When Alex Almeida first decided to tackle an uplifting video project during his extended Spring break, his mission was a simple one: To brighten the day of a close friend struggling with feelings of isolation during the COVID-19 crisis.
Spurred by the overwhelmingly positive response to his initial callout for submissions, however, the You Are Not Alone project soon took on a life of its own.
“It started on a small scale, but then I was, like, ‘Let’s just go big with it!’ because a lot of people are definitely feeling down right now,” said Almeida, a fifth-term Toronto Film School Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre student.
“I have a few friends who suffer from depression, and when they feel alone, it really hits them hard.”
Almeida decided then and there that he wanted to cast his net as widely as possible, sending out a mass email to friends and family both near and far, requesting that they send in videos of themselves talking about what’s been keeping them buoyed during the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
Within four-and-a-half days, Almeida’s inbox was flooded with 98 video submissions from all around the globe – from 10 of his fellow Toronto Film School acting students, alumni and instructors right here in Toronto, to friends and family from as far away as China, England, Portugal and Bali.
“I sent out as many requests as I could because I wanted to involve as many people as I could, but the response I got was crazy,” he laughed, noting that even his mother submitted a video to be included in the project.
“When I got the first 15 videos back, I was relieved and thought, ‘Okay, we’ve got a project.’ But as they kept on coming in, I was, like, ‘Okay, now we’ve got a not-so-short film.’ I actually couldn’t even include everyone in the video, because I wanted it to be under an hour.”
Even at 43 minutes, Almeida’s You Are Not Alone video is jam-packed with inspirational messages full of hope, positivity, and a variety of helpful suggestions on how to cope during this time of self-isolation.
“In this video, there is no golden ticket idea on how to have a successful quarantine, though,” Almeida explained.
“What there is is an abundance of fantastic different people from different places with different mentalities and ideas of how to keep yourself positive or productive during quarantine.”
From self-care and relaxation, to home gardening and exercise, to artistic expression and meditation, and everything in between – everyone involved in the project shared their tips and tricks to getting through each day.
Hart Massey, Director of Toronto Film School’s Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre program, applauded Almeida’s efforts with the project and was honoured to have been included.
“Alex wanted us to highlight where we put our creativity to work during this time of social distancing and how we manage our emotional state of minds during this very challenging time,” he explained.
“In fighting this virus, there is nothing more important than our mental and physical well-being, and developing our art or continuing to study will help provide an outlet and a connection with others that we all desperately need right now.”
For Almeida, who’s remained creatively constructive throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the motivation to get out of bed every day comes from a desire to both continue honing his craft, and to use those gifts to uplift and inspire others.
From posting clips on Instagram of the latest monologues he’s performed – including ones from Marriage Story and Birdman – to the You Are Not Alone project, Almeida said the end goal of all his creative efforts during quarantine has been equal parts self-betterment, as well as the hope that someone out there might benefit from his positive energy.
“When I wake up and I take on another day…the inspiration to create comes from knowing that other people need it and that other people can benefit from it,” he said.
“It makes me feel like the things that I’m doing aren’t going to waste. If I can make one person smile, I’ve done my job.”
Judging from the feedback he’s gotten thus far, Almeida has been able to accomplish that goal many times over.
“The response has been so f**king fantastic. I’ve had messages from people I don’t even follow on Instagram from different countries messaging to thank me…and people sending me videos of themselves crying while watching it,” he said.
“Seeing those messages from everyone, I was literally smiling from ear to ear. This is the first actual big project I’ve done on this scale, so to have it received so positively, I’m overwhelmed with joy.”