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Quarantine chronicles: Short film ‘Isolation’ features 24 actors sharing stories from home

Everette Scott Ortiz edited the short film “Isolation.”

In mid-March, the pandemic sent the world into a screeching halt.

This includes the film industry, which has yet to resume production in New Mexico.

The shutdown left hundreds of New Mexicans in the film industry looking for a creative outlet.

Enter Sheypan Draus.

The New Mexico-based actor was in the same boat as his fellow actors.

No productions on the horizon.

A need to create.

Then the idea came.

“It first started as a joke on Facebook,” Draus says. “I asked if we should do a film and all tape each other. I got 100 comments from other friends and actors. Clint (Obenchain) and Melissa (Chambers) were the ones who pushed it.”

The result is the 46-minute film “Isolation.”

The short film follows the story of several people during a pandemic and quarantine who must learn to share a large house with one another. Encouraged to film themselves until the ordeal is over, the occupants soon discover mayhem, mystery and cabin fever set in earlier than they anticipated.

Draus says the project filmed entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the actors filmed separately in their own homes with only smartphones as their production equipment.

Draus directed and is part of the film. It is produced by Obenchain, Draus and Everette Scott Ortiz. Ortiz also edited the film.

Draus said 24 actors – all but two of whom are New Mexico-based – filmed for a few weeks.

“The majority of this project came so easily to everybody,” Draus says. “People weren’t afraid of holding back. They pushed themselves with the ideas and improved their skills. It’s just amazing what they did. When I shot some of my scenes, it pushed me to be better.”

The actors who participated are Jiji Hise, Matthew Page, Julian Bonfiglio, Obenchain, Merritt C. Glover, Buck Burns, Sheila Eden, Ken Thong, Celine R. Lopez, Heath Adam Cates, Rob Tode, Chambers, Ortiz, Draus, Janelle Lovin Mancha, Sandi K Shelby, Wendy Tillery Boling, Monique Mosher, William Hawley, Elese Jones, Mike Garcia, Collan Chavez, Abbi Landau Macdonald and Paris Jones.

After decades of acting, Draus took the helm as director and a producer.

“It was exciting,” Draus says. “We just started shooting, and my only direction was that we all shoot from cellphones and keep the same room for continuity. I told them to record just as they were. Then each actor starting recording their thoughts, almost like a diary. With the improv, it took on a life of its own.

Draus says the film was an exercise in breaking down barriers.

Each actor was in the same boat at home, in quarantine and having no clue which day it was, all while navigating the ever-changing uncertainty.

“There were days I had freakouts,” he says. “I would got to the camera and let all my emotions out. I learned how to juggle real emotions while trying to stay creative. It was a process that I had never been through before.

“In the end, I wanted it to be a community project. I’m pleased with how it’s come out.”

The film can be viewed on YouTube.

Draus says he’s considering making a feature-length film.

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