Life Upside Down is a romantic comedy filmed in the early days of the pandemic that explores the lives of three couples having to navigate lockdown with their partners, friends and work life while stuck inside their Los Angeles homes. Written and directed by Cecilia Miniucchi, the film stars Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad), Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill), Danny Huston (Yellowstone) and Rosie Fellner (Heist). During this time, all of the characters are forced to slow down and reflect upon themselves and their relationships. The film was shot in several locations in Los Angeles without any actor or crew member coming into contact with one another except for the opening and closing scenes, which were shot post-lockdown. Life Upside Down was shot entirely on iPads and iPhones.
Forbes spoke with Miniucchi about the process of filming Life Upside Down while keeping the actors safe during COVID. We also discussed why she chose to make the artwork the backdrop of this film and what she’s working on next.
Risa Sarachan: What inspired you to create Life Upside Down?
Cecilia Miniucchi: The absolute necessity to keep staying creative during that scary and horrible time of the lockdown and also, to somewhat document, in an honest way, what we were all going through at that particular moment and the impact of it on our lives and on the relationships we had with the ones we were stuck with and the ones we would have rather been with but couldn’t be.
Sarachan: This film has such a fantastic cast. Can you tell me a little bit about what your casting process was like?
Miniucchi: I wrote the film for this cast in a very short time (maybe too short) after the actors agreed to embark on this basically almost “experiment.” I called Bob, and his immediate answer was, “Cool! I’m in.” It was all so spontaneous and, in a way, so liberating as well. Just jumping into a creative endeavor with just creative people. Free of anything else.
Sarachan: Can you share what the experience was like filming this during COVID? Did you feel you learned anything about filmmaking that you will continue to implement in your work even though we no longer have the same restrictions?
Miniucchi: I chose to take a leap of faith. To take a risk. To throw myself into a completely unusual, unprecedented, new way of filmmaking. In fact, it could be defined as the opposite of what filmmaking is about if we think of it as an effort of a large group of people coming together to collaborate. There was no contact among any of us involved. Ever. One of my producers, Carl F. Berg, came up with a device to use to shoot the film. He actually invented it and fabricated it. My other producer, Jeffrey Coulter, came up with the idea of shooting a “How to Shoot” the film video to give to the cast. I thought of a unified style to shoot the film, given these odd circumstances, and decided to keep the camera at a low angle and always still, while the cast would, of course, move about. The experience was thrilling to me. To make something in such a different way. And manage to direct the actors remotely from my office at home, through two computer monitors, iPhones and iPads and with a few microphones. At times I would shoot a scene happening contemporarily in two locations. There was no crew. No continuity person. No one. Just us. And the device with the equipment on it that would be taken to each cast member’s home every morning. I learned that if you love what to do, there’s always a way to do it. And I also think that this experience is ahead of its time in many ways, because as you know, contact is slowly waning away.
Sarachan: What made you want to make the Los Angeles art world the backdrop for Life Upside Down?
Miniucchi: The whole film has been shot using what we had and who we had around us at the moment. The film is about disruption. In those days, everything closed down and everything stopped. My husband has a very large art gallery downtown LA called PRJCTLA, and since Bob Odenkirk’s character is a sleazy gallery owner, we decided to use the gallery for a few scenes.
Sarachan: What are you working on next?
Miniucchi: I am working on a TV series called Off the Walls, and we already shot four episodes for the first season, featuring Jack Black, John Lithgow, Kathryn Hahn and Josh Holloway. Something very fun, again, to do with art. I am also writing a new script and I have a TV series in the works that I can’t disclose what it is yet.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.