SAFER AT HOME Interview: CLOAK & DAGGER Star Emma Lahana On Making A Movie During The COVID-19 Pandemic
We recently caught up with Safer at Home star Emma Lahana (Cloak & Dagger) to discuss her role in the movie, what it was like shooting during the pandemic, not meeting most of her castmates, and much more!
Safter at Home is set two years into the pandemic, and follows a group of friends who throw an online party with a night of games, drinking and drugs. After taking an ecstasy pill, things go terribly wrong and the safety of their home becomes more terrifying than the raging chaos outside.
It makes for compelling viewing, but it's the cast that really shines. Emma Lahana (Cloak & Dagger) arguably steals the show as a newcomer to the group who finds herself caught in the midst of a crazy situation, and the actress is one two keep an eye on moving forward, that's for sure. With that in mind, we were very grateful for the chance to catch up with Emma to discuss her role as Mia.
Safer at Home is now playing in select theaters, and can be found on Digital and PVOD platforms.
How did you come to be offered this role in Safer at Home, and what was your reaction to learning you'd be making a film in the midst of the pandemic?
So, a good friend of mine who is an executive at a network I did a show for, his very good friend Lia [Bozonelis], was one of the writers. He suggested me, then I had a conversation with Will Wernick, the director, and that was it! It was crazy because it was June that we shot it, and we were still learning so much about the pandemic. There was a part of me that was like, ‘I’m just so excited to actually be doing something because I’ve been sitting at home for so long’ [Laughs]. But, at the same time, it’s, ‘Oh God, am I gonna get this thing?’ We were so safe with the way we went about shooting it, we all shot in separate locations, so there were no more than two other people in the same location at the same time, and it felt safe. It definitely felt very unknown going into it.
How challenging was it adapting to the unique way the movie was shot, talking to the camera and seeing your co-stars in that Zoom-style format?
The thing that was so weird was having the earpiece in so we could hear each other. We could see each other on the screen that was in front of us, but you had to have the earpiece too, and by the end of the day, you felt so weird because you’re hearing all these different voices in your head throughout the day. That was definitely the thing that took a lot of adjustment. It’s funny, though, because I still, to this day, haven’t met most of the cast in person! Michael [Kupisk], I worked with so I obviously met him in person, but Adwin [ Brown]and I turned out to be neighbours, so we run into each other all the time walking our dogs [Laughs]. Other than those two, I don’t think I’ve met anyone in person! It’s just been phone, texting, and Zoom, so it is a weird sort of thing at the end because you haven’t met anyone, you don’t do a premiere or screening, so it’s definitely a different experience.
The cast couldn't be together thanks to COVID, but where did you shoot the movie, and how long were you actually working on it from start to finish?
It was so quick. I think after my initial conversation with Will, it was two weeks later we did the table read. The next week, we shot. I think my shooting days were only four or five days. We had read-throughs the week before, but it went really, really quickly. It almost felt like a play. We’d read it, then the cast would all get together on Zoom, and do rehearsals. We learnt as much as we could from start to finish, so that was definitely an interesting way of shooting because so often when you shoot something, it’s so out of sequence. This, we did generally top to bottom. It was fun to work like that because you don’t really get to work like that any more unless you’re doing plays on stage in live theatre.
What was it like working specifically with Michael seeing as he was the only other main cast member you were actually in the same location as, and did it help that you’re meant to be part of this new couple?
That worked out well because we didn’t know each other [Laughs]. He and I worked together on Zoom separately, but I think we met the week before we had our first conversation and then shot everything. It was definitely something we had to come up with quickly, but I think it works with the dynamic as well because it is a new couple and they’re learning each other and getting to know each other and whatnot.
Mia is a newcomer to the group, and not everyone seems to want her there, so how do you feel that played into your dynamic as part of this ensemble?
Everybody had to quickly come up with a shorthand because they’re supposed to have known each other for so long, and let that play out in certain ways during the scenes. I sat that bit out because within the script, we have an awkward dynamic at the beginning. But, everyone is really nice, so all that is really fake [Laughs].
The scene with the cop as he comes into your home and starts looking for Oliver feels like something out of a horror movie; what was that like to shoot?
It’s so funny because I’ve never shot anything before where there’s almost only a mark there. You’re not doing close-ups, so it’s so funny seeing it after the fact because it looks really different. You haven’t done it as many times as another scene on another project, so when you see it, it all feels like a surprise and you kind of think you’re not going to see as much as you end up seeing when it’s all cut together. It almost feels like everything is removed because the cameras are so far away, and you don’t interact with them like you normally would if you were acting with crew. It was just such a different experience shooting it and seeing it, and I don’t really know how to explain it other than it felt more removed than normal like you’re doing a rehearsal without crew, but then that’s what is captured. It was fun because you’re not having to be so aware of marks and lighting and not getting in anyone else’s way because everything was set up so you could be a bit more free in what you were doing. It’s interesting. I think it’s the scene I’ve watched after shooting I was most surprised by with the way it looked and how much it was captured because you’re interacting with the actor so much more than the equipment and the crew.
Were you given many opportunities for improv working on the movie?
Yeah, we stuck to the script pretty strictly. There were little moments, but we mainly stuck to the structure and what was on the page because it was such a tight schedule and because you wanted everything to match when they got into the editing room.
Having had such a unique experience making Safer at Home, would you be open to trying out another experimental screen life or found footage movie again down the line?
It’s so funny because my acting teacher would always talk about how rehearsal is so important. I always really enjoy the rehearsal process and having a lot of time to put into a scene or episode. It is always fun doing something that’s so different. I enjoy both. I definitely enjoy the traditional way because it’s what’s I’ve been doing my whole life and so there’s that familiarity and comfort, but there’s something really fun about a challenge where you have no idea how it’s going to go and how anything is going to turn out, but you get to show up and see. I think that’s the beauty in creating art. You never know and get to try doing different things, hoping you make something that resonates with some people.
Some theaters have reopened, so how does it feel to be in one of the few movies playing on a big screen right now?
It’s so weird! I’m like, ‘Wait, movie theaters exist?’ You forget about it. I can’t even tell you the last movie I went to in a movie theater because anything is really open. I think there are some drive thrus open in L.A., but I’m not really sure. I mean, what was the last movie you saw in a theater?
I think it was The Invisible Man, so it was about a year ago which is crazy.
Yeah, it’s nuts. The last thing I really remember seeing in a movie theater was Joker. I know I’ve seen something since [Laughs], but I really can’t remember.