A woman is faced with existential crisis after learning that the universe is an untitled simulation.

Of course, the chances that we all live in a simulation are pretty high. But making the big discovery in a laid-back comical fashion is a refreshing twist to the genre. ‘Untitled Earth Sim 64’ brings that lightness in the extremely complex matrix of paradoxical proportions, where we just have fun watching the lead protagonist trying to make sense of things. Director Jonathan Wilhelmsson tells us about the inspirations and challenges he faced during the production.

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

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

These kind of stories can easily turn cheesy and over-done, what did you do to make sure it doesn’t fall down that hole?

It was a balance that I was very careful of, and the first cut did have a lot of moments where I felt it went too far into cheeze territory. I was able to adjust the tone by cutting certain lines and by writing some new dialogue for the researcher character. Test screenings for friends and colleagues were very helpful in this regard to get a feel for the right balance between humor and earnestness.

What were the biggest production challenges of putting this film together?

One of the challenges was how to shoot long dialogue scenes in an interesting way when one of the characters is just a voice. We prepared by storyboarding the whole film to get a good variety of shots and to think about the blocking. The first cut still felt lacking, so there was a lot of little inventions, new shots and extra gags that were added in post to keep it interesting.

The other major challenge was the post-production process. One of the key reasons we were able to make the film on quite 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. It was a lot of work and some of the effects shots turned out to be real backbreakers, but it was very rewarding. I think that the great thing about low-budget filmmaking is that while you might not be rich with money, you’re generally richer with time, and that is an incredibly valuable resource.

Have you been surprised by the response to the film?

You never quite know how your film is going to be received while you’re working on it, but I knew that we had given it our best and that I was very proud of everyone. Excitingly, a lot of people seem to like it and I’ve been really humbled by the reception so far. I’m especially glad for comments and messages we’ve received from people who liked our behind-the-scenes film. I think a good BTS can be just as enjoyable if not more so than the actual film, so we worked really hard on that and it means the world to us that people are watching and enjoying it.