“The Sky” and the Freedom of a Deadline


Amelie Liebhaber, Staff Writer

If you appreciate cinematography like I do, you may have watched some of YouTube’s short films. Though less common than spooky internet theories and cute cat clips, such videos do hold a presence on the platform and span a wide-ranging audience, from comedy lovers to psychological horror enthusiasts. Their thumbnails often present some unusual shot with an eye-catching title like, “The lone survivor of the first mission to Mars transmits a message to Earth,” and their ability to draw viewers in can even be compared with clickbait. Yet in my experience, they rarely end up being a waste of time. More often than not, I find myself taken through heavy stories with richly designed characters, witty details, and plenty of well-planned editing. Many also have something to say beyond the straightforward scenarios they exhibit, and what I ultimately love most about so many short films is their willingness to dive into the cold, unseen and unexplored waters of emotion. 

The YouTube film I have been most impressed by is shakingly unclear and horrific. Called “The Sky” by Matt Sears, it features two girls sitting in a field under a stormy sky for the last 11 minutes and 14 seconds of the world, reclining in lawn chairs and talking. I initially watched “The Sky” without context in order to experience the film on its own, no summaries or spoiling comments getting in my way, and so did not realize what awaited the leads. I was left at the leisure of passively observing their conversation, the only troubling drama being that of the raging tempest miles in front of them, which I found beautifully surreal. 

For the most part, their conversation is lighthearted, until one of the character’s mother calls with an upsetting message, causing a rift between her and her friend. Soon after, she runs into the woods, and only then does the viewer understand her peril. She witnesses a vision of her mother being destroyed in a fiery storm, and is soon engulfed in the same storm herself. The sky the two girls had been watching was not a hint at rain – it was an omen foretelling the end of the world.

I watched the video again, and this time the characters’ behavior made sense. They refused to cower from the clouds not because they were unfazed, but because they saw no reason to hide. Any person might run from chilling rain, but the friends did not dash from this all-killing storm. And they were fazed, as one of them voices: 

“I can’t believe it’s actually happening.”

Recently I found myself finishing a homework assignment late at night, my clock warning me of the diminishing time (I have a feeling this is a very common thing for a high school student to experience). As I answered the assigned questions, I found myself tempted to do even more analysis, to include the perfect words and draw a few more connections across text. I did this mostly out of fear, out of the anxiety that less thorough work would not be enough. As I continued to remind myself to stick to the main points and remember the clock, my mind wandered to the next day, but I could not imagine it. It seemed there was no “next day,” only there and then. This was eternity, staring down at my work, reading and thinking and answering, a storm about to overtake my grade and all my future with it. No college, no career. Goodbye future life. Goodbye happiness. This was it. I was going to Harvard.net.

Strangely enough, the further along the minute hand ticked, the less frightened I began to feel. Perhaps it was that I was closer to facing the cutoff. The disappearing time seemed to lighten the weight of my deadline. 

Gradually the future became irrelevant. There I was, scanning a textbook for useful quotations, a student answering questions on mythology. I was a student with a book and a laptop. This was all, and there was nowhere for my mind to be but the present. The story was mine, the answers within reach, and the time a number on an analog machine. 

When we are in fear, we look up at tomorrow and forget ourselves. I could not change the deadline nor slow my clock, but I did not need to be anxiety-driven, either. All I had to do was answer the questions. And no, there was no apocalypse.