With the echoes of consumerism’s biggest showcase, Black Friday, still reverberating around the Western world, it feels like a perfect time to feature a film about an Amazon drone in a dystopian future. Tackling themes of materialism, technology and humanity, JEFF, from filmmaker collective shy kids (Noah), places its audience in the perspective of its titular AI delivery bot as it ruminates on its place in the world.
“We decided to completely flip the perspective and make the story about the drone”
Originating from an initial concept which pictured a future where little kids would be shooting down drones in order to survive, the film began as a story about the humans, but when things didn’t click the directors decided to shake things up. “Like Jaws before us we decided to completely flip the perspective and make the story about the drone”, the filmmakers explain. And though they set theirselves a difficult challenge – making us care about an inanimate object – the transition certainly seems like a success.
With a protagonist of artificial intelligence at its core you’d be forgiven for expecting JEFF to lack a human element and something to relate to, but the shy kids team do great work in making their titular drone surprisingly relatable and provoking real empathy from their viewers. Whether its ruminating on the disposable nature of products, wanting to be appreciated or just simply wishing for a day off, it’s hard to not to agree with its outlook and its existential crisis. His downbeat, slightly depressed qualities, as opposed to the usual ‘happy to help’ attitude of on-screen robot helpers, only making him feel more understandable and interesting.
Created during the COVID pandemic, the directors admit that a major inspiration behind creating their short was a desire to “travel to the most beautiful places in the world while we were stuck at home” and there’s certainly a transportive feel to JEFF. Shot early in the morning to give a deserted post-apocalyptic feel, as the drone zips around these landscapes it provokes contrasting emotions. There’s a sense of freedom that you get from this sense of flight, but for JEFF it’s obviously restricted by its work and you get a feeling of monotony from the drone’s narration.
The filmmakers complete the look of their film by purchasing some Chernobyl stock footage, to act as the desolate landscapes and then add the drone’s UI as an overlay on top of the shots from its perspective. Finally, they just needed to give their titular AI a voice and for this they turned to the vocal talents of director Walter Woodman, who provides what he describes as his best “Nathan Fielder impression”. Although JEFF delivers a stark message and leaves you with a fairly bleak conclusion, it’s to the directors’ credit that the film never feels too heavy. Ultimately, it’s an entertaining piece that feels
Amazon prime for development.
Consisting of Patrick Cederberg, Walter Woodman, and Matthew Hornick, shy kids are currently in post production on a groundbreaking documentary about Psychedelic
assisted psychotherapy and are “half way through” the creation of an animated
film called Shylo. The trio are also in advanced talks to create a feature version of JEFF and a series based on their innovative short Noah.