James Croke

Run Time:
11 minutes


Synopsis: A genius invents a sophisticated device that gives him a super power for the perfect heist.

Where did the idea for Shift come from?
I wanted to make a short film that I would like to watch. I enjoy a well-made heist film so that was my starting point. I believe the main character in a heist film should always have a motive beyond money that drives the story. This led me to the idea of a discredited scientist who wants to use the heist to prove his genius. The science fiction element was the next natural progression in the development of the story.

Walk us through how the special effects were so effectively used in this film.
We were working with a very low budget on an ambitious concept. Luckily for us, two incredibly talented VFX artists joined the team (Aaron Auty and Anthony Tan) and made life a whole lot easier. In addition to computer-generated images, we also tried, wherever possible, to use props and clever set design to achieve special effects in camera (i.e. during the shoot) and reduce the amount of work required in post-production.

For the main (or most prominent) visual effect, the goal was to be as subtle as possible. This was a story-driven decision, as well a practical. The 'simpler' an effect looks, the more believable it is that our character could have created it in the basement of his house. Also, as the story progresses, the heist becomes the main focus of the story and we actually see less and less of the effect.

In many ways, it's the special effects you don't notice in SHIFT that I think are the most effective (but I won't tell you what, or where they are!)

There are subtle references to controversies like the Philadelphia Experiment in which U.S. Navy allegedly caused a destroyer to disappear and then re-appear in another location 200 miles away back in 1943. What’s your feeling about these controversies and how did you use them to imply a back story for your main character.
In developing the backstory for our main character, we needed to discover his motive and establish his process, even if it's a little unorthodox. No matter how intelligent he is, he would have to look at the findings of others working in his field and build on that. So, naturally, he would have looked into the Philadelphia Experiment. The controversy surrounding that experiment, and others, reflects the character's controversial work. Other hints at his past and research are dotted throughout the film, but mostly in the opening sequence. I don't expect audiences to pick them all up – but depth in the production design always builds character depth.

Science goes bad is an oft-repeated theme in film. Do you think film is inherently anti-science?
No! Film loves science! The exciting and ever changing world of science is an almost endless supply of inspiration and, on a purely technical level, we wouldn't have the kind of films we do today without it.

Your question touches on something that I am always aware of when I'm writing: the idea of science goes bad as a theme is one that I want to avoid. I don't see science being inherently bad or good. What I'm more interested in exploring is how characters use science given their circumstances. In this case, it’s robbing a bank!

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