Exclusive: Jonathan Wilhelmsson Talks About His Short-Film: Untitled Earth Sim 64
Swedish filmmaker Jonathan’s latest project Untitled Earth Film 64, shot in Gothenburg during a weekend with a small budget and team.
This short film is a standalone prequel, that was produced instead of a planned film shooting in Hong Kong due to the pandemic. The film tells a story about a woman in the glitched world starring British Karen Olrich-white, Swedish Aya Frick, and Australian voice actor James Fraser. The film has been showing at several international film festivals as well.
Present yourself like where you live and who you are and what you work with.
My name is Jonathan Wilhelmsson and I’m a filmmaker from Sweden, currently working as a freelancer. I do a little bit of everything, from writing, directing, and shooting to editing, visual effects, and grading. Sometimes I do just one of these roles and sometimes I do all of them. A lot of my day job projects have been commercials and web series for Volvo, like our show ‘Mighty Jobs’ (available on YouTube), but I also make my own passion projects in my spare time, mostly short films but I’m working my way towards a feature film.
Your latest work, how did you get the idea for Untitled Earth Sim 64?
I was having lunch with some colleagues one day when we started talking about simulation theory. It seemed a slightly scary but equally amusing concept to me, and I thought it might make for a good story, dealing with existentialism in a lighthearted and comforting way. The script I initially wrote was actually a completely different film that we were going to shoot in Hong Kong in early 2020. We had secured the funding, booked the flights, and our bags were literally packed when we suddenly started hearing about the party pooper that is covid-19. Naturally, we were forced to cancel and I was suddenly left with a lot of extra time on my hands. I started working on different tests to design the look of the glitches that were to feature in the film. I began to realize how many interesting and funny things you could do with the simulation concept that would never fit in our planned film, and since we now needed a new project to shoot at home, I began writing what was essentially a stand-alone prequel, called Untitled Earth Sim 64.
How long have you been a filmmaker and why did you become a filmmaker?
I’ve loved storytelling for as long as I can remember. I made little comics from the time I could draw, and when I started school I wrote long stories about pirates and monsters and things like that. When I was 14 years old my dad got a home-video camera and I started playing around with filmmaking, and I just thought it was the most amazing thing. The possibilities seemed endless and I started experimenting with every form of filmmaking I could think of, from stop-motion and hand-drawn animation to comedy sketches, short films, and even some incredibly bad 3d animation.
It was the most enjoyable thing I knew but it wasn’t until I was around 17 or 18 that I started considering that it could become a career. I think it was a mix of the fact that I had never met anyone else who was a filmmaker and that in my mind jobs were something boring that you had to do, so it didn’t seem possible that the thing I did for fun could be a job. But luckily I wisened up and a month after high school I moved to Australia to attend Sydney Film School, which became my introduction to the real filmmaking industry.
How has your work in film been affected by the pandemic?
I used to travel around the world for a lot of projects, so there were a lot of canceled shoots and of a lot of projects that had to be reworked so that they could be shot in Sweden or be shot by local teams with me directing virtually. I also started to focus more and more on editing because it’s been easier to work with that remotely.
How has the pandemic forced you to be creative to tell the stories you want to tell?
To be honest I think I’ve been less affected than a lot of my peers because I’ve always been working in very small teams so it wasn’t too hard to make my shoots COVID-secure. On the creative side I think the main thing has just been to not get too down about all the canceled projects like our Hong Kong film, and to think about what we could do instead and just keep moving forward. Even though I haven’t been able to leave Sweden I’ve still been able to keep working with a lot of my international friends virtually and feature them in voice acting roles and things like that.
Short films are far easier to produce, maybe in a pandemic. You don’t need a crew of over a hundred personnel to tell your story. Making short films, what would you say is the downside versus the upside in the area? (What’s easy with a short film vs what’s difficult with it?)
The great thing about short filmmaking is that you have a lot of freedom and you can generate a lot of creativity in a short burst. It’s a great way to learn and to take risks. It’s also easier to gather favors for a short film compared to a feature film. On Untitled Earth Sim 64 for example I was able to borrow all the equipment for free from my workplace. On a longer shoot that wouldn’t have been possible. For me, the hardest thing about making short films is how to package my ideas into something that’s actually short. A lot of my ideas tend to come out more as feature film ideas because I think that’s how I’m used to thinking about the story, so it’s sometimes tricky to translate that into something that’s just a few minutes long.
How do you get your inspiration for your work?
It comes from lots of different places. It might be from a conversation I’ve had, a song I’ve listened to, or a photo I saw, but the biggest source of inspiration is from other films. The amazing thing about being a filmmaker is that it’s extremely rare that I will watch a film and not be happy to have seen it. Even a particularly bad film can have some great moments and lessons to learn from.
Do you have new projects in store after this film?
Yes, I’m still hopeful we’ll be able to shoot our Hong Kong short film once it’s safe to travel again. I finished a new draft of the screenplay the other day with some of the lessons I learned making Untitled Earth Sim 64. I’m also working on a fun project that I’m hoping will be my first feature film!
Do you have any advice for those new in the business and want to become a filmmaker?
It’s a lot of hard work but it’s also the most exciting job there is. Make as many films as you can and don’t be worried about failing because with every project you’ll be learning. Don’t compare yourself to others because everyone’s journey is so different and there’s no set way how to make a film. Finally, don’t worry if you don’t have a big budget or a huge crew because filmmaking is so accessible nowadays that there’s so much you can do on your own if you’re just willing to put the time in.
For more information on the short film Untitled Earth Sim 64, follow the links below:
•The film: Untitled Earth Sim 64: https://youtu.be/uRQ_Wd_r6gk
• Teaser Trailer: https://youtu.be/U_tpLKn47zk
• The Making of Untitled Earth Sim 64: https://youtu.be/Fa55MIr22CM
• VFX Breakdown: https://youtu.be/8fItSvJDDJ4