Director Colin West McDonald Talks ‘Here & Beyond’ + Time and Perception

ATM: Time does not actually exist. I am going to tell you why. When you think back on your memories, your mind does not record or capture the numeral time. The human mind cannot do this. You only think about the images which get decoded into memories. You also cannot think of a numeral time in the future, but only in the present. Time is a manipulation to capture what happens in the world. I just coined it the Time Non-Existent Theory.

CWM: Yes, Gabrielle. This is definitely a psychological conundrum, especially using film which is a time-based medium. This is opposed to books where you could just reread the same sentence. Whereas, with movies, time is progressing and moving forward. It is interesting these themes of time using a time-based medium. I agree with you in a lot of ways. Time is not as clear as you think. You can look at a watch and time is passing. I am meeting this morning at 10:30 in the morning. It is all a relative experience where we share it with other people as almost as a convenience factor. I am glad you picked up on this subject. For me, the film is not chronological like most films are made. It is like A+B=C. This is like A+B-Z=F. It does not have the same equation structurally as other films. So, yes it was an exploration in terms of time.

ATM: Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein thought space and time were the same things in his SpaceTime theory. He did not believe it was two separate things.

CWM: This explored the whole theory of what this means. He had the whole Theory of Relativity. Also, he explored if time existed on a massive scale as well as tiny scales. It is a different thing when considering this. Also, when you are moving. The faster you go; the more time slows down. It is an interesting theory.

ATM: We do not need the days of the week. The days of the week are for people who do not work 24 hours. New York stays open for 24 hours. The entertainment and media industry is also open for 24 hours.

CWM: I see what you are saying. It is sort of a fabric of existence instead of a day today. I get this, Gabrielle.

ATM: There was an author Alan Lightman who had a book exploring different perceptions of time. His book Einstein’s Dream compiled a series of Einstein real dreams he had while sleeping. In his dreams, you see so many different depictions of time. There is one where everyone is stuck in one day. They were stuck in one day to stay with their happy moments and not have to experience the negative moments to come.

 A mother looks at a photo and wants to get the time back with her son but cannot because he is grown. Then time was depicted in this unique way. There are The Nows and the Laters. Both parties understand time is infinite in their universe in the story. The Nows are the ones who get decide to get the most out of time. They to go to school to get 10 degrees and make serious use of their time. Whereas, The Laters waste their time and procrastinate because they are aware that time does not run out in their world.

CWM: I have heard it but have not read it. This is an interesting point. It is funny that you even bring up Einstein. I have been considering this project that is probably going to haunt me for a very long time. I have been thinking to put together an Einstein biopic, but not in an educational viewpoint. It would be getting very subject about his theories of time intersecting his own reality. It has been an idea that I have been chewing on.

ATM: Time and the process of life go quicker when you have more to do. On the other hand, it goes slower when you are not doing times. This is not time, but only the essence of life. The quickness and slowness measured on what one chooses to do with their life.

CWM: Yes, this is true. The outside forces affect your perception of time. The interesting thing there is the more you look at a clock the slower the time goes. When you are hanging out with your friends, the day only goes by a few seconds. You are not thinking about time. If you are working a 9 to 5 job that you do not like, then you are going to look at the time all day.

ATM: If time machines were more visible, then it would manipulate the structure of life with the way it could form. It could derail someone’s destiny. Sometimes you must learn from your mistakes to help you in the future or in your life. But with time, machines, then you cannot learn.

CWM: If this was possible in our reality, then this would be a huge shift with how we respond to reality. This would be quite a change. I tend to play with the elements related to sci-fi worlds. I like looking through the human condition through this lens. The most successful sci-fi is not about sci-fi at all. It is about the person going through a situation. Even Groundhog’s Day, it is not a time travel movie, but you are watching the arc of this person becoming a better person. This film about human emotions over the aspects of time travel. My co-writer talks a lot about how much we wanted to lean into the time travel aspect. If the main character went back to the past, then how much would it affect his future. It is fun to think about. It is philosophical and not emotional based.  

ATM: What does time mean to you?

CWM: This is a really good question. This is funny. I wear a watch and have worn one for a very long time. My dad also wears a watch. My grandfather would wear a watch. He had the same one. He had about two or three over the course of his life. He only needed to replace the band and bought new batteries. I ended with his watch after he died last year. I was there through the chaos. The watch was his last procession on in the hospital bed. He had his gown on and then the watch. A few days, I took a closer look at the watch and realized it was three hours behind. It was interesting to think about the reality of this. If he thought it was a different time, then what it really was. It was a perception-based thing. Either he is living in the past or we are living in the future or it does not matter. My relationship with time is complicated. I tend to think about it more than most people for some reason.

ATM: How influential would it be for you if time did not shape your life?

