Taken from the 2012 romantic comedy starring Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe as best friends who must face the ultimate question: what if the love of your life really has been there along?

…okay not really 😉

As anyone who’s watched either What If (2013) or The Circle (2017) will already be taking furiously to their keyboards to point out… Emma and Dan have never shared a screen together other than in the Potter series. But with a little editing magic – and some help from a Taylor Swift song – we can still wonder, ‘what if… ?’

This started life as an editing challenge to see whether it’d be possible to convincingly depict a relationship between two characters who never actually meet on-screen (or even in the same movie, come to that). Watching back What If (2013) and The Circle (2017), I noticed that both leads spent a considerable amount of time on their phones… and I was already in love with movies like Searching (2018), which delights in demonstrating exactly how much information can be quietly conveyed via screens. It was a short step from that to hearing Taylor’s ‘I Almost Do’ one night, and thinking ‘damnnn I have to do this project!’

There are about 16 VFX shots in here (I think), running the gamut from full roto-and-screen-replacements to invisible slowdowns, character paintouts and screen animations. None of the phone screens were actually recorded on a device; they were all put together in After Effects and animated by hand to best fit the song.

Confession time: I felt a bit weird halfway through about using Dan and Emma’s real names on their phones… but all the personal information is faked (obviously!), and I thought it’d probably introduce needless confusion to come up with random character names instead.

…I mean, I suppose I could have written Harry and Hermione on the phone screens, but then I thought about how long it’d take to 3D track a pair of specs onto Dan’s head in every. single. shot he was in, and decided it sounded much more fun to not do that. (Maybe I could stick a disclaimer at the beginning about contact lenses… ‘FOLLOWING THE BATTLE OF HOGWARTS, HARRY FINALLY WENT TO SPECSAVERS.’ No, that’s a whole other parody.)

Anyway, you’ve all long since stopped reading, so it’s probably time to wrap this up. 😉 If you actually bought into the illusion for a few minutes, that’s awesome – all I wanted to do was see how far you could push the Kuleshov effect, with a bit of help from some strategically-replaced screens. Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it!

Also, both Dan and Emma are brilliant actors and I’d love to see them in a movie together again… may never happen, but here’s hoping.

Oh, and last thing – What If (2014) is literally one of my favourite movies ever; probably my favourite romantic comedy, period. (It’s so good.) If you’ve not seen it, you’re doing yourself a disservice – and c’mon, where else can you see Kylo Ren and Harry Potter discussing relationships over a freshly cooked tray of nachos?

|| LIST OF REFERENCES: ||

What If – Elan Mastai & Michael Dowse, 2013
The Circle – Dave Eggers & James Ponsoldt, 2017

I Almost Do – Taylor Swift, Red, 2012