As You Like It Film Release

The Making of As You Like It

Making a film is difficult at the best of times, but making one in the middle of a pandemic even more so.

That was the challenge we faced in the summer of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic prevented us from staging our outdoor production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Director Alex Brinkman-Young was determined to keep going, and with the performing arts almost entirely closed down, the cast were thrilled to be soldiering on.

We started by rehearsing over Zoom. At the start of the first lockdown, we were still hopeful we might be back on stage by July; when it became clear that wouldn’t be possible, we turned to making a recording, either by filming or as an audio-recording.

I had originally been cast as Jaques, but with a career in film – when most other people on the project only had experience in theatre – I offered my services. I soon found myself also taking on the roles of both Director of Photography and Editor, and working closely with Alex and the rest of the crew.

The pandemic was the reason we were making a film, but it also provided a unique set of limitations to overcome. This was a time when people were not allowed to gather in groups of more than six, a one-metre distance needed to be maintained, and households couldn’t meet indoors. Both rehearsing and shooting were going to be a serious challenge.

Somehow, we found a way. Alex and I coordinated how to shoot scenes to give the impression that there were more people present than there often were, while I studied filmed performances from the National Theatre, The Globe, and others to devise a cinematographic style that would bridge the filmic and the theatrical.

At the same time, in-person rehearsals began in Alex’s garden. With a grid laid out on the ground to ensure we were keeping distance from one another, and with rigorous Covid-19 safety procedures in place, we finally met face-to-face and started putting the performances together.

Filming began on 11th July, in three outdoor locations around Oxford. We were fortunate to have good weather, and we shot the entire film over the course of eight days – largely evenings, plus three afternoons. Every day had to be thoroughly planned out; with no more than six people allowed on set at any given time, cast and crew combined, we needed to be precise about exactly who was needed for each shot.

For some of the bigger scenes, even Alex wasn’t allowed on set to keep numbers down! This became particularly tricky as I was often in these scenes as Jaques, meaning that there was nobody to operate the camera. I could only set things up, start the camera rolling, and hope for the best.

After we wrapped on 18th July, it was over to me and Dominic Hargreaves, who had also been our sound recordist, to edit the footage. As Dominic put together primarily the musical scenes and the sound mix, I took on the complicated scenes Alex and I had figured out before moving on to colourizing and subtitling the finished film.

The team continued to work over Zoom for the next two and a half months. The first rough cut of the film ran to 2 hours and 12 minutes; the second, which cut out some lines and refined the edits to improve pacing, brought it down to its current length.

And finally, the finished film premiered for cast and crew at Arts at the Old Fire Station on 10th October, with a simultaneous release to the public on YouTube.

As You Like It was made at a time when both theatre and film were badly suffering; it was created because of the pandemic but also faced unique challenges from it. With productions shut down or severely limited worldwide, and after being limited to our homes for so long, the mere act of creation not only felt important but also liberating to everyone involved.

This production would not have been possible without the hard work and determination of Alex Brinkman-Young and the rest of the cast and crew, and the unwavering support of Oxford Theatre Guild for the arts. Thank-you to everyone who participated and those who supported to us – and, of course, to our audience.

We hope you enjoy the film!

Edward Smith – Jaques, Director of Photography, & Editor