Minneapolis filmmaker highlights essential workers through new docuseries

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For nearly a year, Minnesotans have been living with the COVID-19 pandemic. A Minneapolis filmmaker is documenting the toll of the layoffs and shutdowns, and the new comradery and strength that has come as a result.

Alec Fischer released a teaser for his new series "COVID Confessions" this week. The first episode officially launches on Monday.

He’s interviewed 75 people across 10 industries since December.

“Each of these folks are not necessarily the only representation of that industry, there are so many other stories that are not being told, this is just a snippet of that,” Fischer said. “That’s also powerful to think about — within each episode that I’m producing, there is a lot of emotion, there is a lot of raw trauma these folks have been through and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

He has almost enough footage for 10 episodes and is working on filming another 10. The series will be going live on YouTube.

Fischer plans to release an episode every week, starting with restaurant workers on Monday.

“I was like, no one has been talking to Midwest folks, it feels like the story isn’t all here,” he said. “I would love to hear about wedding professionals, people in the wedding industry. I would love to hear about therapists, how are therapists balancing everything? I’m someone in the queer community, what are drag professionals doing? […] Each of those stories is so powerful because it’s individual, it’s complex and it plays into a larger narrative of what we’re all going through.”

As a small business owner, Fischer has experienced his own struggles during the COVID crisis.

“When the pandemic started, I lost all of my clients,” Fischer said. “I worked in tourism so that was just done. It was really difficult, it was scary because the first round of support wasn’t for sole proprietors.”

As a result, he turned to documentary work. Fischer told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS many of the people he’s interviewed have also shifted, with about a quarter of them starting their own businesses.

“I think focusing on the bright spots, some of the behind the scenes stuff that wasn’t being covered nationally, that was a motivating factor,” Fischer said of the project.

Camilo Welch is a fitness employee featured in the video. The industry has been hit hard by multiple shutdowns.

“At the beginning, it was just something that in my mind, I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is just going to be temporary,’” Welch said. “It’s been challenging, mostly emotionally.”

In the "COVID Confessions" teaser, Welch describes being unable to get unemployment because the federal government didn’t send the papers in time. Welch has a green card.

“I wanted to share a message of hope, no matter what happened, no matter the help that I didn’t get,” Welch said. “Just to share that hope and faith. Let’s keep fighting this, let’s keep moving forward.

Welch told KSTP that Fischer reached out with an invitation to participate over social media.

“The fact that Alec, as a producer and a filmmaker, is using his talents and his skills to reach out and share a message, it means a lot,” Welch said. “No matter who you are, whether you’re working at home or not, or going to work every day, or you’re a mom or a dad, whatever, whatever the background is, this pandemic is affecting everybody […] There are bad numbers, people are dying every day but people are also going to work every day, fighting every day making a change.”

Fischer said some of the people he interviewed didn’t want to identify themselves out of fear of being fired.

“There’s a level of fear, there’s a level of uncertainty that if they really are authentic about what they’re going through, they may not have employment anymore, across different industries,” he said.

Fischer hopes the series encourages others to speak up, share their stories and feel comfortable advocating for themselves with their employers.

He said it’s critically important to record this time in history.

“It changes people’s minds, it changes people’s hearts, it allows empathy to be cultivated and I think we need a lot more empathy between people with differences right now,” Fischer said. “If people can watch these stories and resonate, or they can learn something new about a different person in a different industry is going through, that at the forefront is why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

To watch the series, visit Fischer’s YouTube page. He is also sharing updates on Instagram.