While sequestered in my house throughout most of 2020 (and, so far, 2021), I’ve thought quite a bit about how best to portray “quar life” via film. It’s a surprisingly tricky thing to pull off well. After all, the pandemic is a uniquely global shared event: there isn’t a person on this Earth who hasn’t been forced to reckon with it in some way—the fear, the loneliness, the anger, the boredom, the desire to escape from our screaming children…it’s a collective stew of communal experience.
Yet, it’s because of the pandemic’s all-reaching scope that I have been so fatigued to watch anything specifically about it. My entire life revolves around checking current case numbers or vaccine availability…the last thing I want to do is watch some contemplative indie two-hander wherein two masked protagonists pontificate about how hard this has been and continues to be. In other words: this.
That said, Hobby from writer/director Colin Read might be that rare golden unicorn: the perfect “shelter short.” It was obviously created because of COVID, from the scrappy production to the themes it’s covering to its zippy pace, but it’s not explicitly about it either. Rather, the film becomes a depiction of the endless rabbit hole of one’s own anxiety and how easy it can be to spiral out of control in a search of fulfillment.
It’s also just a nifty display of indie filmmaking prowess, from the use of limited resources (a single actor in a location) to the visually inventive implementation of one “continuous” dolly shot. It’s fast-paced and witty, a highly specific comedic scenario that portrays a universally relatable feeling. Each sequence is chock full of clever inside jokes and production design details.
Plus, you have to love the visual irony of using an Arri camera and a fancy light kit as props while actually shooting everything on a cheapo gimbal, a wheelchair, and an iPhone. The chef’s kiss is the meta reveal at the end: the movie within a movie within a movie that mirrors the film’s central mise en abyme.
As one might expect, the film stems from a personal (and relatable) place. As Read tells Short of the Week:
“Over my year of lockdown, I jumped headfirst into a series of new activities, trying to find a new interest to reignite my brain during isolation. And now, a year later, basically none of them have stuck, leaving me feeling like I spent a year of wasted effort and false starts. So the film is basically a thinly-veiled biopic of my own creative frustration and pandemic psychosis.”
Hobby was produced by Adobe for their Pocket films initiative and is proof of how much can be accomplished with a lot of creativity, cleverness, and the endless soul-crushing spiral of anxiety.