Ideas at the heart of quantum theory, to do with randomness and the character of the molecules that make up the physical matter of our brains, lead some researchers to suggest humans can’t have free will.
FIRST PRIZE | Quantum Shorts 2018
A detective, a serial killer and a parallel universe provide the framework for this quantum thriller. Slide! was directed by student Thomas Tay Li Guo and filmed in Singapore. Try to keep track as the characters meet their parallel selves. Science hasn’t yet shown us a way to move between universes – or even proved if they exist - but it’s incredible to consider there could be other yous living very different lives.
To explore how this idea emerges from quantum physics, check out this piece by physicist Chad Orzel, who has been a judge for Quantum Shorts fiction: https://www.forbes.com/sites/chadorzel/2016/01/05/what-the-many-worlds-i...
Please tell us about yourself and the team that made the film
I am studying materials engineering at the Nanyang Technological University, but I took a gap year to do a diploma in screen writing at the Singapore Media Academy. Towards the end of the year, I found out about this competition. By then, I had learnt some techniques and bought my own camera. I filmed and directed this short.
The team are mostly my class mates from the script writing class. The diploma class is open learning, and most of the students already have a very accomplished career.
How did you come up with the idea?
When I saw the Quantum Shorts site, my first thought was to not take part because I thought it would be very difficult to write a film on quantum physics. It's not like romance, action or adventure, and unless you have a huge budget, you can’t make special effects. After a while, however, I decided it would be a good challenge because the topic is hard, and if it's hard for me, it must be for everyone, so I may as well take my chance.
I took 3 or 4 weeks to draft up my idea, and I thought parallel universes was the way to go, to work with the idea of doppelgangers. Many people think there's two of each actor in the film, but actually there's just one.
In Universe A, there's one Glendan and one Victoria who are married. In Universe B, Victoria is a murderer and she comes to universe A to escape Glendan B, a detective. This is to make people understand how parallel universes would work, that they could be so different to each other.
Did you do some research?
I read a lot. I foresaw that a lot of people will use the idea of Schrodinger's cat, so I wanted to do something else. I chose parallel universes. I enjoy comics and superhero stories, which have a lot about parallel universes as well. Because I knew this theory growing up, it wasn’t very difficult to write a script, although it took me a long time.
What’s something interesting about how you made the movie?
The best takeaway for me was working with a team. Before this, I worked alone on different stuff. The house we filmed in was one of my teammate’s. I credited her as the other director because she made special arrangements to decorate her house to make it suit the tone of the film. And we had people doing make-up, and someone holding the boom mic. I enjoyed having a team.
What reaction do you hope from viewers who watch the film?
I don't want to be too ambitious. I only hope that people who spend five minutes watching the film get a bit surprised at the end, and that it leaves an impression with them. I also hope they learn a bit more about quantum physics. A lot of people confuse time travel and parallel universes. I know the festival is trying to make people more interested in science, so hopefully this film will clarify that they are different things.
What are your favourite sci-fi movies?
I would say Back to the Future. Nowadays Interstellar and all those modern sci-fi movies are good, but it's nice once in a while to watch something that is old school. It was very different then to make sci-fi, and I think Back to the Future did a good job.
How do you feel about being a finalist in Quantum Shorts?
I feel very honoured and excited to have my film selected. I will be at ArtScience Museum to see how people react, and I hope they will enjoy it.
Thomas Tay recently completed a diploma in screenwriting at the Singapore Media Academy. He is a student of materials engineering.