RADHEYA JEGATHEVA Painting by numbers

Radheya Jegatheva is a young filmmaker and creative with numerous awards and official selections in film festivals around the world. His new short film Painting by Numbers will make its world premiere as part of Flickerfest 2021’s Best of Australian Shorts program, going down at Camelot Outdoor Cinema on Thursday, February 25. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to Radheya Jegatheva to find out how he got into filmmaking, what he’s looking forward to at Flickerfest this year and what he’s putting his hand to next.

Where did the idea for this film come from? And did it change at all from how you initially imagined it once you went about creating it?

It all started with a meeting at Port Shorts Film festival with the incredible producer Matt Hearn, who expressed an interest in collaboration. Matt Hearn gave me free reign with this project which was really refreshing as I didn’t feel limited in my creativity. I knew I wanted to make a film addressing climate change and the environment state of the world, but trying to put my own creative twist on it to help encourage conversation.

I decided to take three seemingly unrelated topics – the climate crisis, The Seven Deadly sins and the most famous paintings in the world – and interweave them to create meaning. The film didn’t change a whole lot, but some of the painting choices and topics changed from my initial plans, and there were a few welcome additions including some suggestions from Matt.

And how is this film different from what you have put your hand to before? Did you have to learn many new things to make it happen?

Digitally recreating paintings to try and capture the feel of the original was a new challenge that I had to overcome with this film, especially due to how each painting had their original and modernised version. Previously, I’d also worked on soundtracks and music independently, but I was very grateful this time to be able to collaborate with Steeve Body who was able to lend his expertise and advice in the music creation and sound design process – which was a welcome difference.

Do you remember always being interested in creating films? Was there a particular film you remember seeing when you were young that made you think “I want to do that”?

Films and animations had always been a huge part of my life, and I really started being interested in creating them towards the end of primary school.  Initially, I was drawn to the VFX/post-production side of things, partly due to my love for a TV show called Primeval. I began to learn how to use programs to create visuals, including animation and motion graphics. I’d always loved writing stories and so naturally they came together as films.

And have there been any writers or directors that you feel you have drawn on more than others for ideas and inspiration?

I wouldn’t say there were any particular writers or directors in terms of ideas, but certainly films such as Gravity and 2001: A Space Odyssey helped to fuel my love for space, for example – especially seeing it translate so beautifully onto screen (two of my short films, Journey and The Quiet, were set in space).

Furthermore, growing up, I rarely saw recognised POC “behind the camera” in the film industry. So I do look up to directors like James Wan not only because I admire and respect his directing style, but he’s also a Malaysian-born Australian filmmaker who lived in Perth who has really made it in the industry.

What other films making up this year’s Flickerfest program are you particularly fond of that audiences should look out for?

There are so many amazing films that were part of Flickerfest’s lineup, so it’s hard to choose! One I will mention is Idol, I was lucky enough to watch it as part of Sydney Film Festival. It’s truly exceptional and managed to captivate my attention for the entire 19 minutes despite it being one shot, in one location with one main actor. It also tackles some very relevant and concerning topics around the entertainment industry and isolation. Definitely keep an eye out for it!

Do you have any other projects in the works that we can look forward to?

I’m very fortunate to have secured Elevate+ production funding for a Screenwest-supported short animated film, Bird Drone that I will be directing, with writer Clare Toonen and producer Hannah Ngo. The film is about a lonely seagull who forges a deep connection with a beautiful new creature – a human-operated drone. I also have a couple of other personal projects I will be working on for a while, but they’re still in the conceptual stage.