When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in the United States in early March 2020, Tom Fahey, a freelance network television photographer, recognized the developing health emergency as an opportunity to chronicle its effects on the lives of his neighbors in suburban Milton, just south of Boston, MA. Knowing he would need assistance conducting interviews and producing the program, Tom reached out to Brian Kelley, a local cable TV host and asked if he had any interest in working on the project. Brian, had already been considering undertaking a project of his own. So, when Tom got in touch, he readily agreed to collaborate on a Covid-19 documentary.
With no funding, Tom and Brian outlined a rough approach to frame their project. They knew they had to keep things close to home because, as unknown, unaffiliated producers they’d have better access to the stories of friends and acquaintances in Milton where they both reside. Using Brian’s contacts and working with Tom’s production equipment, the duo started interviewing a number of locals – citizens, town officials, business owners – who had been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over time, other stories arose. George Floyd was murdered and protesters marched in cities all over the country. Higher coronavirus infection rates among people of color were caused by their over-representation as frontline, essential workers and an increasing awareness of that disparity affirmed historically rooted “white privilege”. Milton, an unusually diverse suburban community close to Boston, a city with a well-chronicled racial history, marked those critical cultural events with observances of their own. Tom and Brian did their best to capture those moments along with commentary from fellow citizens and integrate them into their coverage of the pandemic.
The final result of seven month’s work is the forty-five-minute documentary, “Remember This Year”. Shot and edited by Tom, and co-produced by Tom and Brian, “Remember This Year” is a chronicle of the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic in a middle-class, American town. It culminates with a reflection on the local high school’s graduation which, because of social distance restrictions, was unlike any other that had come before it. As students accept their diplomas outside the school’s front doors, they move on to an uncertain future that is being reshaped by Covid-19 on an almost daily basis. How it all turns out, only history will tell. But in those first few months, Americans’ resilience was tested in ways few had ever experienced. Tom and Brian felt it was essential to create a record of those early days because it is human nature to yearn and strive for a return to “normalcy”.