Eric Sze was looking forward to a profitable March. His 886 Taiwanese restaurant in New York City was doing great business, and things were really looking up.
Until of course the COVID-19 crisis hit.
Even as restaurants began shutting doors at an unprecedented pace, Sze, however, found a way to stay open. 886 came up with a Bento Essential, a meal that people can donate to help feed healthcare workers around New York City. By mid-April, they’d raised more than $95,000 and served up 5,000 meals.
Sze is just one small business owner profiled in a new video series from Vimeo called Stories In Place. On April 2, the platform commissioned eight of its Staff Picked filmmakers to create shorts on a wide variety of small businesses impacted by the pandemic. The films feature L.A. bike shop Coco’s Variety, virtual classes with African contemporary dance studio Afro.Cont.Igbo, Budapest plant shop Plante, Brooklyn’s Desert Island Comics, and more. Each filmmaker and profiled business received $5,000 grants from Vimeo.
Vimeo’s head of brand Courtney Horwitz says the idea came out of a staff call back on March 26, 10 days after New York City closed nonessential businesses. “Our curation team was hearing from so many creators about how they were affected. At the same time, we were seeing the small businesses on our platform being impacted, too,” says Horwitz. “So it made sense to us to give our creators grants to tell stories about the world right now, and we wanted it to be through the lens of these small business owners who had this very special spirit of persistence and adaptation. We expected to get a handful of responses but received hundreds of pitches in just a couple of days.”
The films were created in 12 days, all under the production limitations of social distancing.
“We were working with a very tight timeline, which I think really adds to the ‘nowness’ of the project,” says Horowitz. “[Filmmakers] had total creative reign over their projects. Of course that’s a risky approach for a brand to take, but we thought it was important for these stories to be told authentically by people who know these businesses and love them. It’s why the final videos are so varied. Each speaks to this moment in time so uniquely.”
Check out all the films below.