CWM: Hmm. It would have less anxiety. I feel there is a time limit to everything. You are marching to a certain destiny or final destination. It is a motivating factor.  There is a sci-fi would about immortals and vampires who live forever. There is a plight to this and scary thing to not having a time limit. I do not know. Maybe it would be almost as bad. If you have an infinite amount of time, then what the motivation to do anything at all because you could always do it later. I remember my grandfather motto he lived by was “Why to put off what you could do tomorrow, what you could do today.” This is quite interesting and something I think about. Without time? I would be a lot lazier and stressed out. What about you? I am very curious. Like if time did not exist?

ATM: I do not actually live on time anymore. I work 24 hours literally. I tend to go by the wind pressure outside and the shades of the sky. When preparing for conference calls and interviews is the only way I know there is time, but since I just work with the mindset of “I have to get this and that done,” I do not go by it. I memorized the shades of the sky with time. I can guess the time based on the wind and the color of the sky. The way you know it is night is by the coldness of the air outside. The morning will always be the coldest. Just think. 3 am can also be at 9 am.

The sky is dark. Think about daylight saving time. This shows time can be manipulated. I look at life as a large existence. For example, it is like being in a big room, and you have a LOT of things to do before the lights shut off, the door close, the equipment stops working, the red lights by the exit signs go off, and the building locks down. Things are of the essence, so no breaks. I never metaphorically leave the room. So, the days of the week are pointless, and time is infinite to me, but physiologically there is a clock because bodies do not have plasticity forever. This is how I operate and live life.

CWM: You are bringing up the cosmic nature of it all. It was originally brought up about the sun. This was the original timekeeper. Sundials and other things. Then it was realizing the earth made rotations around the sun 365 times. It is a social structure in terms of Daylight Savings time. There is a cosmic nature. I actually like your idea of basing it off the temperature and the position of the sun and sky rather than what it says on the clock. If you go back to caveman days, then time does not matter in the same regard. Day to day is more about existing then in a cultural way.

ATM: For example, the time could switch, and we would never notice. We would never notice if someone switched 3 am to 9 pm.

CWM: Yes, but the only thing would be the stars. If you were an astronomer, then you would be able to tell.

ATM: But how come the stars do not show during the daylight and the sun do not show at night.

CWM: This is interesting. This is a matter of physics and how the earth is shaped and where it is in relation to the sun. It is about realizing the Earth is turning than the Sun moving. It is the Earth that is moving. This is all illusion based. This is why people thought the Sun spun around the Earth for a long time. We have come to realize this is not the case, but the other way around. We were talking about how we perceived reality. If time machines were changing the perception of day to day, then it would be conflict shift that it is not the Sun but the Earth. I love these big cosmic conundrums and questions.

ATM: How do you perceive reality?

CWM: This is another interesting question. It is more subjective then we realize. We are all looking at our existence through our own eyes. The film goes this route also. It is exploring this person from their subjective point of view. They are going through this change in reality. This is about a scientist who has rigid rules on how the world should work and suddenly these rules are able to bend and shift. As far as reality goes, there is far more to it then you could imagine. We are all having our own experience. For example, picture two people sitting at a diner having a conversation. One has their back up against the break wall. The other can see the entire restaurant. It is a total different experience with what these people are seeing, hearing, and smelling.

This experience is different where they were sitting in the same place having the same conversation. Even you and I, we are on different sides of the country. We are having this shared conversation, but we are having very different experiences. I have my glass of water and a couple of pages on the desk. I do not know what your situation looks like. Reality is very flexible and fluid. This is a huge question with a subjective answer.

ATM: There is one world, but there is not one world. An individual’s perception of life equal to the definition of the world. Each person has two worlds. The first world is what we can see or understand. The other one is the world that is shaped based on our environment, background, and language, and culture. I just coined it; this is called the Two-Dichotomy Worldview. So, it is possible that everyone does not see the world as one, but we think everyone does. Even if you chose to understand another’s view or world, it could never be your world.

CWM: I consider there is one world with many perspectives.

ATM: Right, and this is the most realistic definition of Earth socially.

CWM: Yes. after the screening people would come up with a family member who had dementia or Alzheimer’s. We would have pretty involved conversations. There is a lot of overlap, but also a lot of differences in the experiences. The film builds this community. When people see this and impact d by it means something. They feel other people are going through it and they are not alone.

ATM: How can mental degenerating disease blur someone’s perception of time?

CWM: It is interesting. The story inspired by my grandfather who died of dementia in his later years. I went to visit him. This was a few years ago. He said, “Hey, Michael” as I walked into the room. Michael is my dad’s name. I do look like my dad and like he did while younger. Does my grandfather think he is sixty looking at his 30-year-old child right now? What is his perception of time? I am not sure how I got into the story.

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