Making Untitled Earth Sim 64: Behind the scenes of the new sci-fi comedy short

Director Jonathan Wilhelmsson on the set of Untitled Earth Sim 64.

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A few years ago Cinema Australia covered a short film called Waltzing Tilda. Well the makers of that spectacular short are back with another impressive piece of work, an offbeat and quirky sci-fi comedy called Untitled Earth Sim 64.

Here, director Jonathan Wilhelmsson gives Cinema Australia readers access to some insightful and educational behind the scenes content from the Australian / Swedish co-production. And don’t forget to check out the full film below.

Karen Olrich-White in Untitled Earth Sim 64.

Untitled Earth Sim 64

Marie is an offbeat woman who suspects that all is not right with the world. After experiencing various glitches in reality, she is called upon by a mysterious being that accidentally lets slip that her universe is a simulation. Marie’s life quickly unravels at this revelation, as she desperately looks for meaning in an untitled simulation.

The Beginning of Untitled Earth Sim 64

In early 2020 we were getting ready to go to Hong Kong to shoot our next short film. It was to be a comedy-drama set on the last day on earth, where earth was a simulation that had run out of budget.

We had booked the whole trip and were about two weeks away from flying out when we first heard of the coronavirus.

The shoot had to be postponed 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 realise 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 a project to shoot at home, I began writing what was essentially a stand-alone prequel, called Untitled Earth Sim 64.

I wanted to make something short and sweet that dealt with existentialism in a lighthearted and hopefully comforting way.

The idea of a woman dealing with the fact that our universe is a simulation not even worthy of a proper name seemed like a great set-up for that.

Cast and crew on the set of Untitled Earth Sim 64.

Filming Untitled Earth Sim 64

We shot the film in Gothenburg, Sweden over a weekend in the summer of 2020. It was a micro-budget project, but we were lucky enough to have my old workplace lend us the equipment for free.

We shot it with a skeleton crew consisting of three people behind the camera, two actors on location and a voice-actor from Australia who pre-recorded his lines so that we could use playback on set.

It was a really fun and relaxed shoot, the most intense moment being the filming of the final scene. I had the genius idea to shoot it during blue hour, which looks beautiful, but it also meant that we had about 30 minutes to capture a lot of important shots.

We hustled and managed to make it just in time before we lost the light.

Director Jonathan Wilhelmsson during post-production of Untitled Earth Sim 64.

Post-production

One of the key reasons we were able to make the film on such a low budget was that the entire post-production, from the edit and visual effects to the final grade and sound design, was finished by myself on my laptop.

Filmmaking is all about teamwork of course and I had a great group of friends and creatives who helped me with ideas and feedback through the whole process.

Not all films can have a post-production crew of one, but I think it’s a great example of how accessible filmmaking has become. If you can’t afford a big crew or a post-production house to work on your film, that doesn’t need to stop you.

It certainly took a lot of hours to finish it all, but the great thing about independent low-budget filmmaking is that while you might not be rich with money, you’re generally richer with time.

It was quite a sad day for us when we had to postpone that shoot in Hong Kong. We still don’t know when we’ll be able to go through with it, but I’m certainly happy that it all led us to create this little film.

We had a blast making it and I hope you have fun watching it.

Written, Directed & Produced by Jonathan Wilhelmsson
Executive Producers Holly Fraser, Ellen Johansson and Mattias Ehrenberg
Starring Karen Olrich-White and Alexandra Frick with the voice of James Fraser
Director of Photography Jonathan Wilhelmsson
First Assistant Director Ellen Johansson
Editor, Visual Effects Artist & Colorist Jonathan Wilhelmsson Production Assistant: Linus Holm
Aerial Photography Albin Sjöberg
Sound Recording, Design & Mix Jonathan Wilhelmsson Produced with the support of Spoon Agency and Film i Dalarna

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