Manchester filmmaker captures what lockdown has meant to locals


Filmmaker Charlie Watts from Stockport says he has always been drawn to making documentaries.

And there’s arguably no better time to capture people’s real-life experiences than right now, as we go through this extraordinary time.

His latest project, Distant Future, is a short film about how the pandemic has affected people – and it has been shot across Greater Manchester.

“I think, like most people, this year has been one of extreme significance and one of its kind,” says Charlie.

“For me, it felt only right to document this extraordinary time in our lives. So, when it was safe and ethical to do so, me and some industry friends decided to hit the streets and look to capture a snapshot of people’s experiences of 2020 so far.”

The film highlights the good, the bad and everything in between as a variety of people describe what the pandemic has meant to them.

“There have been days where I’ve just fully not got out of bed,” says one interviewee; “I’ve been on my own most of the time,” says another.

“I’ve really quite enjoyed lockdown, it feels like quite a blessing. I worry more about other people,” says one woman, while another says she thinks most people were unprepared for the effect the pandemic has had on children’s mental health.

A young father, who used to only see his baby daughter for about half an hour a day because of work, says he has now been able to see her grow up in a way he wouldn’t have otherwise.

A boxer talks about his lack of routine, a local business owner worries for his future, and a flight manager for Virgin reveals the impact of losing her job of 16 years.

Charlie says he and his friends shot the film over the course of about four days, then it took another week or so to edit and do the audio. 

Were there any surprises while making it?

“I think what’s made this moment in time so unique, from the pandemic to BLM, is that it’s touched everyone in some shape or form,” he says.

“Some people have had positive experiences, and some extreme lows.

“I think the one response that shocked me the most was the mother who walked in on her daughter watching Newsnight and counting the death toll.”

The short film has been received really well so far, Charlie says, with a feature in The Daily Telegraph national newspaper already.

It’s also been showcased on a few online film festivals, and was awarded a Vimeo staff pick award.

“But to be honest, I didn’t make it to get the recognition or make a name for myself,” he says.

“My motivation was mostly to create a short film. Like most people, my job and normal day-to-day life was put on hold.

“The film industry was hit hard due to it being practically impossible to social distance on set.

“Work is starting to pick up, which is good. But, at the time of making this, I just wanted to get back out there and create, I guess.”


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