Chandler resident Betty Ramirez has been staying busy the last several months with a passion project that suits her perfectly. When COVID-19 hit Arizona in early 2020, she was concerned enough to want to explore its effects on the community through an insightful documentary film.
Ramirez has long been involved in community affairs. As she developed the idea for her directorial debut on new documentary film COVID-19 vs. Arizona—Our Stories, she sought to involve the input of prominent leaders, especially those in Chandler. The film was produced in conjunction with the assistance of Chandler International Film Festival, where Ramirez serves as vice president on the board of directors.
Her approach to making the documentary film was simple.
“I like to hear people’s concerns and their unique stories,” she says. “I believe COVID-19 impacted the lives of so many people, and nothing like this has ever happened before. I wanted to show how it affected their lives and the positive things that could come out of it.”
During a time when most film production is on hold, Ramirez saw a unique filmmaking opportunity. She asked for the participation of Chandler and Arizona leaders.
She says, “Everybody that I reached out to was interested, especially after I told them why I was doing it and that it was to raise money for the nonprofit Chandler International Film Festival.”
Interview subjects in the documentary include Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel, radio host Billy Harfosh, and many other high-profile people.
Ramirez says, “I wanted people to hear the voices of our community leaders, business owners and young people, and how COVID-19 has affected their lives and the lives of the people around them.
“Since we did the interviews in May during the time that things in Arizona reopened briefly, we really didn’t have any problems with things being closed,” she says. “The main challenge was to be able to schedule all the interviews during a two-week period and have everybody able to make time in their busy schedules.”
The film was shot primarily at Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Chandler and the Residence Inn by Marriott in South Chandler.
“Directing my first film, I learned so many things,” says Ramirez. “The most intriguing thing I learned is how every single person had a unique story to tell about their experience and how they were coping with the situation.”
While making the film, Ramirez also had the help of some Arizona film and media veterans—Mitesh Patel, who served as producer; director of photography Bernie Tarin assistant director Melody King; media personality Lynette Carrington; and sound technician Joe Becker.
The first-time director hopes that the public learns from the film.
“I’d like for people to learn that we’re human beings and we make mistakes, but we want to do the best for each other,” she says. “The only way out of this situation is to work together and learn from each other. It’s up to us if we want to do good things or bad things, or if we want to help each other or tear each other apart and be divided.”
COVID-19 vs. Arizona – Our Stories had its world premiere on Aug. 1 and, is available online at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ciff. All proceeds from the film go to the nonprofit Chandler International Film Festival. The annual film festival will take place online and in-person Jan. 21-24, 2021 in Chandler. The film festival prominently features BIPOC and women filmmakers from around the globe. ChandlerFilmFestival.com