Watchmaker At Time’s End is a 2D animation short film that took five years in the making. The film is set against the backdrop of a Kerala town where time is uncomfortably relative (read that again). The story revolves around a watchmaker who struggles to make the perfect watch that could tell time. Mind you, time here runs differently. We spoke to the maker of this short film, Shaheen Sheriff, on his journey animating this quirky Malayalam sci-fi film.
A Little Bit About Shaheen Sheriff
Shaheen Sheriff has always been fascinated by animation since he was a child. For him, it was his calling. Now, as an adult, he continues to animate, illustrate, and even make games. He ran a studio called Ghost Animation in Kolkata along with his friends for three and half years. However, he had to leave it due to Corona. As such, he started his own company in his hometown Thrissur called Nalloru Studio to build on his passion in the field.
How Did The Story Come About?
The Watchmaker At Time’s End is a bit tricky to understand. After all, there’s a failed marriage, a watchmaker, and meteorites involved. In another universe, anything is possible, right? Even the wackiest of all scenarios as you see in the short film. That play with our imagination is what made Shaheen arrive at this story.
He shared, “There was a course where I had to come up with a story to be made as a 3D animation. It was easier to make lights and shadows in 3D because hand-drawing them for each frame of the animation would be tedious. I had this visualisation in my head where the lights are constantly shifting but people continue with their lives. With that in my mind, I realised that if light shifts continuously, then the sun and moon, too, shifts erratically. I kept on brooding about this idea and finally, the story of Watchmaker At Time’s End came naturally to me.”
Shaheen made this short film using several free and open-source software. It took him five years to make this film as it was his passion project. The project started when he was still in college. With time, he had a full-time job to attend, did many freelance gigs and had a studio to run. Amidst all this, with whatever free time he had, he would make this short film. He added, “Luckily for me, I had the deep-rooted interest within me to finish this project. It was so hard to balance it all, but something kept me going. Every year, I expected that I might get sick of it by the next year. But luckily, that never happened. I would look forward to working on this.”
He used this film as a testing ground for learning new things. With each shot, he learned about a different technique, software, or method. He commented, “You’ll also see that throughout the film. The style changes across several shots. I didn’t really mind it. At the end of the day, I had fun.”
While he was at Ghost, his friends and he did a couple of screening tours all across India called First Flight where they showcased their short films. Watchmaker At Time’s End was one of them. He had the opportunity to travel, present his film, and interact with like-minded people who found his film incredible. He shared, “Watching the audience live, reacting to our films was amazing. I was wow-ed by it. All these years, I was sitting on my laptop, making the film all alone. I was making it for the joy of it. When an audience reacted to it positively and interpreted it in their own way, I was stunned.”
The Watchmaker Within Him
Shaheen resonated with the character of the watchmaker as it, in a way, depicted his life too. The watchmaker is completely engrossed in his work that he isn’t aware of the happenings around him. Similarly, when Shaheen makes an animation, he is enveloped in his work and would not give much thought to the outside world. In his words, “This film felt like a PSA from me to me to not get stuck in work but to look around and enjoy.”
Shaheen is currently working on a video game called I Can Human. It’s a hand-drawn, animated, 2D game. You play as a robot who tries to pass off as a human to reconnect with his friends. He hopes to release it by 2023.
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