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Matthew Heineman initially didn’t expect to film The First Wave documentary for four months

Matthew Heineman and his team ended up with “somewhere between like 1,000 and 1,500 hours” of footage.

Matthew Heineman initially didn’t expect it to take four months to shoot his Covid-19 documentary The First Wave.

The filmmaker got permission to follow healthcare workers and patients at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York in March 2020 and his crew put in long hours at the hospital as they thought they would only be shooting for a few weeks.

“We were basically filming, you know, 12, 14, 16 hours a day for the first couple weeks thinking that this would this would go away and it would be over quickly, and oh gosh, we need to like, really focus and capture the story because it’s going to go away,” Heineman told Cover Media. “Obviously, we were quite na├»ve, and obviously, that did not happen… and obviously, we’re still living with it today.”

When it became clear that Covid-19 wasn’t going away, the team continued to film until June 2020 as they felt an “enormous obligation to try to humanise this story”, shine a light on the bravery of healthcare workers and document an important time in history.

“We did continue to film at a pretty intense pace for a long time,” he explained. “I think I and we felt this enormous responsibility with this story. I knew that no one really had the access that we had. And so, whether we succeeded or not, I really felt this historical import to document this time.”

Heineman ended up with “somewhere between like 1,000 and 1,500 hours” of footage which he and his editing team managed to distil down into a 93-minute documentary.

The National Geographic Documentary Film is currently showing in selected cinemas.

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