Written By: Beverly Kwakye
It’s one thing to be under quarantine in real life, but imagine shooting an entire movie about being in quarantine while actually under quarantine. The new horror film Safer at Home does this. This film takes things to the extreme as the premise of the movie deals with the past stay-at-home orders as they occur in real life. In Safer at Home, a group of friends two years into the pandemic decide to throw an online party filled with games, booze, and pills. What can possibly go wrong?
The star of the film Dan J. Johnson gave us an inside look at what it was really like to shoot a movie that gives viewers a double dose of reality.
Can you tell me a little bit about the character you play, Evan?
So Evan and Jen are living together and we’ve been in quarantine together for I think it’s like the third or fourth round of Covid in the Safer homeworld. He’s a lot like myself. I don’t feel like I had to reach too far out of myself to get into the headspace of Evan. I’m in my current quarantine situation with my wife and we have a 5-year old daughter and obviously there are things that start to show themselves in people’s relationships when they are around each other all the time. In the movie, things are starting to come to a head and obviously Evan doesn’t know that Jen is pregnant and Evan is obviously feeling stressed and pressured to propose not only from himself but his family. So I think all of these things have come to a head and kind of explode at the beginning of the movie.
First off, I have to ask, what was the experience like filming a movie in which the premise deals with current events like quarantine, Zoom calls, etc.?
I mean, it was super surreal and super real at the same time. It was really a kind of meta experience, I guess. In the midst of filming, in my personal life, I was surviving I felt like off of Zoom calls with family members and friends all over the United States. Sometimes many people I would be seeing at least a couple of times if not maybe not three or four times a year. But in a lot of cases not. I think the loss of your regular existence in the world, it was really felt in real life. For me to be portraying a character in which we are again meeting up with friends via Zoom calls, having Zoom happy hours, it hit super close to home for me. I think a lot of us are going through grief because of the circumstances of COVID 19. So again, it was one of those things I didn’t really feel like I had to do a whole lot of imagining in this imaginary world that Will created.
Were there any challenges?
Oh definitely. First off, just the technical aspect of keeping distance from people who were on the crew. Basically when it was just me filming. I would come on set and I’d basically be in that house by myself. Maybe one other person on another level of the house would be communicating with me through an earpiece. That’s how we all heard each other.
We were all basically on this walkie-talkie system in our ears. That’s how we were hearing ourselves talk to one another, not actually through the Zoom application. We were listening through these RED cameras to make it look like it was set up as a Zoom but we were communicating to each other through walkie-talkie ear pieces. I felt like I was a secret agent at times.
With that reality, sometimes technology fails. Sometimes people couldn’t hear each other through their ear pieces. There weren’t really any delays, but it was more just like a whole bunch of echoing through the ear pieces one day, and we had to hold for technical issues when it came to sound and sometimes video.
That was part of the reason why I wanted to do this. Filming things is fun. Not only telling a story but also meeting the people on set and doing these collaborative pieces and kind of seeing how they come together. Because this was like an unprecedented thing for pretty much all of us on the cast and crew, it was a fun, frustrating thing to figure out. Fun in that I have this privilege enough to be able to work during the pandemic, and frustrating because it was just like we came up with these issues now and again.
The great thing was, everyone on set, actors and crew alike, was awesome. Everybody was of the understanding that we were working together to get this thing done.
What type of movie buff would be into Safer at Home?
People who are into movies that are super close to reality in a twisted way, like if you’re into thrillers or if you’re into this whole meta world experience or people who are interested in looking at an aspect of life. We are all experiencing quarantine differently. Some of us are living alone, some of us are living with family, some of us are working, some of us are not working, some of us are extremely in basic need of services. If you’re lucky enough to watch this movie, I think this is the type of movie people would want to see if they want to experience a different quarantine.
Your character was really active in comparison to some of the others. What scenes did you enjoy shooting?
In the story, he’s running basically because he doesn’t know how to handle this situation where basically a horrible accident happens. It’s the physical act of breaking out of one’s own home and trying to find an answer with the help of your best friend, who Michael Kupisk plays really well. So Evan is just running from this horrible truth that he has created.
It was scary at times. It was one of those things that where we were outside doing something that maybe a lot of people would have looked at as not the best thing to be doing during a lockdown. We were all following protocol as far as keeping distance and wearing masks when we weren’t filming. Running around the city was a little bit weird at that time. I think that 10-year old Dan would have thought that would be a lot of fun to do; 33-year-old Dan is saying, “I don’t want to like encounter police at this time.” I wanted to make sure that somebody was with a part of the crew who’s like a producer was close at all times just because that was something I was nervous about, encountering law enforcement. Will always made me feel safe. The director Will Warnick is just awesome. He was super reassuring along the way not only when we were doing our static shots but when we were doing our moving shots. I felt really safe with him.
Any particular scenes you’re excited for fans to see or think they will enjoy when watching this film?
I really had a lot of fun watching the other characters. Daniel Robaire and Adwin Brown were partners in the movie and are watching these things unfold. They are kind of at a loss for not only words but for what to do and how to help. The tension building that happens outside of me running around Los Angeles, I think it’s really interesting to watch because you really see them go through a huge range of emotions. Alisa Allapach does an amazing job building the tension along the way. So I really loved watching those scenes because it was just like there’s this feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that help tell this story that this tragedy unfolds.
Safer at Home is out now in theaters and available for streaming.
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