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Vancouver filmmaker launches online performance project

‘I wanted to create something that couldn't be cancelled’
joel mccarthy
Vancouver filmmaker and festival organized Joel McCarthy has launched the Vancouver Quarantine Performance Project. Photo courtesy Joel McCarthy

With the current need for self-isolation and social distancing, Vancouver performers are having to get a little more creative.

Virtual open mic nights, online readings and drag performances via social media are becoming the new normal as Vancouver waits out the COVID-19 pandemic.

One local filmmaker decided to take it a step further with the Vancouver Quarantine Performance Project (VQPP), an online festival and competition aimed at bringing the city’s actors, writers and creators together (virtually) to create and share art.

“The film community and arts community in Vancouver have been a huge part of my life, and it kills me to see it suffer these days,” Joel McCarthy, who is also festival director at Run N Gun: Vancouver's 48 hour film festival and a directing teacher, said in an email.

Launched this week, VQPP includes four categories – original monologue (must be completely original and never performed before), quarantine short film (shot in your own home, isolated outside or animated), original song (must be a world premier and performed on a video) and stand-up comedy routine (created for the contest and submitted as a video file).

The project will culminate on April 18 and 19 with a live variety show on YouTube where awards will be given and the audience can vote for their favourites.

McCarthy said the idea for the project started percolating when the NBA suspended its season on March 11.

“The writing on the wall was clear, so I started obsessing over what could be done,” he said. “We had some local film festivals coming up that I was really excited about and they are all cancelled now. I wanted to create something that couldn't be cancelled.”

The project was announced March 16 and, McCarthy said, Vancouver’s arts community has jumped at the chance to keep creating while self-isolating.

“I know of a ton of people who are planning and creating now… [we] already have a number of submissions. We don't know how big this thing is going to get, but we are generating multiple plans based on how many submissions we get.”

McCarthy said it was a “mixed bag of events” that inspired the project.

“I was feeling very down seeing pretty much all of my friends lose their jobs over the matter of a few days,” he said, adding that at the same time he was watching viral videos of quarantined Italians singing from their balconies.

McCarthy also has some experience with broadcasting live events online – the last film competition he organized sold out quickly so the decision was made to take it online – and he already has the needed equipment and infrastructure in place.

“This is ultimately a way of me dealing with my depression, anxiety and despair as we go through these uncertain times.”

McCarthy said updates will be posted on the VQPP Facebook page and an official schedule will be released once all the submissions are in and organizers know how much content they have.

Entries can be submitted online at

Submissions are due April 3.