• Nakoa Zurlo

A Look Back on 2021

Nakoa Zurlo on the set of Holy Irresistible, Summer 2021

For me, like many others, the New Year is a time of reflection. What I learned, impactful moments, and hopes for the coming year have washed over me. 2021 brought its own challenges, but so many beautiful moments as well. Creating art is at the top of that list, and my being fortunate enough to create alongside fellow USC students and professors only deepens that beauty.

We never know where circumstances, beautiful or challenging, might lead. For me, the challenges of COVID led to one of the most impactful times of my year and artistic career so far. I was one of a few UofSC students who worked on the set of the indie feature film, “Holy Irresistible”. New to professional film sets, I was nervous – who wouldn’t be? With my prior medical experience, my position on “Holy” was Covid Compliance Officer. This position was new to film sets too so the regulations, both locally and nationally, and current updates to COVID were evolving.

My position wasn’t easy - covid precautions and protocols were another thorn in the assistant director’s side, a bother for the cast and crew, and a major stressor for the director and producers. Social distancing, designating “zones”, or groups of cast and crew, that would never cross paths and potentially cross-contaminate, multiple testing schedules, and other restrictions, each created their own complexities and took up the majority of my time. And because I was green to working on a film set, having to be the one to enforce these changes to everyone’s jobs, was extremely challenging

Crewing for Holy allowed me to be a part of this moment in history. Only a few months prior, all productions were shut down. All of them... Everywhere… The greenlight was only granted when everyone could be kept safe. And I was one of the lucky few able to facilitate these whirlwinds of pure artistic magic. Nakoa Zurlo on the set of Holy Irresistible, Summer 2021.

I’m still unpacking all that I learned and experienced on set: night shoots, mechanisms of different departments, the hierarchy and flow, connections, the dedication, the friends – through all of the hardships and missteps – I’m left with gratitude for every moment.

When I look back on it though, I see the beauty of it all, just as I felt there. People doing what they do best: adapting to change despite the challenges. Beyond the inescapable hurdles of producing a film (especially an indie film), a global pandemic could not stop the creative willpower of these artists. They found a way. We found a way. Art finds a way.

Looking ahead I would love to keep learning about assistant directing and producing. From my experiences this summer, I have gained lots of insights into the industry, the mechanics of it all, and the art of filmmaking itself. I hope to keep furthering that knowledge! I also really enjoyed the camera department, the complexities and technical aspects of this craft has been another major focus of mine since working on set of “Holy”. I am excited to see where 2022 takes me and the opportunities ahead!