Radheya Jegatheva spoke to Grok about his journey into filmmaking, his most recent work, how his life has changed because of his artistic practice, what he’s working on now, and offers advice for other young filmmakers.
At the age of 19, Radheya Jegatheva has achieved more than most young creatives dream of achieving in their lifetime.
In 2014, as a high school student, Radheya made his first short film, Journey—an epic voyage that follows two astronauts lost in space, working together to return to Earth.
The film won over 80 awards and almost 200 official selections for various film festivals globally.
In year 12, Radheya wrote a poem called Seven Billion about the modern perils of social media and technology. It won two national poetry awards: a young Australians writers award for secondary students (beating over 30, 000 other entrants) and a Karen W Treanor Poetry Award.
From there—by himself, and without any formal training— Radheya transformed the poem into an eight-minute animated film titled iRony.
Again, Radheya’s film gained global recognition—it was selected for 188 official film festivals and nominated for 88 international awards, including 14 Best Film awards.
Currently, Radheya is studying a double degree in Screen Arts and Marketing at Curtin University, and guesses at the origin of his creativity: “From a very young age, I was just always passionate about expressing my creativity,” he says. “I guess I’m not exactly sure where it came from, but I loved TV shows, reading books and cartoons—even Calvin and Hobbes. I guess I consumed a lot of media, I think that just developed and evolved as I grew older.”
But it’s his mother who is owed the biggest thanks: “My mum says that it comes from when she was pregnant with me. She went to origami classes and she had to walk in the snow to get there,” he laughs.
The poem that inspired iRony strongly speaks to anxieties surrounding technology. When asked about the inspiration behind the project—a revelation, an event or just a general observation on today’s increasingly online, yet disconnected, society—Radheya explains it’s a mixture of all those things.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have made the poem or the film if I wasn’t involved with social media and technology,” he says. “I was definitely affected by things like the need for validation. Like, if I didn’t get enough likes for a photo, I thought that represented my popularity. I understood that was unhealthy, but it still had an impact on me.”
The film-prodigy also describes being affected by some of the things on the news: “I saw an article about a 14-year-old girl who committed suicide because of cyber bullying. That really struck a chord.”
But Radheya emphasises that he didn’t want to covey technology or social media in an entirely negative light: “The film was created on my laptop and the soundtrack is all digital—I use technology and social media every day. It goes back to the name of the film which is iRony (irony) because we reap the benefits of technology and social media every day and it is so incredibly useful and convenient. I just wanted to look at certain aspects of it through a more critical lens. I wanted to cause discussion and contemplation; to make people reconsider the overconsumption of social media. It’s about moderation.”
Besides being rich with meaning, iRony also has an impressive production value. Radheya explains that his proficiency in animation software started in year 10.
“I was drawn to animation and film because I was very curious about V-effects (visual effects) and CGI. I think I was watching a show called Prime Evil—or maybe it was a mixture of different movies—but at some point, it clicked. I started doing research about what programmes to use and I would watch V-effect break-downs in my spare time—which is kind of nerdy—but I wanted to get an understanding of how that all worked.”
Although he always dreamed of making live-action films, he didn’t have any of the equipment necessary. So, he grabbed his dad’s Mac Book Air and used that as a camera.
“I’d walk around and record stuff, and I’d make terrible short videos!” he laughs.
Without a film subject course to take in high school, or a crew, he turned to animation because he could do it on his own—which he has, to great success.
Radheya says this has changed his life, but not because of the awards and the accolades: “I didn’t make films for film festivals in that sense—I just wanted to be able to express my creativity. It has changed my life in that some of the film festivals, when the budget is high enough, can actually fly out the filmmakers to come and attend the festival. I am very grateful to be able to go to places like Turkey, Japan, the United States and Prague.
“The amazing part of it is meeting so many amazing and talented people and being able to watch their films and interact with them. Because of my films I have been able to travel and see the world from new perspectives. I think that’s how its shaped my life.”
When asked what advice he has for other young filmmakers starting out, Radheya chuckles at the question before explaining.
“When I get this question I’m always like ‘I’m still a young filmmaker starting out!’”.
But the thoughtful and articulate answer he provides reveals that he takes his role as an influencer very seriously.
“Firstly, my advice would be to accept failure with courage and dignity. When you’re submitting films to festivals—or even during the production process—and you try something that doesn’t work, keep trying again and again and again. It is very discouraging, but you have to accept that finding success will also mean that you have to face failure and rejection during your journey. It’s about persistence.
“Secondly, make the most of your resources. When I was learning how to make films, I didn’t really have anything to go by. It would have been nice to have a mentor or something like that, but there is so much information online. For example, with Journey, some of the elements are edited and manipulated images from the NASA image archive. It’s finding the things that you can use when it seems like you don’t have any resources to start with.”
It’s safe to say that it will be exciting to see what this young filmmaker does next.
Currently, he’s working on another animated film while he ruminates on a few ideas, but he’s interested in developing his live-action skills and working with other people in that field.
And his ultimate filmmaking goal?
“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet, but probably to make feature films and to really connect with people and make them feel something. Films can be very powerful; they can change a mind, they can make you think from a different perspective— I just hope that my works strike a chord with people.”