A documentary produced by Stratford’s Ballinran Entertainment exposing the stringent lockdown conditions imposed by the Chinese government on the City of Wuhan, airing just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the rest of the world last March, has been nominated for an RTDNA Canada Award for excellence in innovation.
The documentary, Inside Wuhan: Life at Ground Zero of the Coronavirus Outbreak, was almost entirely shot by Canadian ex-patriate C.R. Holmes after he made the decision to remain in the city after an evacuation of all foreign nationals.
“I had just left China in November and I was there pretty much for all of 2019, so I knew the ins and outs of the country. … As soon as I heard the news in very early January that something was about to happen, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, we have to get on top of this. How do we get into the city?'”Ballinran executive producer Craig Thompson said.
Because all travel into Wuhan had been suspended, Thompson posted to a WeChat group for Canadians living in China asking if there was anyone still in Wuhan who would be willing to shoot some footage of the lockdown and help tell the story.
“There was this one fellow who was still in Wuhan and wasn’t going to leave because he had a business and family connections there. He wasn’t going to go back to Canada,” Thompson said. “So we made contact with him and, although he’d used a camera before, he’d never made a documentary – he wasn’t a professional – so we had to somehow get him a camera … and then give him a documentary training course on how to use it.”
The Stratford producers and Holmes on the ground in China were up against slow internet speeds, often causing video uploads to take hours or even days. While Chinese state officials would likely have preferred that footage not travel outside the city, Holmes’ military training and his commitment to get the shots needed to tell the story brought the situation in Wuhan home to a Canadian audience, who, at the time of its March 2020 broadcast, was still largely oblivious of the impending pandemic.
“We had to use remote filmmaking and we pulled together all different technologies to try to get this footage to Canada,” Thompson said. “It was all about innovation, not just in how we told the story, but how you tell a story when you’re not there to tell it. … I think remote filmmaking and collaborating with people in other countries is going to be essential, and we’re seeing that right now (during the pandemic).”
Inside Wuhan, produced by Ballinran Entertainment and White Pine Pictures, originally aired on CTV’s W5 on March 7, 2020.
Winners across all categories of RTDNA Canada’s national awards will be announced on June 3.