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  • Writer's pictureAkash Sunethkumara

TEMPORAL - BEHIND THE STORY

A director's journal through the space/time of production on Temporal (2022).


 

INTRO


Hi guys! Akash here. Last year I directed this little film called Temporal.

Akash Sunethkumara
One of these days, I swear I'll get some new snaps

I really dislike the term “director”, rather prefer “filmmaker” since that’s a more accurate description of what I end up doing. I’ve been writing this entry periodically for the past year since Temporal was released and logging in my experience on having worked on this project. Temporal has been the most challenging film we’ve done up until now and this story ended up becoming something that meant a lot to me. It’s been a therapeutic, and at times hair-pulling, journey through time!


And since it’s been a year since we released Temporal, thought it’s about time I put this out there.


This post is broken into various sub-topics so just save yourself the time and skip to whichever segment interests you the most.

 

CONTENTS



 



INCEPTION

In mid-2021, Kasun Rathnasiri my trusty DOP who has handled cinematography on every Junkie project, called me out of the blue to tell me he had this idea he wanted to run by me. It turned out to be a time travel film, just the right kind that scratched my “temporal-itch” XD.


At the time, I was working on pre-production on another short film that I had wanted to shoot since late-2020 but it kept getting pushed back and in fear that this new project would cause further postponement, I was somewhat hesitant to accommodate his idea. Kasun revealed that the storyline was something he and Harindu Gunawardena had come up with together. I had encountered Harindu before at various comic-cons and although we had spoken about working on something together, nothing had materialized till then.


Upon persuasion, I read the storyline and found that it had a few chinks in its armor and there were bits I didn’t really dig, despite my love for doing time-travel and I expressed my concern to Kasun who readily admitted the same.


In the meanwhile, I kept working on the other project and we were two days away from shooting when the 2nd, 3rd? (I keep forgetting which number it was) lockdown happened. The covid cases were high, especially around Pannala where we were due to shoot, so regretfully, I was forced to pull the plug temporarily.


Going back into lockdown sucked donkey balls. While most of our projects had been delayed before, it had always turned out for the better. Still, having to postpone a project is not something you get used to although you know the outcome will be improved as a result of the additional time it grants you. And not knowing when lockdown would end further aggravated my anxiety of when we’d be able to pick up a camera again.


However, unbeknownst to me, Kasun and the team were secretly working on the storyline for what would become Temporal in the backbenches.


 

DEVELOPMENT


The Outline

While still under lockdown, Kasun and Harindu approached me again. This time, with a newer, polished and more complex storyline. There was no script but the story was something that I immediately connected with. I didn’t really know why yet by then, but something drew me towards the project. To Harindu I was like, “Bro, write an outline and send it over when you can coz if you do I’d like to take a pass at this.”

Usually, this would be the point where most people would back off and not follow through, coz asking somebody to write something tangible was the ultimate litmus test on whether they really really wanted to take the project forwards or not.


Then a few days later, to my actual surprise, the outline was lying in my inbox. I was used to writing my own scripts for the short films we had done before. But this was a whole new experience where the story was already prepped and laid out before me. The guys (Kasun, Harindu, Sachithra and Ruwanga) had meticulously gone through every loop hole possible so after a few read-throughs, I figured I didn’t have to invest a lot of thought into figuring out any of the time-travel logic. This allowed me the freedom to be creative with how the narrative flowed.


an early concept design for the time machine

The outline was great, as a time-travel storyline it employed the simplest predestination paradox. However, it was lacking the human connection. In our previous films, there was hardly a fleshed-out storyline in anything besides Eidetic and to an extent, in The Summoning. But this one was different. My first draft ended up being around 16 pages of narrative. I tried to weave in emotion, add some conflict for the protagonist. Since we released The Knight Out, something I had learned was that if you include something related to Lankan culture, and given that it was presented in a cool manner, the audience would dig it. TKO was purely experimental. So I decided to take the experiment a bit further with this one.


 

Weaving in Philosophy

Time is a deep subject. We are all time-travelers who move in the direction of the future, perceiving every living moment as the present that immediately gets added to the sands of the past. People have always been fascinated with the concept of changing events from their lives. And when it came to a time-travel story, I wanted to go deeper in terms of the philosophical aspects.


