted to make something that wasn’t a huge bummer if we could avoid it. So whenever there was an opportunity to keep it light, you wanted to try to do that, and to hopefully keep things sort of just surprising, like new things to laugh at and upbeat songs, just things that would make people feel like, I guess, subliminally that we have the option to laugh and kind of dance through this crappy, horrible time.

‘Recovery’Credit: Sorø Films

Call: The making of it, I think, is just also… Since Mal and I grew up together, we’ve been making things together since we were eight or nine years old. We, I think, wanted to translate that into the script too, just keeping our relationship and the warmth that we feel when we’re turning to the only people we could turn to during this pandemic, which was the people closest to us.

I feel like all of my outer rings of society and sociality had just been completely cut off. And so when Mal and I wrote this script, I think we wanted to infuse a lot of what we were getting from each other during this low point to help other people feel like they’re just hanging out with their best friend right now, because that’s what got us through this pandemic was the two or three people that we actually maybe saw this year.

Everton: Yeah, and early on I know we also talked about how we kind of wanted the movie…


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