Love in Lockdown is a romantic comedy that stars Lucy Durack (Wicked) and Eddie Perfect (Beetlejuice); produced by Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope of Gristmill (Upper Middle Bogan).
Lucy is Georgie, and Eddie is Ned, an unlikely couple that fall in love during online ukulele lessons amidst COVID-19. With references to zoom meetings, baking bread, and WFH (working from home) it is a joyful time capsule of the current situation that is 2020. It was also only possible to make because of the pandemic. Lucy had been starring in Shrek The Musical, now shut down. Eddie was due to start in 9 to 5, now postponed. Robyn and Wayne’s company plans had been put on hold.
Considering how everyone has switched to communicating online it makes sense that Love in Lockdown was produced as a web series. It comprises of six episodes that range between 3-7 minutes each, meaning you can watch the entire series in under an hour. Remarkably, the series was completed in just seventeen days – from Lucy’s initial concept, to scripting, shooting, editing, and uploading to YouTube.
I spoke with Lucy about the production, working with her mentors, her inspiration, and the serendipitous timing. Lucy said,
It’s truly, a dream come true, to get it made, but particularly to get it made with Robyn and Wayne, who I adore and admire.
Lucy first met and worked with Robyn and Wayne on the Gristmill film Now Add Honey (2015) and has since viewed them as mentors.
I ask Lucy about her experience writing and she tells me that, “rom-coms are my favourite things in the world”, and that she has been writing for years, specifically with her good friends Jess and Leon Murray. The three of them wrote the rom-com web-series LIFT, which they received input from Robyn and Wayne on. This work went on to film in Perth with Galactic Baby, and then sold to 10Peach. It had been her only produced writing, until now.
I inquire about the inspiration for Love in Lockdown and Lucy tells me about the first few days of the pandemic which saw her reeling from the shock of it, not only had she lost her job as Princess Fiona in Shrek, but also her Grandfather. Her resulting insomnia allowed her to explore an idea about an entire web series on social media, across different social mediums. Her new home routine teased out further ideas. Firstly, her husband was taking his tap lessons online, and secondly, she remembered her abandoned ukulele plans. She pieced these together; the isolation trend of online learning would provide a meet-cute in the form of ukulele lessons. Lucy used her sleepless nights to jot down everything, fleshing out the characters and beats. She confesses, “In the back of my mind I was thinking, if I could get Robyn to help me on this, that would be so great.”
Lucy tells me that she knew she wanted to play the role of Georgie, “I love acting, and my dream is to play characters in rom-coms.” Lucy reveals that she always had Eddie in mind for the character of Ned. They went to WAAPA together, and have been friends for 20 years, but never shared a stage. She knew his upcoming production of 9-5 had been postponed and hoped that he may be free.
The fact that we all had our worlds turned upside down was a real benefit to this being made. Robyn and Wayne would never have been free to dedicate two weeks to a web-series, similarly Eddie would never have been free, Lucy added.
When I speak with Robyn, she tells me how Lucy approached her with the initial idea of the rom-com with ukuleles. Within days Robyn agreed to not only work with Lucy on this, but that Wayne, her husband would direct it, and their company Gristmill would produce. The immediacy of the production is something to marvel at, as is the process. Robyn and Lucy started writing over Zoom meetings, clarifying the characters and beats, digging in deeper. Robyn discloses that the key to pulling this production off was to pare it right back and focus on the two characters. She finished the script solo over the next 3-4 days, in her pjs. Lucy says, “she [Robyn] has done the most incredible job, and it was thrilling to see the beats that we had clarified come to fruition”.
I could hear the emotion in Robyn’s voice as she told me about the joy she felt having a creative exercise to focus on, piecing together the storyline and tropes of the romantic comedy: the unlikely couple, how they meet, how they fall in love, what tears them apart, and finally what brings them back together. Writing the script was the distraction she needed from both the impact of COVID-19 on her family, and the death of her beloved dog.
The series, filmed across two states, shows every episode as a FaceTime. Director, Wayne created a tripod unit that would hold a camera, light, and microphone for each character. For this small team, working at such a fast pace on the unfamiliar pandemic landscape, they encountered unusual complications. When Wayne tried to send out the filming equipment, he couldn’t get a courier to collect. This 48hour delay was possibly the longest part of the process. Robyn and Lucy both tell me that Eddie, having accepted the role, announced at first rehearsal that he didn’t have a ukulele, and didn’t know how to play one. Fortunately, their amazing assistant Nina arranged for a uke to be delivered and Eddie mastered it overnight. Lucy shared with me that she panic-bought four pink ukuleles from different online sellers, worried about delivery times.
I ask Robyn what was the driving force of the quick turnaround and she explains that there were two factors. The first one was the sheer adrenalin and pureness of having an idea and producing it with total control. It was a great antidote to the feeling of being in lockdown, and the reverse of working on big productions for television and film. Lucy revealed that the team shared an energy and synergy:
The team was thriving on working at the fast past, it was such a fun challenge – it felt like a game. There was an urgency to the whole project to get it out.
The second factor was the looming lifting of restrictions. Robyn was concerned about how Love in Lockdown would be received outside of this, that people would not want to watch it and be reminded of the experience. It was important to release it during the lockdown.
The characters of Georgie and Ned are fun, relatable and vulnerable. A quick read of comments left by viewers shows how much people have connected with them, requesting more seasons, even a TV series. When I watched it, I thought of it as a play – maybe I’ve watched too much National Theatre Live on YouTube, or maybe it was the musicality that Lucy and Eddie create in their endearing lessons. I ask Robyn if she had considered this, sadly the answer is no. As for people asking for more, Robyn also says no.
People are always asking for more, but that’s how you are supposed to feel when you watch a rom-com.
I want to know if there is more to the characters of Georgie and Ned, a nod to creatives who are going through a particularly crappy time at the moment, that in sharing their vulnerabilities with each other they are able to find strength. I’m happy to hear a yes this time. Robyn, who mentors younger staff in her company, has always advised that vulnerability is the key ingredient of being an artist. It makes us who we are, and while it can cause anxiety, it is also our superpower: mining our vulnerability for creating.
Lucy too shared that there is a message in the characters for creatives. She suggests that the restrictions brought on by COVID-19 has come naturally to many creatives, who have been resilient, finding ways things to do and ways to cope. As time goes on you realise you can’t keep that up on your own. Being vulnerable and learning something from COVID-19 has been a part of the process.
Life has changed for everybody, in one way or another. I think as creatives it’s so important that that we do stay open and vulnerable and try to find what the message is and what we can make of that, to help each other, and ourselves to process it.
Watch the first episode of Love in Lockdown below and find the rest of the series at https://www.gristmill.com.au/shows/love-in-lockdown