How is Fort Wayne responding to the COVID-19 pandemic? See for yourself in a new series of short films.
A local production company, Lofthouse Creative Co., launched a project in mid-March called More Human TV on Facebook and Instagram, where they’re sharing mini-documentary-style films about Fort Wayne culture—and particularly, how locals are innovating amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19.
So far, they’ve covered everything from the pop-up Water Street Mercantile grocery store at Don Hall’s Gas House, to the first day Three Rivers Distilling Company started making hand sanitizer, to the emergence of “quarantine survival kits” at Deer Park Pub.
More Human TV offers residents stuck at home a peek inside shuttered businesses like restaurants, and how they're innovating amidst uncertainty.
Brothers Aaron and Brandon Voglewede are the brains behind the series. As co-owners of Lofthouse, they say More Human is something they’ve wanted to do for a while, but they never had the time to make it happen.
Since launching their business in 2016, they’ve had a growing interest in producing short, narrative films in addition to their advertising and branding work for clients.
Now that COVID-19 is putting their usual projects on hold, they’re redirecting their attention to launch the series and record some local history in the making.
“You see old photos of the Great Depression and events like that throughout history that help you understand what it might have been like,” Brandon says. “Now, we have video where can have people actually talking about what it feels like to endure this pandemic for future generations.”
From left to right are Brandon Voglewede, Demi Brunner, and Aaron Voglewede of Lofthouse Creative Co.
Since about mid-March, the brothers have been eagerly scouting stories and sending Brandon out as a one-man crew to capture them—keeping a safe social distance, of course.
They’re posting one or two videos online per week, about as fast as they can make them.
“It’s gorilla filmmaking,” Brandon says. “I’m just showing up with a camera and a mic. There’s no lights, no fancy rig, no script; it’s basic video journalism.”
More Human TV captures the nonstop action inside Three Rivers Distilling Company on their first day of making hand sanitizer.
While these precautions are necessary under COVID-19 conditions, they also conveniently play into the brothers’ concept for More Human TV, which bills itself as a “raw, non-glamorous, yet optimistic” series of mini-docs.
Brandon says the goal is to create more authentic avenues for people to share their stories outside of the realm of more traditional, prim and polished advertising.
“When we’re working with clients, I always try to do the nice, clean, polished video, but people are hungry for content that’s professional, yet authentic and just about the story at hand,” he explains.
And as Fort Wayne endures the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no shortage of stories to tell.
The More Human series starts with the tale of a Northeast Indiana resident who was in China during the initial COVID-19 outbreak and is now experiencing it a second time back home.
Another film in the works features Lofthouse’s neighbor on Wells Street, Hyde Brothers Booksellers, and how they are rolling with the punches of the crisis, too.
Lofthouse is on the right side of the building, and a shop called the Honey Plant is on the left side.
Even so, producing quality films during a pandemic has its challenges, Brandon says. For example, they conducted the entire Hyde Brothers shoot from the business’s front entry mat.
“It’s been this creative challenge I’ve never had to face before,” he explains.
Ironically, as the mounting pressures of COVID-19 threaten advertising budgets, Lofthouse finds itself in a similar position as many of the businesses it’s covering. The brothers say they plan to make a video about how their own company is evolving with COVID-19, too. They want to keep the More Human channel active with stories about Fort Wayne even after the crisis is over.
Who knows? It may end up changing the direction of their business, going forward, Brandon says.
That’s one trend they’ve seen among many of the companies and organizations they’re meeting: As people evolve for COVID-19, many of them might never go back to the old ways of doing things, and that’s not necessarily bad, the brothers say.
For instance, the pandemic is causing many former competitors in Fort Wayne to collaborate for the first time. Restaurants or breweries that have been rivals for years are pulling together to share resources and feed each other’s furloughed employees with what little any of them has left.
“The one thing I’ve noticed more than anything is that the community has done a great job of helping each other out in this time,” Brandon says. “When you hit a crisis, you never know how people are going to respond, but from what I’ve seen, people are responding the way that you hope they would.”
It’s a sign that Fort Wayne’s “big small town” might emerge from COVID-19 as a more cohesive community.
“When this is all said and done, I think you’re going to see a lot more collaboration in the local business community,” Brandon says. “We’re already seeing it, and I think that will stick around. There’s nothing stopping us now.”