ShortList 2018: ‘Wave’ Filmmakers on the Importance of Language in Internet Age

Short tells the story of a man who wakes up after a head injury and no longer knows a word of English

Benjamin Cleary said the inspiration for his new short, “Wave,” was a BBC news story about man who hit his head and woke up speaking fluent Welsh, although he wasn’t from there.
“Human communication fascinates me, especially as the internet has begun to drastically change what that looks like on a global scale,” said Cleary, who crafted a fictional story about a man who wakes up from a five-year coma to speak a language that puzzles linguists all over the world. “Wave” has become a finalist for TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival.

Written and directed by Cleary with co-director TJ O’Grady Peyton, who also plays the lead character, “Wave”  follows a man named Gasper Rubicon who wakes up not knowing a word of English and goes on a quest on the internet to find someone — anyone — who can understand him.

Posting a video to YouTube, on which he is also ridiculed and bullied for his language, he soon finds another man who has faced a similar fate. But after spending a lot of time just speaking with him, he soon realizes that the two don’t have much in common, and he sends him on his way. After months of waiting, Gasper finally receives positive support messages about his condition from people all over the world.

“The film talks about modern-day technology, the pros and cons of the social media generation and draws inspiration from real cases where people have received traumatic head injuries which have resulted in truly bizarre consequences,” said Peyton, who along with Clearly researched a lot of languages for the short before going with a Scandinavian/Asian-inspired combo.

In the beginning, Cleary scripted the new language — though on set Peyton proved “fluent” enough to speak the made-up language. “The other technique we used on set was I’d get TJ to deliver his lines in English first to get the emotional feel for the delivery, then go straight into Gasper’s language,” Cleary said.

“Wave” has headed to multiple film festivals such as Tribeca, and was crowned the winner of Best Irish Short Film at OFFline Film Festival and Best Narrative Short Film at the Kerry Film Festival.

Cleary’s first short film, 2015’s “Stutterer,” went on to win the Oscar for Best Live Action Short;  Peyton has a background directing commercials for brands such as Adidas, BMW and Red Bull.

“I do think we need to have a conversation about the state of the internet right now and where it’s headed, how it’s shaping our world, for good and for bad,” Cleary said. “If ‘Wave’ can do its little bit to help spark that conversation, that would be cool.”

Peyton added, “I hope people take something from the short and that it leaves an impact, raises a question or sparks a conversation. That would be great.”

Watch the film above. Viewers can also watch all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22.  The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.