I wove in a conversation scene between the protagonist (who ended up being named Kalpa – yes, I know, very on the nose for a character in a movie about time but screw it) and the janitor where the latter plays the trope of the wise old man dropping nuggets of wisdom. The term “Kalpa” refers to the time period in-between creation and re-creation of a universe (time between two Big Bangs?) in Buddhist & Hindu cosmology. I borrowed the ‘wisdom’ from the Dhammapada, a Buddhist book of quotes by the Buddha. And coincidentally I ended up naming the janitor Ananda, after the Buddha’s most trusted disciple.



Initially I was kinda vary about tapping this side of culture although in my gut it felt like the right move. History has not been very favorable to artists utilizing religious statements in most forms of media. In my worried mind, I could see a bunch of saffron-robed Vin Diesel-looking baldies waving their fists and yelling obscenities at me. But again, I was like “fuck it”, I had my (HSJ) FAMILY!


I decided to go with the line “Appamado Amatha Padam” after a convo with my dad. Turned out later that the line could be interpreted in multiple ways and did not necessarily deal with its literal translation of “don’t be late”. Harindu went to the extent of consulting a monk and in the end, we figured it was something that could actually work within the context of the story we were telling.


Penning the screenplay took a few days and soon enough we had a blueprint with which we could work on.



 

PRE-PRODUCTION

With the script as a guide, the guys set to work on acquiring the necessary locations and equipment needed to make this happen. I wasn’t sure how this project was going to go in terms of production since we had never had anybody approach us before with a developed storyline that I was keen on investing my time in. At the time, the HSJ team was already involved in preproduction on the other film and Harindu was bringing in people he knew to work on this so during the initial stages, any conversations as to what banner the production would fly under were kept aside. The script kept on changing gradually with each draft and it’s a normal thing for us to go anywhere from 5-10 drafts before we shoot.


a set of storyboards from Temporal - I end up drawing almost all the major shots so that I don't have to do much explaining later


For a project of this scope, without Harindu’s connections I don’t think we would have acquired the necessary equipment or locations and permits in time. As he worked on those, the rest of the team worked on crafting a time machine. The Machine was described in the screenplay as the first prototype, “quite simple and unremarkable in terms of looks”. According to the story, Element 115 was powering our machine, an isotope that supposed former Area 51 worker, Bob Lazar mentioned in his interviews as being able to create gravity. Therefore, the thinking behind this was, a stable isotope of Mc-115 would create gravity and bend space-time since the three are always interlinked. The design of the machine was influenced by this theory and Kasun headed the design aspects including a base, three arms with gravity emitters and a canister that would house the isotope.


le Time Machine and the making of it ft. Kasun x Sachithra

Casting was a process that Harindu took on. Through his connections in the advertising field, he tapped Vimukthi Kiriella to play Kalpa. Vimukthi had dropped me a message on Facebook after the release of TKO saying he had enjoyed the film. Meeting Vimukthi was quite fun coz of his enthusiasm to work on the project.


our leading man - Vimukthi

Casting the female role was not an easy one. The first few audition tapes we received were quite horrendous. The actresses we wanted for the role exceeded the budget that we had or else were occupied and/or we had to deal with some greedy talent agents, the type that would gladly resort to cannibalism during the pandemic-stricken era. After the longest search we came across Ishanka Abeysekara who would eventually inhabit the role of Nikita.


leading lady - Ishanka

Rehearsals with the cast happened during this same time and we only had the luxury of a couple days before we ran into production. As a filmmaker, two of the things you wish you always had more of are time and money. And I would eventually learn how we quickly were running out of both.









post-rehearsal selfie with the cast

 

PRODUCTION

Any sane person would typically spread their shooting schedule for a film like Temporal across a span of 5-6 days. Being the money-strapped psychos we were, we giddily scheduled it for 3 days. Now mind you, shooting with a Red Cinema camera comes with its own set of problems and takes a village to handle it. In a way, that’s the price you pay for pristine picture quality. In addition to actually paying for it. Lol.


