Pandemic or not, Hollywood always finds a way to cash in. Possibly in an action flick with Gerard Butler racing against time to find the cure or maybe a Netflix 10-part series set in medieval times. Either way, the Coronavirus crisis is destined to be immortalized in Hollywood. Unless someone beats them to it, that is.
Director Mostafa Keshvari has a jump on tinsel town. His jump is so huge, he’s already written, directed, shot, and edited a movie called Corona. In fact, the movie was ready to make a run on film festivals across the globe until the globe was shut down.
How was Keshvari able to put his indie flick together so quickly? To hear Keshvari say it, it was all about timing. “The idea came to me when I was in an elevator reading news about Chinese tourists being attacked, and I thought I’m going to make a movie in an elevator,” Keshvari told The Hollywood Reporter. Once the idea hit, it took Keshvari two weeks to write his script.
Corona is a story of racism set against the backdrop of the pandemic. It is a 63-minute look at what happens when 7 people are trapped in an elevator coming to the realization that one of them has COVID-19. The movie is about fear, for one, but it’s also “a study of society, people and moral choices,” Keshvari recently said in email and phone interviews about the movie.
Time most definitely was not on his side when he conceived the story. Even though Keshvari and his crew of 25 didn’t know the world was going to shut down, seeing how China was responding by initially shutting down the Hubei province, he felt time was of the essence.
It took them 10 days to create the set. “We rented a space and we built an elevator,” Keshvari said. “Ultralow budget.” Then he shot the film in three days in February. It took almost 70 takes to pull off the one-shot effect. “My struggle was to make sure it was all one shot,” Keshvari explained. Not was time running out, but so was his money.
The story finds 6 neighbors trapped in an elevator during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. As the six are on the elevator, a seventh boards, and this is where things take off.
The cast includes Zarina Sterling as a millennial woman; Josh Blacker as the building owner; Richard Lett as a white supremacist in a wheelchair; Emy Aneke portrays a black elevator repairman; Andy Canete as an indebted tenant; and Andrea Stefancikova as a blonde wife. Tensions mount quickly when a Chinese woman, played by Traei Tsai, jumps on the elevator and the rest begin to suspect she is carrying the virus.
Keshvai found some of his cast through word of mouth, others he had already known. He wanted to portray the realism of their situation but he also gave them plenty of room to improvise. “I told them: ‘Imagine that the actual coronavirus is in this elevator.’” Keshvari says that people face discrimination all the time in real life. So, what better than to find these types of people, trap them in an elevator and let them show their true colors.
With his plan of taking the movie to film festivals shot down the drain, what’s next? Keshvari is hoping that streaming is the next option. The movie is finished but it has no release date (since it hasn’t yet been purchased for release) nor does he have a distributor yet. But Keshvari does believe the movie “belongs to humanity” so he is truly hoping to get it released.
You can watch the trailer for the timely Corona below.