How ‘Project Almanac’ Is More Of A 2015 Time Travel Movie Than ‘Back to the Future II’ Was [Set Visit]
Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015 by Germain Lussier
We’ve all seen time travel, but we’ve never seen time travel the Michael Bay way. Bay is one of the producers of Project Almanac, a found-footage time travel movie described as Primer meets Chronicle. In the film, time travel is raw, gritty and painful. Bay’s time travel is pretty unique, and will be handled by the film’s director Dean Israelite.
“I’m South African, so I fly to South Africa all of the time and I’m totally f****d up after a twenty-four hour flight,” said the first time director. “And I haven’t time travelled. So If I’m f****d up just going on a plane, what are these characters going to feel like when they go back in time?”
He went on to describe how, in Project Almanac, time travel involves weightlessness, electromagnetic fields, and all sorts of environmental craziness. In short, this isn’t time travel you’re used to seeing in other films that may or many not have been set in this year.
But, to be frank, we didn’t see it either. Much of that time travel visualization will be done in post. When we visited the Atlanta, GA set of Project Almanac on July 1, 2013, Israelite was shooting the most important time-travel excursion of the film. In it, a tight-knit group of friends go to the bathroom during school and travel back in time to go Lollapalooza. Girls in bikinis and guys in chain mail, peacock feathers, leis, neon tank tops, beer hats, body paint, rainbow wigs and all the madness you’d expect at a music festival were on set. It was a crazy scene, one that plays a pivotal role in the January 31 film, and a great example of how Project Almanac is doing time travel in a very modern, 2015-ready way.
Below, read more of our Project Almanac set visit.
Let’s travel back to the very beginning. Writers Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman had been thinking about doing a time travel movie for a long time, but they didn’t just want their movie to go back in history like other movies. They thought “Let’s just actually play with the time machine,” Deutschman said. “Watch kids try to get back further, and further, and further, and do more damage in their life. And treat time travel as more of a superpower than actually just a place to go to like other movies have.”
Once a draft was written, Deutschman used some of his Hollywood connections to get the script to Platinum Dunes. They loved it, developed it for several years before pitching it to Paramount, who also loved it. Much has changed in that time. Originally it wasn’t fully designed as a found-footage film, for example. Plus, the original title was simply “Almanac,” suggesting a link to a certain book that plays a big part in another time travel film, Back to the Future Part II. The producers and writers never could have known, when they first encountered the script, the movie would come out in the same year that film was set.
In the film, Project Almanac is the name of the secret project the kids discover that makes time travel possible. The word “almanac” popped up in an online random word generator and a lightbulb went off for the writers. “The movie is fraught with sort of Easter eggs and secrets,” said Deutschman. “One of which being that, in our head at least, the original people who started designing the blueprints were fans of time travel movies and decided to name it after something he was a fan of.”
“This Is This Generation”
The setup to Project Almanac is this: David (Jonny Weston) is a nerdy kid who just got into MIT but can’t afford it. On the search for something to help him win a scholarship, he and his sister Christina (Ginny Gardner) come upon their dead dad’s blueprints for a project called “Almanac.” Grabbing his friends Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Sam Lerner, above), David builds the machine and begins to test its boundaries. But, as kids tend to do, they take things too far.
That story is told wholly with found footage, a genre that certainly has a bad reputation. Israelite plans on using those conventions against type though. “I think there’s a lot of potential in the medium,” he said. “In taking it seriously and treating the audience with respect and treating the characters with respect in terms of ‘Why is the camera really on? Where would the camera be when it is on?’” In the film, the camera passes between characters, get set on tables, and switches to Go-Pro view a lot.
Producer Brad Fuller also feels the found footage in Project Almanac gives the film a certain immediacy and connection to the younger generation. “I have a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old, there is nothing in my house that is private anymore,” the producer said. “This is what these kids do. I mean, my dinner last night is on the Internet. You can go and see it. My son shot it, and it’s right there. If Paramount didn’t shut it down, my son would be making 500 Vines today. This is this generation. This is why I said I don’t have to be cool but Dean is, because that’s kind of the way the world is.”