Powerful video of London, Ont. during pandemic captured by NYC filmmaker
LONDON, ONT -- The first question you might ask, is ‘How’d he do it?’
With border restrictions in place, the release of a video capturing an empty London, Ont. during the pandemic - by a man from New York City - might seem alarming.
But don’t worry says JJ Sereday, the filmmaker behind the six-minute video of the Forest City.
He is now back in the U.S.
Sereday had travelled to London in early March, before COVID-19 restrictions were in place, to visit with his girlfriend, Joanna Stepien, a nurse at London Health Sciences Centre's Victoria Campus.
“Once I got to London, for two weeks straight, I quarantined,” he told CTV News in a Skype interview from his home in the NYC borough of Brooklyn.
As he was in isolated, the global situation unfolded around him, and seeing London empty he decided to put his cameras - normally used for his business - to use once his self-isolation ended.
“Just seeing the eeriness and the emptiness, it was really unique. I felt strongly that I needed to capture and document that. It’s was very moving with Joanna being a front-line worker."
The result is 'Alone Together,' which shows an empty London from various locations, heights and angles. It’s mixed with music and memorable audio clips from Canada’s leaders.
It was produced by Sereday and Stepien to be a tribute to London’s front-line workers and includes a cameo by Sepien herself.
The video highlights several area of the city including downtown, Wortley Village, Old East Village and London’s hospital sites.
Sereday says he’s been to London a half-dozen times, but still needed to rely heavily on Stepien to pick locations important to Londoners.
There are several poignant moments certain to draw emotion.
Near the beginning, Budweiser Gardens is shown, from above, with an overlay of audio from a Memorial Cup run playing as the area around the arena sits empty.
Later, the Flame of Hope at the Banting House National Historical Site is shown. Originally intended to just be one of the key locations used, Sereday says it quickly become so much more.
“That fell into my lap so perfectly, because not just of how important it is to show hope in this dark time, but the fact it was such a crucial thing that was discovered there and the importance of it connecting with COVID-19.”
Sereday says the use of audio clips from various Canadian leaders helped set the story in place. He also says he included them because, he believes, they are inspiring. Something he’s not sure those in the U.S. are getting.
“I'm from America, so we have a lot of political challenges going on. So, the importance of putting that aside and remembering that’s who we are first and we need to use that as a cornerstone.”
Near the end of the film Stepien, in her uniform as a nurse and wearing a mask, is seen in front of a London hospital.
The final shots show life, slowly, returning to the city, including two teens skateboarding and a child on a scooter.
“Having something that give you chills and inspires you to pick yourself up, and see the positive in the dark, I think it’s important to me, and I think others.”
Sereday says the film and his ongoing love for London and Stepien have him considering leaving New York City for London, for a much longer stay, once travel restrictions are lifted.
You can see ‘Alone Together’ and other videos of large American cities Sereday filmed, prior to COVID-19, on his YouTube channel.