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Hope is a powerful drug

A city of eight million crushed by a pandemic, finds hope in an immigrant family’s perspective during the worst of the COVID shutdown.


An immigrant recounts how he and his family survived during NYC’s historic pandemic shutdown during the spring of 2020 when more than 8 million people disappeared from its streets. A personal diary of an eerily empty & haunting metropolis captured while running through city streets, embalmed in a state of suspended animation. Set against a global pandemic, social unrest and an anti-immigrant fervor, this short documentary captures the surreal experience of a teeming city laid bare and the hope for its future.

Winner of 10 film festival awards.

the film
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The facts
The mission


A once in our lifetime event

"As the world went into lockdown in March of 2020, I knew this was something monumental, unprecedented. I was inspired to document what was happening in New York City after seeing the grim news out of Italy a month earlier. Italians locked down and confined to their homes, with the only solace being their ritual evening clapping in homage to the frontline workers but also a link to connect to the outside world" Mark O'Toole


Step into a world transformed by unprecedented events, where the bustling heart of New York City stood still, and the resolute spirit of its inhabitants burned brighter than ever. Outside In is a mesmerizing documentary that captures the essence of a metropolis brought to its knees by a global crisis yet emerging with newfound resilience and hope.


At the heart of this film is O'Toole, who embarked on an extraordinary journey to chronicle the unfolding story of New York City during the tumultuous days of the pandemic. What began as a series of short vignettes on YouTube for friends confined indoors, soon blossomed into an awe-inspiring documentary that redefines our understanding of urban life during crisis.


The film grants viewers an intimate vantage point into a city stripped of its vivacious 8 million denizens, its raucous symphony of car horns and vibrant urban clamor silenced. Against the backdrop of a city facing a daily toll of a thousand lives lost to COVID, O'Toole captures the palpable fear that gripped the streets. It's a perspective that few will ever witness, offering a unique window into a city's soul during its most vulnerable hours.


What sets "Outside In" apart is O'Toole's ingenious response to a shattered dream—the cancelled NYC Half Marathon, an event he had trained months for. But rather than succumbing to disappointment, O'Toole's preparation took an extraordinary turn. Armed with his months of training, he laced up his running shoes and embarked on solitary journeys through the city's streets. With every stride, he not only preserved his physical endurance but also captured the city's empty beauty—its grandeur unobscured by the usual throngs of people. These poetic runs, more than just filling the void of the marathon, became a creative act of resilience and reclamation.

O'Toole's lens doesn't merely document desolation; it uncovers the extraordinary resilience and interconnectedness of city dwellers. As the world grappled with a pandemic, racial injustice, and anti-immigrant sentiments, O'Toole's camera navigates the city's pulse, revealing how it stood as a testament to the strength of diversity and unity. His immigrant status adds a personal dimension to the narrative, reminding us that cities are built upon the dreams of those who seek a better life, and that their tenacity is the cornerstone of urban survival.


The journey of creating "Outside In" is as captivating as the film itself. Armed with nothing but a smartphone and a gimbal, O'Toole ventures into the city's emptied streets, capturing a historic moment that feels suspended in time. In the solitude of his runs through Manhattan's vacant avenues, he discovers the city as if it were a museum, a canvas on which the emotions of a generation are painted.


As the New York Historical Museum takes O'Toole's video diaries into their esteemed digital diary collection, it's evident that his work has transcended mere documentation; it has become a testament to the human spirit's unwavering resilience. O'Toole's journey from novice to self-taught filmmaker mirrors the city's transformation—from a state of isolation to a resurgence of creativity and connection.

"Outside In" is more than a documentary; it encapsulates a pivotal moment in history and presents it through the lens of hope, introspection, and unity. As you immerse yourself in this film, be prepared to witness New York City as you've never seen it before—a city that faced adversity head-on, emerged stronger, and forever etched its story into the annals of time.



Making of

How does one make anything during a lockdown?

Because everything was shut down in New York during the spring of 2020, O’Toole couldn’t rent camera equipment, so he shot the film on his iPhone, learned how to edit in the shutdown and worked with all the production crew remotely to finish the project. So they worked via Zoom, email and phone to make this project. The Iphone was a good choice in that it reflects how most people document their lives these days, via their smart phones and offers a level of realism that captured those empty city streets.

There’s a multinational effort on the team behind Outside In.

The poem was written by a Chinese born award winning immigrant now based in Minneapolis. The narrator is an Irish born NY/London based actor. The director is an Irish born immigrant living in the USA for over 27 years. And the composer is a Chennai based musician composing the music through the prism of India’s own brutal lockdown. The facemask worn by O'Toole, are made by fashion designer Stacy Igel, founder of BOY MEETS GIRL® and part of the Survivor Corp collection for survivors of COVID.

All shared a global experience of isolation, anxiety and horror but ultimately a hope for the future.

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