Zarina Sterling’s latest acting role provided a glimpse of how her world was about to change.
The Grade 12 South Delta Secondary and Delta Film Academy student co-stars in the Canadian thriller Corona, the first feature film about COVID-19. It was shot back in February when producer and director Mostafa Keshvari came up with the idea just weeks earlier after reading a pandemic-related newspaper article about Chinese tourists being attacked.
Sterling plays a millennial and is one seven residents trapped on a malfunctioning apartment elevator. The movie focuses on the xenophobia and fear the virus has created. It was about a month after shooting wrapped up that the pandemic led to the closure of SDSS and Sterling being house bound for weeks.
“When we filmed it in February we didn’t really have anything happening in Vancouver, so when we were filming I thought this is like a really cool idea,” said Sterling. “When the virus actually hit us hard I was really surprised. It was like wow this is pretty cool how we managed to get a film in before it happened.
“In the back of my head when we were filming this, I honestly thought it was just a topic because it was happening in China and elsewhere. I never knew it would actually spread worldwide.”
Perhaps it was Keshvari’s intuition that resulted in the 63-minute film being shot in just three days on a Vancouver soundstage. He encouraged improvisation throughout the production which resulted in scenes, roughly 20-minutes long, being re-shot entirely.
“Since it was all improv, once we filmed one take we would all come together as a group and come up with ideas to make the scene more intense,” explained Sterling. “We also discussed making the proportion of everyone talking equally. I found that really fun. It made me feel I was able to share my ideas openly. Everyone had their own ideas and Mostafa was listening to them.
“I remember Mostafa saying to us it was a really good take and everyone is thinking great we can move onto the next one and he would say I guess we can do it one more time. The last scene was definitely the most difficult as we were all kind of confessing and it was emotional. Just having to re-create that crying and mental state all over again was exhausting after a long day.”
Corona is the second movie Sterling has worked under Keshvari. She starred in the short film Child Bride that premiered at the renowned Cannes Film Festival back in June 2019. Her role also earned her a nomination at a film festival in Los Angeles.
She is also awaiting word on another Keshvari project in the coming weeks.
Coronais now available in several major digital platforms including: Apple Movies, GooglePlay, Microsoft and Redbox.