Pittsburgh filmmaker conveys impact of isolation with Quarantine Roommate | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh filmmaker conveys impact of isolation with Quarantine Roommate

click to enlarge Quarantine Roommate - SCREENSHOT
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Quarantine Roommate
Filmmaking is entering the weird phase where the works made in the quiet of the pandemic are starting to emerge. Those have taken shape in ways big (think Bo Burnham’s Netflix hit Inside) and small, like Pittsburgh filmmaker Kyle Holbrook’s new short film Quarantine Roommate.

A kaleidoscopic vision of life living alone during the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown, Holbrook merges footage shot within a beachside home with clips of a trip to Africa. It creates a juxtaposition of two worlds, one of joy, celebration, and normalcy, and one of isolation and anxiety about what’s to come.

“The film was shot In Uganda where I traveled to in 2014 with a team of doctors that specialize in human behavior headed by Dr. Susan O’Rourke and Dr. Mary Burke, and international magician Kevin Spencer, who is in the film," Holbrook tells the Pittsburgh City Paper over email. “I utilized that footage for the fictional character in the film as a mission trip he took in 2019 as a contrast to the solitary confines of the character's apartment.”


Quarantine Roommate — which is alternatively titled Quarantine Roommate(s) — serves as a follow-up to Holbrook's Art of Life, a 2013 film featuring artist vanessa german, talk show host Joy Taylor, and late hip-hop musician Mac Miller.

It's also the first entry in Holbrook's Locked Down series.

“Some of the future episodes will be focused on people using the time in quarantine to do some positive things, things they may have not had the opportunity or time to pursue,” says Holbrook, who, besides filmmaking, also plans and executes various public mural projects in Pittsburgh.

In terms of plot, Quarantine Roommate follows a lead character in quarantine "suffering from an evident mental illness, presumably schizophrenia." Holbrook is one-half of a duo representing the lead character in the film, paired with Shannon “Nuck” Francis (son of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Earl Francis) in his acting debut.


While each Locked Down installment will have a different style, Holbrook’s initial entry is one that captures 2020 in a unique and visceral way. The film draws on the psychedelic and abstract, which matches the content, a brain spending too much time with its own thoughts. Holbrook mentions Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers as an influence, and it shows. Visions of a woman (Madelyn Cruz) enter and exit Holbrook’s consciousness, and the film features news clips, memories, recurring imagery, and overwhelming sounds.

A press release says the installment "quite overtly shows the negative impact quarantine had on this individual while shedding light on the important issue of mental health."

Holbrook says the film has been submitted to several film festivals nationally and internationally. It will premiere online through Holbrook's Artworld YouTube channel on May 31(the last day of mental Health Awareness Month, as Holbrook points out.)

Watch the trailer for Quarantine Roommate below:

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