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‘Master’ Cast and Crew on the Two-Week COVID Delay That Turned Into a Year

“I truly and genuinely believe that there are a number of upsides and advantages to having this interrupted shoot,” said director Mariama Diallo at IndieWire's Studio presented by Adobe.

When the social thriller “Master” had to pause shooting in 2020 due to a new virus called COVID-19, Regina Hall left her clothes on set. “I didn’t even pack anything,” Hall laughs. “I just figured this will blow over and we’ll be back. There was no point in me packing, going back, and unpacking.” 

In March 2020, “Master,” had less than a month of principal photography to go before rumors started swirling about a global pandemic shutting down Hollywood. “I was looking at the calendar thinking ‘can we outpace this?'” recalls writer-director Mariama Diallo. “‘We just need three weeks, is it gonna escalate that rapidly?’ And it did.” The cast and crew left the set thinking they’d be gone for two weeks and return with a newly-flattened curve. It ended up being over a year before they could return to work on the film.

“Master” has its premiere at the virtual Sundance Film Festival, and Regina Hall, costar Zoe Renee, and Mariama Diallo joined the IndieWire Studio, presented by Adobe, at Sundance to discuss the film. In an interview with IndieWire’s Kate Erbland, they recalled how the COVID delay went longer than anyone expected, but may have made the finished product better.

Diallo said that in the high-pressure world of filmmaking where the clock is always ticking, the opportunity to pause and reflect on her movie for a year was unprecedented and ultimately welcomed. “When I went back for the second half of our shoot, I wasn’t the same person as when we started. I wasn’t the same director. There was so much I had learned,” she told IndieWire. I had all the time in the world to sit and think about the process, and think about the scenes that we had left to do, and how we were gonna make it work. I would never have been able to reach a level of depth and complexity—I hope!—in the picturing of the scenes if we had done it all in one shot.”

While Hall, Diallo, and Renee do not miss the anxiety that a paused production brought, they all agree that the film is better because of it. “I truly and genuinely believe that there are a number of upsides and advantages to having this interrupted shoot,” Diallo said.

Presenting sponsor Adobe — with a mission to enable creativity for all — is committed to supporting, elevating and amplifying underrepresented creators, so the world can see, learn, and benefit from diverse perspectives. Learn more at Adobe.com Diverse Voices. The upcoming 2022 festival marks the fifth consecutive year IndieWire and Adobe have joined forces for the IndieWire Studio at Sundance.

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