Australian filmmaker Kane Guglielmi is likely the first person to shoot a film about a person forced into quarantine after contracting coronavirus — and he did it four years ago. And no one is more surprised to see real life mirroring the events of his first feature, “Cooped Up.”
“At first, when it first started happening, a few people contacted me, saying, ‘Your movie is starting to look at a lot like real life,'” Guglielmi told TheWrap. “This was prior to everyone being forced into their homes. A week or two later, the penny dropped, and I thought, this is seriously identical to my film.”
And the real-world connections helped the film to belatedly land a U.S. distribution deal with Crackle Plus — where it begins streaming on May 14 — something that didn’t seem possible four years ago. When he first tried to line up a U.S. release, he said, “Many people told us the plot was too far-fetched!”
“Cooped Up” follows Jake (played by Charles Cottier), who came into contact with a potentially fatal coronavirus and is forced to isolate in his childhood home for 21 days. His only connection to the outside world is the female medic who comes to check on his symptoms every day. To everyone today, that scenario sounds all too familiar, as a novel coronavirus has killed more than 269,000 people and infected more than 3.4 million worldwide.
Since the pandemic, Guglielmi has been dubbed Nostradamus by his friends and seen a renewed interest in his first feature, which had a successful release in Australia. “The views on my trailer started to surge,” he said.
Guglielmi, who is currently quarantined with his wife and two kids in Italy, developed the idea for “Cooped Up” with his screenwriter friend John Ratchford, who had worked at a health clinic in London where he first learned about the possibility of people needing to quarantine at home after exposure to a virus.
He cast Cottier, whom he met while directing episodes of the Australian TV soap “Home and Away,”and shaped the script for the young actor.
Wrangling the financing proved more challenging — he even sold his house to help fund the production. “I had an investor from overseas offer to finance the film… if I replaced Charles with a bigger name,” he said. “I said no. It would’ve been the easier way out, to take someone else’s money.”
The film, shot in 10 days with one camera, did recoup its investment when it first came out in Australia, Guglielmi said, though he declined to disclose the budget or box office returns. “When it came out in Australia, it did really well — I was content with the film,” he said.
The Crackle Plus deal is just icing on the cake for Guglielmi, who said the production nearly forced him to go bankrupt. “It’s important to note that it was already critically and financially a success, and isn’t just so because of coronavirus now. I’m excited for it to have a release in the United States — we didn’t have the finances to do a release in the United States before.”
You can watch the trailer for the film here.