Our crews had always been quite skeletal before. But on Temporal, including production house crew, we had in total of around 50 people who worked on this project.

considering "different ways" of shooting on set

I meticulously plan as much as possible before any film shoot. This includes visualizing the entire film in my head, timing it to see an approximation of the duration the motion picture could run for and coming up with a shot-list in addition to storyboarding it. Temporal had a big ass storyboard that I plastered on my wall. Despite all the planning, Murphy’s Law is something that applies very strongly to filmmaking. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So it’s always good to have Plan B, C, D all the way to Z. But at the time, I lacked the foresight to plan for this eventuality because unlike previous Junkie films, there were quite so many things out of my control.


the big ass wall of storyboards

 

Shoot at Trace Expert City (Days #1 & #2)

Days 1 and 2 were set at Trace Expert City. Everything was ready a few days in advance for the shoot. Everything except the art department that arrived fashionable late setting us back by a few hours. To make matters worse, the props they had acquired to dress the set of a modern science lab were probably from the museum.


Sweating profusely, the team and I had to decide which few props to use and which ones to dress the background with, to fill the frame and keep them out of focus. Combine this tardiness and blunder with the time that it took to handle the Red camera along with multiple takes, many scenes had to be compromised.


Kalpa's monitoring system - a fully-functional interface created by Sachithra

Like any production before, I had to problem-solve on the fly. Multiple shots became one or two, where I had to combine several elements and go for longer takes which ended up taxing Vimukthi and the crew quite a bit. Towards nightfall, Harindu called up a quick meeting with Kasun, Sachithra and myself. The morning’s delay meant we were running out of time and money and the more prudent way to finish the project would be to shoot overnight and finish the remaining scenes for the day before dawn. We all agreed to roll with the plan and also chipped in from our pockets in order to facilitate the extra expenses.


fear of running outta time - a constant bane

And the shoot ran for a continuous 17 hours on set.


By the break of dawn, Kasun was down on the ground, only waking up to roll the camera and going back to sleep on the ground by the time I yelled cut! The external production crew were instrumental in helping us out with getting everything we needed and sacrificing their sleep, going overschedule and bearing with our constant camera setups.


Everybody retired for a few hours during daytime before reconvening in the evening for the final stretch of Day 2. Ishanka’s scenes were supposed to have wrapped up on the day before but with our delays, she graciously arrived on the second day to finish them. With most of the scenes wrapped up the previous night, Day #2 was less stressful and we managed to complete it before too long.

data data data...

For this project, we had tapped in former students from Junkyard Theory as an initiative to provide hands-on experience of being on a film set, people whose projects had impressed us to bring them on board the show. Nuwan Perera and Akira Wijekoon handled the data transfer and backup while helping Andrew Sean (our editor) out with renaming and organizing files. Tatiyana Welikala, while she could not be on set, would contribute to the edit later on during post-production. There was another girl who was chosen but appeared on set for a day and vanished, never to be seen again.





 

Shoot at Botanik and the Streets of Colombo (Day #3)


Day #3 was set a week after. We knew it would again be an all-nighter so the team was prepared for that. What we were not prepared for was the lack of a place to park our data station for transferring and backing up files. This caused some problems with backing up the footage. The day started past dark on the rooftop of Botanik and proceeded onto the streets of Colombo.

the Botanik rooftop

The most challenging (but equally fun!) segments to shoot were the car chase sequence. Kasun and I got into the back of Andrew’s car and we had an open line to Vimukthi who was driving Nuwan’s vehicle. Kasun was being propped on the open back and an assistant held on to him as he held onto the camera. And as we rolled down the streets, I was barking orders at both Andrew and Vimukthi while Kasun probably went deaf. Nikita’s death scene probably scared a few onlookers on their way to work. Imagine seeing a woman covered in a puddle of blood by the corner of the street and bunch of people surrounding her. Definitely not the type of scenario anyone would like to see first thing in the morning!


shooting at breakneck speeds

On all three days, the prosthetics and makeup were handled quite efficiently by Opula Fonseka who had done her fair amount of homework into making each wound as progressively gruesome as possible. And I personally loved how well it turned up on camera. The only downside was that it took quite some time to apply those on to Vimukthi which added up to the delays. Still, her dedication to the craft added immense production value to the entire picture.


Opula working her magic




The visual effects shots were ones we had not planned out on how we would pull them off. I had an idea how the glitch would take place whenever Kalpa gets pulled back into real-time or into the past so we had multiple takes of each vfx shot in order to overlay them later. In hindsight, I would have had the visual effects supervisor on-set to plan these out better.


The final shot we did was the one where Vimukthi vanishes from within the car while he tries to hit the brakes before killing Nikita. We were on a race against the rising sun to wrap up and had planned to shoot this take at the production house but the assistants quickly set up the green screen and slider, enabling us to finish it all up without switching to another location.



Everything was in the can – now on to the process where the movie is actually constructed.


the Temporal crew


POST-PRODUCTION


 

Editing

Probably the most strenuous process of them all is when you actually start assembling the film. Luckily this time I had handed over the editing task to Andrew, which is a first given how much of a control freak I am with the edit (lol again). Andrew was way faster at cutting stuff than I am and he’d already had experience working with RED footage and Resolve (which we had decided to use for the edit since it would help seamless transition to the color grading process). By the end of the first week of post, we had a rough assembly that spanned 30 minutes! The script was just 17.

editus maximus...

Usually, one page of screenplay amounts to one minute of screentime but this turned out to be one of those exceptions. I thought that in time, with refinements the runtime would decrease as was the case with our previous films but nope, Temporal was a stubborn bastard that didn’t budge. Andrew supported said bastard with the reasoning that it did in fact need the full 30 minutes to let the story build out and for the loop to work. None of the short films I’d done before exceeded the 16-minute mark, so while I was somewhat cautious about the new runtime, in a way it was exciting. We’d shot 1/3rd of a feature in 3 days (at breakneck speed and sleepless stress but still! An achievement in our books!).


The editing took a bit over a month and once Andrew and I were happy with the edit, we let it sit for a while before I showed it to a few people and got their feedback. This process is always helpful because you end up “snowblind” – as Star Wars editor Paul Hirsch puts it – the more time you spend with a project. Distance from the edit and eventual feedback sessions were instrumental in getting the cut to its final stage. Sometimes, you get the gut-feeling that certain changes would supplement the edit but without hearing it out loud from someone else you don’t act on it. Tatiyana’s eye for flow and feedback helped shave off a few lingering shots that were getting redundant and tightened the edit up.



 


Visual Effects

The visual effects were what took the most amount of time when it came to post-production. Wyanga Abeysekara was involved in a process of experimenting that involved “happy accidents” which made the glitching effects what they are. During this strenuous process, I made a mental note to myself to begin visual effects on future projects during the pre-production stage itself. At least then, we would have done all the experiments we needed to and arrived at a ballpark idea on how to execute the final effects on the final film. I have no idea how many times our computers crashed during the post-production stage!


studios have a vfx army, we have a Wyanga

Temporal was vfx-laden and quite heavy. Later on, I felt that this could have been one of the most tiring processes. Having to drive down to Wyanga’s, figure out what effects worked and which ones didn’t, waiting for renders and the whole shenanigans was time-consuming. On any larger film backed by a studio, you’d have an army of vfx artists pulling the load. They have an army. We had a Wyanga. And mad props to the dude for single-handedly pulling off the entire effects on this film.

 

Scoring

The film score or the background music is something that always elevates the mood and feel of the project. There were a few scenes that our trusty composer from the Netherlands, Ruud Hermans, elevated to sky-high levels, specially the emotional and thrilling moments in the third act. Despite never having been in the same room together during any single project we worked on, Ruud and I have always had a relationship where he would understand what I needed musically. Being a musical dork who had zero-knowledge on musical language, I would always communicate in terms of how I wanted to feel while watching a scene. Ruud immediately understands what I need and with a maximum of 3 iterations, we usually arrive at the final piece that we’re both happy with.


how we score and discuss music, via WhatsApp

Needless to say, Ruud’s score also contained a bit of sound design. It’s something that the guy does which makes our lives easier and I am yet to be initiated into the art of how he sculpts sounds for our projects. Watching scenes from the movie with the score is always an exciting thing. Whenever a draft from Ruud lands in my inbox, I’m super curious to see what it feels like. Not what it sounds like, but what it FEELS like. So I set aside all other things and focus solely on this.


Music is always an intuitive process for me. If I don’t feel it, I let my composer know straight away. Thankfully, these occasions are few due to our obsessive communication before getting down to the process. Mostly what happens is that I tell Ruud what is missing in a draft. Sometimes, when we can’t agree on a scene, I let him surprise me. And this I’ve found yields some amazing scores as well.

 

Sound design and a botched mix

Sound design is usually one of my favorite processes during post. Andrew and Dhanuka Nadeeshan did the foley along with Dimuthu Pitigala who recorded the fx. Designing sound is a process that requires careful attention to detail, specifically when the sci-fi genre was involved. My favorite process in this film was the sound design for the time machine. I believe we had over 10 layers for each time the machine turns on. All these layers, they add a whole new dimension and give the illusion of creating something that feels larger than life. Shenick came in during the later stages of the sound design to put his unique touch on a stereo mix but his role was far from over, he would become the person to eventually save the entire sound for this project.


Since Harindu had planned for a cinema premiere, we wanted to do a 7.1 mix and the only affordable option we had was Leen with whom we’d worked before on Eidetic. When Leen and I sat together to mix, we realized we could only do a 5.1 mix due to an issue with the software he had. This process took a few days as there were a ton of sound that needed panning to the 5+1 eventual sound outputs. Once the entire process was done, another assistant did the export and unbeknownst to any of us, the volume levels of the 5.1 mix were drastically low. We would only discover this on the day of the cinema premiere.

the 5.1 mix in session


 

The end credits

With every film since The Summoning, I’ve always wanted to try something unique with the credit sequence. This time, I knew I wanted something that would raise the bar not only for us but for Sri Lanka as a whole. I know this might sound a bit arrogant but I’m yet to see any Lankan film with thought and effort put into a credit scene on the same level that we’ve been busting our asses to do. RAM Studios came in as a blessing when they decided to take on the task of creating the scene and I requested them to try UnReal Engine.





With a team headed by Ravindu Omantha and compositor Ravindu Jayawardene who carried most of the load on his back, they churned out a 3D title sequence that gave me goosebumps when I saw it. Tharindu Boteju created the 3D models of our main characters with such detail that I am still mind-boggled on how he did it with just a few sample photos for reference. Now this scene required an ending title track!

 

“Undone” - The ending title track

As always, this task fell on to the lap of music maestro Shenick. The directions I gave him were to utilize the clock ticking and make this as emotional as possible. He did exactly that and more. Shenick got Romaine Willis and Ravi Jay to hop on the project to lend their amazing vocals. Romaine and I had a few conversations about what elements she would need to tackle in the lyrics and the main theme for me was “turning back time”.


A few days later, she sent a rough sample on WhatsApp on top of Shenick’s track and when I heard it, I knew we were headed in the right direction. With this track, we also wanted to tap into Sinhala rap and since we had worked with Ravi before, we were experimenting with a blend of two different worlds. Just like the film which utilized a Western sci-fi concept set within a Sri Lankan-setting, the track mirrored it the same way and to my surprise, it worked way better than I thought. The direction I gave Ravi was to dive deep into “the regret of not having done what you should have”. And being Ravi, he mixed in philosophical undertones along with what I gave him to create his segment.


 

The mid-credits scene

An idea that Kasun and I had been playing around with ever since we started Temporal was to bring in something more. Something that would essentially lay the groundwork for future projects. We had already created a feature outline with the same name. And also had a series of feature film ideas lined up with a few recurring motifs and one such was the prevalence of Tusker Enterprises, a massive conglomerate which acts as a plot device in all these flicks.


So we placed Kalpa working within the confines of the Tusker Enterprises R&D division. However, we had always wanted to play around more with Tusker. And its fictional founder, Bernard was a character that would play a major role in an upcoming feature film. Therefore, once Temporal had a locked edit and a decent stereo mix, we decided to take the risk of including this character in a post-credits scene. Long ago, Shenick had suggested veteran actor Lakshman Mendis for the role and I had never been able to see anyone else inhabit the character. And when we met Lakshman, Kasun and I slowly looked at each other, a nod passed between us before we both started grinning like idiots.


Lakshman watched both The Knight Out and Temporal. Until we were done screening the films, we didn’t know what his reaction would be. But when I went to unplug the USB from his tv, from the corner of my eye I saw him look at his daughter, who was also watching both films, and she gave him two thumbs up! Lakshman asked us a bit about the character that he’d be playing and I gave him a roughly outline and just like that, he was on board.

creating Bernard - long term plans!

We shot the mid-credit scene at Vihanga Weerasinghe’s. Vihanga would eventually become a main collaborator with the HSJ in the months to come and his home provided the ideal setting for Bernard’s office.

the skeleton crew that shot the mid-credit scene

Anisha Barakathulla, who had played the vengeful ex-girlfriend from The Summoning, was cast as Bernard’s secretary. The entire scene was shot within the span of a few hours of night and ended up becoming my favorite scene from the whole movie, picture-quality and look-wise. The only things I wish we could have done better were go for more stable shots and/or used smoother camera movements.


This scene ended up in the final cut, without Harindu’s knowledge until he saw it at the premiere.


 


Color grading

Asela Bandara, our long-time colorist, had a gala time grading the RED footage. He’d always been a strong proponent of lighting the set properly first and then exaggerating whatever colors we needed via post. This time while we tried our best to play around a lot more with the lighting, Kasun and I were not entirely happy with the outcome. Once again, lighting is a process that requires ample timing to get right.


Asela's grading involves setting the mood and getting the skin tones right

Still, Asela was able to knock it out of the park with the massive flexibility raw footage offered. Also, we had shot in 8K, which greatly aided us not only in grading but also the edit as I personally love manipulating the frame in post-production. Once the grade was finalized, we took the entire project over to Gevindu Lokuge’s place to render it out.


This yielded a lot more problems where I had to spend an entire night reframing everything because all keyframes from Andrew’s edit had been reset for some goddamned reason. After a sleepless night redoing it all and half a day of rendering, we had our final output.


 

Cinema Premiere

Since I had dragged in more and more people from the HSJ team eventually throughout all stages of production, Temporal ended up becoming a HSJ project on paper and screen while flying together with Harindu’s production banner.


Harindu had always intended to screen this film in a cinema for an invitees-only audience. We were looking at a few venues and ended up settling on Liberty Cinema, not the big screen on the ground floor but the smaller venue upstairs. With the limited number of seats, we couldn’t pack in everybody we wanted into a single screening so we were allowed to have two. The first screening was for special invitees while the second screening was for crew and family. So on 8th of March everybody was dressed up and ready for the show – until the film started playing. We could hardly hear the audio which we had spent so much time mixing and I started panicking. We made a few calls and tried to get the cinema to increase the audio but even with that, the mix was sounding weird.


By the end of the first screening, we knew something had gone horribly wrong. The projectionist told us that it was an issue with our mix, which continued to baffle me. But whatever had happened, had happened. I was worried about our next screening for the crew and family.


Special invitees be damned, this was the screening, which to me, mattered the most. The projectionist said he’d increase the volume but this didn’t do much to save the film.


cinema premiere - screening #2

Shenick and I knew we had our work cut out for us before the online release, which was supposed to happen on the 12th. Despite the audio issues, the invitees seemed to enjoy the movie. Harindu was surprised at the post-credits scene. Apparently, once you screen a cut of the film to the censor board prior to a public screening, you’re not allowed to add anything more. The cut Harindu submitted had no post-credit scene attached!


I hardly remember any of the positive comments we received that day. The audio blunder was all that was on my mind.


 

Online release and saving the mix

With four days left for our online release, I sent the 5.1 mix over to Ruud to see what the issue was. He replied back with a screenshot of the waveform on his software. The entire thing had been mastered to such a low volume that only cats, dogs and Superman could have heard it. Color me majestically pissed at this blunder which could have easily been avoided if the technicians in charge had been more careful.

For YouTube, we decided to do a stereo mix and Shenick came in to save the day.


With a ticking clock, he spent a night at mine, painstakingly going through the mix and doing the best he could to save something that needed at least a week to do properly. For the time machine sound effects, he used the Ambeo Orbit plugin to create the illusion of putting the viewer in the shoes of Kalpa, while the machinery whirs around you. I’m not entirely sure if this was transcoded well once it was uploaded to YouTube due to compression but to me, that was the highlight of those few days we spent working on the mix.


ADR or dubbing - the process I like the least

I wish we could have had more time to spend mixing the vocals better. Post-production is a time-consuming process not only because there are so many cogs and wheels which need to be put together to make a film coherent but also because you need time in between to take a step back, pull yourself together and revisit the project with fresh eyes. And when you don’t have the luxury of taking that time, you end up with a mix where the vocals feel dubbed.


Temporal was finally released on the 12th of March on the High School Junkies channel, becoming our biggest release till the time of publishing this blogpost. Shenick was at mine while we premiered the film online, the mix having being completed a few hours before.


It was, in a way, a bittersweet moment. I had spent the past 8 months working on this piece, pouring every ounce of effort I had into it. Every Junkie had contributed in their own ways to bringing this project to life. And now that it was out, what next?



