In March 2020, Hollywood shut down along with the rest of the country, ceasing production on all projects and leaving countless filmmakers out of work. Left to their own devices, Taylor Garron and Chanel James decided to keep doing what they do best and make a movie, which would go on to become “As of Yet.” They didn’t have the usual expensive film equipment or extensive crew, but they did have one crucial tool at their disposal: video chat. At the time, people all over the world were predominantly communicating via Zoom and Facetime, so it made perfect sense that a film set during the Covid lockdown would be shot through one of these platforms.
From the beginning, Garron knew she would have to wear many hats throughout the production process, even on top of her positions as the director, writer and leading actress. As she said in an interview for the “Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz,” “Because I was the only person on set, I was a PA, I was a set dresser, I was hair and makeup, and craft services even.” Fortunately, she had the help of James, her co-director, who she was able to bounce ideas off of and share footage with. Their unconventional filming process paid off when the film premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival to positive reviews. Now, over a year later, it can be enjoyed by a wider audience following its July 12 streaming release.
“As of Yet,” the majority of which is shot through Facetime calls and video diaries follows Naomi (Garron) as she juggles friendship drama and a new love interest while trapped inside her Brooklyn apartment during the early months of the Coronavirus pandemic. Over video calls with friends and family, she chats about social distancing, the Black Lives Matter protests and her own personal issues. Naomi can’t stop complaining about her controlling, White best friend and roommate, Sara (Eva Victor), who is hypocritical when it comes to social distancing and performative when it comes to the protests. Naomi’s other favorite topic is Reed (Amir Kahn), the guy she met on a dating app four months ago and has been frequently Facetiming ever since.
Sprinkled throughout the video calls and diaries are shots of Naomi around her apartment, dressing up, dancing in the mirror, doing puzzles and anything else she can to ease her lockdown boredom. She is so lonely and desperate for in-person contact that in one painfully awkward yet hilarious scene, she stands at her second-story window, shouting down to a passing neighbor she’s never met, asking him for dating advice.
A film full of video calls with the occasional stationary tripod shot has the potential to get old quickly. However, the realistic and relatable dialogue coupled with casual and natural performances makes for an engaging story that speaks to a whole generation dealing with unprecedented times. Naomi is especially unfortunately relatable as she would rather do anything but honestly communicate her feelings with Sarah, despite what her neighbor, parents, cousin and other friends tell her. Perhaps the most entertaining video call is with Naomi’s LA friends played by comedians Ayo Edebiri and Quinta Brunson, who encourage Naomi to finally rip the bandaid off and end her friendship with Sara.
The film is produced by Duplass Brothers Productions led by Mark and Jay Duplass who are no strangers to inventive, low-budget filmmaking. They have ruled the low-budget indie scene for years, and have made names for themselves directing, writing, acting and producing their own work, beginning their career with a hit Sundance short that only cost them $3. To any Duplass Brothers fan, it’s no surprise that they would be quick to figure out how to keep creating meaningful content during the pandemic. On top of producing “As of Yet” and “7 Days,” another Covid-centered story, the brothers produced Natalie Morales’ “Language Lessons” which Mark also wrote and starred in alongside Morales. “Language Lessons,” a story of unexpected friendship and grief told over video chat, is another prime example of what can be done with a small budget, Covid filming restrictions and a lot of creativity.
“As of Yet” is a realistic and raw addition to the growing collection of Covid stories. Although it may feel exhausting to revisit such a difficult time full of unknowns, fear and loneliness, the film manages to tackle this with honesty and humor, making it an important time capsule for the early summer of 2020.
“As of Yet” is available to rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Vudu. “Love Languages” is streaming on HBO Max.
By Emily Ince