In Radheya Jegatheva’s The Quiet, a glowing moon drops into the frame like an egg yolk in a frying pan. Literally. It makes the sound of a cracked egg. A heartbeat later, the sun bursts into existence with the plasticky sound of a gas stovetop being switched on. The stage is set.
Radheya is a one-man animation department. In his spare time, he writes, directs, animates, scores, and edits his films from his home in Perth, Australia. His reviews are good, too. At age 20, he’s won countless “best film” awards in film festivals across the globe. Awards didn’t enter the conversation when I interviewed Radheya over Skype. Instead, we chatted about his influences, and exactly how he’s able to make these things.
Primeval is a British TV show circa 2007 that explored what would happen if prehistoric creatures plagued England. Radheya, who spent his childhood reading Calvin and Hobbes and making short films on his dad’s laptop camera, was also into dinosaurs. Entranced by Primeval’s digitally animated creatures, he began watching behind-the-scenes videos on Youtube. In high school, it was this curiosity that led him to eventually teach himself the industry-standard visual effects software called Adobe After Effects. Radheya assured me that he was “very impatient in the beginning,” but believes that “you can learn a lot when you’re on your own, messing around on programs.”
Dinosaurs aren’t Radheya’s only influence. “I’m just a sucker for space,” he admitted. Radheya listed Gravity as a favorite movie, and added that he loves the plot twists and drama in Black Mirror. Both of these elements can be found in his short films. While The Quiet and Journey are both outer space-themed, Radheya is first and foremost a master of drama.
The Quiet is a film about a prisoner who likens his experience to floating in outer space. The first few minutes feature pleasant panoramic views of the milky way. The narrator, Radheya’s dad, introduces the conflict: “I can’t seem to forget what happened to my brother… the events of that fateful day, so long ago.” Radheya’s visual puns take center stage here, in spite of this concerning news. While the narrator reminisces, “I had woken up hungry, I sat in my bed,” Saturn moves to rest on a gramophone, its rings spinning like a record. These details keep the eye from wandering, keep the audience focused. At this point, I’m hanging onto every word.
Smoothly-animated transitions and well-placed imagery are a large part of what makes Radheya’s films so exciting to watch. The Quiet is a perfect balance of echoey silence and heart-palpitating speed. Another film of his, iRony, comments on the negative effects of cell phone addiction in society. Watching it is like being launched into space, or more accurately, launched into a computer’s brain. This film is fast-paced from the start – we’re given just enough time to run our fingers over the wires before we’re snatched back out again.
IRony is a great example of the power of narration. For iRony, the original plan was to seek a female, siri-esque voice, but Radheya ended up liking his dad’s “more sinister tone.” Lines like “social approval is mankind’s latest drug” are even punchier in this tone, and are short enough to resonate with any technology-addicted zombie.
Radheya describes his filmmaking as an “evolutionary process.” iRony started out as a poem he wrote in high school. In his final year, the poem felt promising but didn’t feel complete. He began playing with visuals, doing “a lot of thinking” to rework existing lines and find new additions. It took him almost an entire school year to create the film, seeing as he could only work in pockets of time between assignments. This is still quite impressive, considering how laborious animating is.
For The Quiet, visuals came first. The image of “a salt shaker and stars, a gas stove and the sun” came to mind and “that was it,” said Radheya. He and his dad, upon the success of their collaboration on iRony, decided to come up with the plot together. Radheya really enjoyed this. Though one of his favorite parts of animation is being able to act as a cameraman of sorts, deciding what the frame should contain, he also likes being able to “make connections with like-minded people.” This is something he gets to do in college, and on his recent study abroad trip to China.
Speaking of college, it’s worth mentioning that Radheya is a double major. He started out as a Marketing major at Australia’s Curtin University, and then added the Screen Arts major after his parents saw the success of iRony and gave their blessing. Even though he isn’t studying animation in school, Radheya is learning about every other aspect of filmmaking. “For some reason I’ve ended up as the music guy in a lot of the films,” he laughs. In some ways this works out, because Radheya credits music as one of his major sources of inspiration.
I was dying to know how Radheya finds the motivation to complete his films in the midst of everything else in life. He told me that once he has a “eureka moment,” he does whatever he can to follow through with it. “I have no idea if it will work unless I make it,” Radheya explains. His process from there is littered with discarded ideas. “There are so many things I tried to make that didn’t work out,” he said. “I still don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing though because you’re practicing your skills and embracing the failure that comes with the process.”
Radheya admits that he hates being in the same room when people watch his films. Even so, failure is not a huge concern. “When it comes to making art,” Radheya explains, “there is always going to be someone who will hate it and someone who will absolutely love it. You just have to embrace the subjectivity of it all.” In this case, dedication to vision is far more important than catering to an audience.
I asked Radheya “what makes a filmmaker tick.”
“I don’t know why, but the first thing that sprung to mind was food!” he said. Family and friends, too. “If I didn’t have them, it’d be a lot harder to keep going on.”
These things are crucial for survival, but what about the film itself? Why make it to begin with? Radheya remembers watching Coco on the way back from the grand canyon on a bus with little screens. It had him bawling. “I don’t know why but for some reason it just hit an emotional spot,” he laughed. “Films are powerful!” Radheya strives to make films that make the viewer feel something. His films are “not necessarily [meant] to change their mind, but to kind of impact them.”
Graduation is on the horizon for Radheya. Animation and live action are both options, and he hasn’t decided on one yet. “Definitely a crossroads comin’ up,” he smiles nervously. “But I do love creating, so as long as I can keep creating and getting my vision out there, I’ll be happy.”
As a fellow graduation-bound art student, I’m comforted to hear that I’m not alone. None of us are, for that matter! As long as we trust our vision and push through difficult times, complicated software and all, we just might have something.