Log In

Reset Password

From Mary J Blige to true crime drama: film-making during Covid-19

First Prev 1 2 Next Last

In February, Kalilah Robinson finished work on a documentary that saw her travel the East Coast as part of Mary J Blige and Nas’s Royalty Tour.

In her diary for March was a trip to West Africa with National Geographic, about women doing amazing things around the world.

Three days before her flight the project was put on hold, and then cancelled. The show’s legal team did not think it was a good idea to travel through Europe, which was already feeling the impact of Covid-19.

When California went into lockdown the Los Angeles resident welcomed the chance to relax.

“At first it was good,” the cinematographer said. “I’d spent from July 2019 to February of this year travelling extensively for a feature documentary I was working on last year. I was constantly on the East Coast and in the centre of the US with a couple of days, or maybe a week, back in California where I mostly live.

“So at first, it was really nice to have a down period where I didn’t feel compelled to get another gig. But I am a very hyperactive person and, as the days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, I got very antsy.”

Out of an abundance of caution, she said California was slow to reopen the film industry.

Although thrilled to be working again, she has been tested for Covid-19 more than 40 times. According to Ms Robinson it’s expected of anyone working in the film industry.

“You get used to it,” she said. “If there is any exposure to anyone else who might possibly have had Covid-19 that increases that testing. I have been tested more than some medical personnel in hospitals. That is a little crazy when you think about it.”

Gavin Newsom, the California governor, shut down places of worship, schools and many businesses this month as the state’s coronavirus cases rose. On Thursday Los Angeles reported 5,000 new infections, the highest number recorded in one day.

Ms Robinson is ensconced in Salt Lake City, Utah where she’s working until the middle of next month. Precautions are necessary even there – the state has had 165,996 coronavirus cases since March and 756 deaths.

“In Utah I don’t see the pandemic as readily because I am part of a team,” she said. “We are in the office, on the set or in the hotel. We don’t go out beyond that because there is very much a consciousness we can’t afford to bring much danger of Covid-19 onto set.”

With no ability to pause and replace people the show will stop if even one person gets sick, she explained.

Ms Robinson is the director of photography on a true crime drama about a petty con man who graduates to armed robbery and lands himself on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

“Despite the fact that he is not the greatest criminal in the world he manages to evade the law for going on 16 years now,” she said.

The hope is to get the film into festivals by the middle of next year, and into 2022.

“We would love for it to have the opportunity to play in theatres, but the vast majority of independent films end up on streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu,” she said. “Obviously, we would be thrilled for it to stream there, but there is the intention to have it go to the festival circuit first and hopefully from there into theatres.”

Amazon Studios was behind the documentary about Mary J Blige that Ms Robinson completed at the beginning of the year. The film celebrated the 25th anniversary of the legendary recording artist’s second studio album, My Life.

“It was awesome and crazy following her,” said Ms Robinson who followed the Royalty Tour from West Palm Beach, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia to Brooklyn, New York.

“She is a brilliant and incredibly hard working musician, actress and producer. I got to see her and talk to her about her path to the super stardom that she orbits now. It was great. It was a lot of fun. It was very intense and exhausting, but also super inspiring.

“She is very driven, very hard working and focused. She is not only onstage dancing and singing, but very much in control talking to designers of the stage and so forth.”

Cinematographer Kalilah Robinson is thrilled to be working again after Covid-19 put film projects on hold (Photograph supplied)
Kalilah Robinson (centre) with crew from her western, Lawman (File photograph)

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published November 23, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 22, 2020 at 11:42 am)

From Mary J Blige to true crime drama: film-making during Covid-19

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon