Spring 2020. With the world on coronavirus lockdown, a college professor and a troubled student struggle to connect over Zoom.

Director’s Vision

I teach film to undergraduates for a living. During the early months of COVID-19 lockdown, as my students and I learned to talk to each other through a screen, and as I watched them struggle to adapt to our new reality with varying degrees of success, I found myself thinking about who gets to be happy and who doesn’t, about how hard it is to really understand where other people are coming from, and about how far we’re willing to go to help. These are questions that come up a lot in my day job, but the fraught circumstances of quarantine made me consider them in a new light. THE COMPLAINT isn’t based on my interactions with any particular student, but the story was directly inspired by the strange texture of those spring days, as we retreated into our holes but tried to reach out of them as best we could.

We “shot” the movie in August 2020 by simply recording the scenes on Zoom. By that point, everyone was a little tired of how the platform had taken over our lives. But its very ubiquity struck me as all the more reason to base a film around it. And I grew intrigued by Zoom’s cinematic properties: how the eye processes information, how the actors in their separate screens interact with each other, how the space outside the frame comes into play. I also came to appreciate the relative freedom from the usual technical, logistical, and economic constraints of filmmaking — the production process was so simple that I got to spend most of my time just thinking about story and working with my wonderful actors. All in all, it was a deeply satisfying creative experience, although I hope I’ll never have to make a movie this way again.