 


The aftermath and what Temporal means to me

To date Temporal has over 150K views and for a 35 minute short film, I think it’s been successful in that regard. The yardstick by which I measure the success of a film released online is a different one. I count the number of hours that the audience collectively viewed the film and if that exceeds the number of man-hours we spent working on it, I believe the scales are balanced. Or at least tipped heavier in the side that matters; the audience.


At the end of the day, you want your film to be seen by people. The engagement underneath the film, in the comments, was quite surprising. People had come up with their own theories about the time-travel elements, Kalpa, the post-credit scene, you name it. TVNath did an amazing breakdown of the film on his channel, several other YouTubers had videos about the film as well. Temporal was making its rounds around the cybersphere and that pleased me.


the not-so-curious case of the droopy-eyed director

Still, it must be noted that for me, Temporal was not the most pleasant film to work on. Although it might seem like filmmaking is a glamorous process, it’s not. Towards the last few months, I came to a place where I could not wait to be done with it. One, I had been neglecting almost all my other work in order to get this done. Sometimes I had had to let go of a few other client projects that would have been more financially lucrative as opposed to a project that I was not being paid for. I’ve been raised to finish whatever I started and that habit was totally at play. Plus being captain of the ship, it doesn’t leave you much room to abandon ship. Certainly not when so many people were working to make your vision a reality. And yes, there were a few times I wanted to.


I stated earlier that I was drawn to Temporal for reasons that weren’t clear to me at the start. But as the months rolled by, it became clearer. Which brings me to point number two, I was pouring in a lot of emotions into Temporal. And some of them were quite personal. At its core, Temporal a story where the message is to live in the moment because once a moment is gone, there’s no way you can pull it back. Even armed with a time-machine, Kalpa was unable to rectify his mistakes. And there were moments in my life which I once believed were goners, things that I could have handled differently. These moments were reminiscent of emotions I had actually dealt with earlier in 2021, locked away for good measure, and adopted the philosophy of living in the Now. But by doing this film I had to open that locker once more and I didn’t really like spending as much time with those memories as I did. I remember tearing up hard the first time I listened to the completed Undone track (which to this day is unreleased – kindly forward all queries regarding this track to Shenick/Romaine/Ravi Jay – thanks –k – bye!).


You outgrow things in your life, and Temporal dealt with things I had outgrown. So once the project was finally released, I felt like it was a goodbye to a whole different part of my life.


But-!


The end of something is also the beginning of another. And Temporal laid the stepping stone to bigger things which we had always wanted to do since 2018. The mid-credit scene was created to that effect and is a testimony to the fact that sometimes, certain projects come your way to act as bridging points to where you want to go. And while working on Temporal, there were so many aspects of life that were changing. New relationships were built during the process of making this film, connections that would work with us on bigger projects and eventually become people who would become an integral part of the High School Junkies team. And family.


Moreover, personally, I came to find peace within, throughout and by the end of this project. Most of the time, when I rewatch my movies (which is an instance rarer than the sighting of Haley’s comet), all I see are mistakes and places that I could have done better. Temporal is no different. But I know we did the best we could given the circumstances. And it’s all part of the journey, the path that one takes should be taken in order to enjoy the path itself more so than the destination. Temporal was an experience, painful but in hindsight it had its beautiful moments too.

 


The future – what lies ahead?

The mid-credits scene certainly left some things to be desired. Who was Bernard? What was up with him? Tusker Enterprises? What’s going on? The answers to these questions were planned a long time ago in my little home studio.


who is Bernard?

A feature screenplay lies in my drawer that requires some dusting and revisiting. But it’s been about damn time that we started work on one.


I’ve always been of the idea that we too can make entertaining films which are commercially viable and capable of sustaining (a currently-nonexistent) industry.

I’m not an arthouse filmmaker. Never have been and I don’t really want to try my hand at it. I’m not really a festival baby either. Cinema, to me, has been about escapism, entertainment and having a great time for the span of a few hours. That’s our intention with our movies. To entertain primarily. And to tell a good story along the way.


We’ve been experimenting quite a bit with our shorts. To exhaust as many mistakes as we could on these and not necessarily make them on our feature. We’ve been scouring the terrain. And I feel the time is ripe. Our final short film is currently in the works.


And then, you ask?



I guess we’ll see.


-Akash




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