If you could travel back in time, what would you do? Will you change the course of history so that you can undo your past mistakes? Well, if you’ve seen enough time traveling films, you’d know that changing the past might just mess up the space continuum. Clearly, the characters in “Project Almanac” haven’t seen enough of these time traveling films because of all the disasters (fictional) they’ve caused after using a time machine.
Co-produced by Andrew Form, Michael Bay, and Bradley Fuller, “Project Almanac” (formerly “Almanac”, “Welcome to Yesterday” and also known as “Cinema One”) is an upcoming American sci-fi adventure film that marks the feature film directorial debut for Dean Israelite. Based on a screenplay written by Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman (Andrew Stark), the film centres on a group of friends who discovered a way to build a time machine and used it for their own gain and pleasure.
However, what comes after is a series of dire consequences that hurt some people along the way. Filmed in a found-footage style, “Project Almanac” stars Jonny Weston, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Virginia Gardner, Sofia Black D’Elia, and Amy Landecker.
Whether or not you are planning to watch this film, these fun facts will give you a glimpse of how time travel works in this film:
1. Israelite is the cousin of Jonathan Liebesman, the director of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle”
Well, well, isn’t this a small world? It turns out that Dean Israelite is the cousin of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” director, Jonathan Liebesman and he has previously worked as Liebesman’s assistant on the set of a movie called “Battle: Los Angeles”. Bradley Fuller, co-producer of “Project Almanac” revealed that he knew Dean through Jonathan and said:
Everyone who made that movie, we’re all friends, so we knew Dean. And then when we got the script we gave it to Dean because he was looking to do his first movie.
Fuller also noted that Dean managed to “come up with a presentation that was art“, which is not the kind of work he’d expect from Dean. This is why Fuller and his production company had to convince Paramount Pictures that this young director should be given a chance to helm the project.
2. The film was sort of inspired by Josh Trank’s “Chronicle”
According to Fuller, Paramount Pictures had a tremendous success with their found-footage movies, including horror classic “Paranormal Activity” and Josh Trank’s “Chronicle”. Thus, Fuller revealed that his production crew has always wanted to make a movie like “Chronicle” after the script of that movie but alas, there wasn’t a chance to do it.
We were always yearning to do a movie like that, and this felt a little bit Chronicle-y to us.
3. It is a movie fraught with time travel Easter eggs
Since it’s a time travel movie set in the modern days, expect to see lots of time travel movie references in this film. Stark and Pagan noted that the film is packed with Easter eggs because some of the things in the movie will remind us of many different parts of mythology. In the first draft, the characters traveled back to 1869, which is sort of a reference from 1990’s “Back in the Future III”.
In fact, some of you may remember the word “almanac” from “Back to the Future II” , in which the lead character of the film finds a book named Grays Sports Almanac. The reference isn’t direct but according to Collider, the writers originally wanted to name the movie after the secret project that the leading character’s father was working on. Thus, they used a random word generator to name the project instead, which Stark joked, “I’d love to take full credit, but somewhere is a website that you just keep pushing spacebar. We just got lucky that that word came up.”
4. A plane crash scene was removed because it’s an actual plane crash footage
A plane crash scene was forced to be removed because the movie used an actual footage of a 1994 B-52 crash at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington. The Air Force Times reported that the families of the crash victims were upset by the use of footage in the movie and complained about it. Thus, producer Michael Bay and his team apologised and cut the scene before the movie’s release on 30th Jan.
Michael Bay responded by saying:
My relationship with the United States military has been very strong my entire film career. Every branch of service has appeared in my past films or TV shows. I have encountered nothing more than extraordinary brave men and women who serve our country. I’m very proud to be able to represent them professionally in my films.
Unfortunately today I learned that the movie “Project Almanac,” produced by my Platinum Dunes company, directed by a talented first-time director, used a 2-second shot in a grainy news clip of a real B-52 crash. When the director presented his cut to me, I actually thought the short clip was a created visual effect like many of the other shots in the film.
I let film directors make their movies at Platinum Dunes and give them tremendous responsibilities. Well, unfortunately a very bad choice was made to use a real crash instead of creating a VFX shot, without realizing the impact it could have on the families.
I have asked Paramount Pictures to remove this shot immediately from the picture. I want to also extend my deepest apology to the families, and also to the U.S. Air Force.
The families accepted the apology but it is unclear how it’ll affect the movie.
The plane crash footage can still be seen in this trailer of the movie:
5. Time travel logic is more complicated than it looks
It wasn’t easy to nail the time travel logic because traveling back to the past or the future will affect the present. Thus, it’s really important to make sure that the whole narrative is sort out and there’s no plot hole during the development process. However, the director noted that the Project Almanac team was not a slave to the time travel logic and explained:
I think it was being respectful to the logic, but then also being able to let some of the logic go when the emotion of that was more important or the fun of that needed to be more important.
Meanwhile, Stark noted that the most interesting part in writing this film is the part where the characters were building a time machine as he recalled a story of about a photo library in the world that requests for impossible photographs such as pictures of Joan of Arc and Jesus. This story got both Stark and co-writer Jason Pagan thinking if it would be interesting to see what things really looked like if video camera exists in the past.
6. The audition process for the movie took about 6 or 7 months to complete
There was a very lengthy audition process for the movie as the crew wanted to make sure that the actors are suitable for the characters. Fuller revealed that they usually look for new actors or young actors because they “don’t pay the actors a ton of money in these movies”. He was aware of Sofia Black-D’Elia because she had a supporting role on Michael Bay’s “Transformers 4”. He was also aware of Jonny Weston because his sons had seen his movies.
One of the actors of the film, Allen Evangelista also revealed that everyone auditioned for about 6 or 7 months The filmmakers were still looking for other actors to play other roles when Evangelista and his co-star Sam Lerner were asked to make a found footage movie of their own. He said, “We had to go into Ralph’s and film a raw footage story.” Despite their involvement in the film, they couldn’t announce it on social media and Evangelista noted, “Out of anything I ever read, this is probably the most security-wise.” Lerner also said, “I’ve never dealt with anything like this. There’s a secret title of the movie around here. It’s like Cinema 1.”
7. How the time machine and the time travel works in the movie
Building a time machine is not as easy as building a LEGO house but the characters in the movie managed to improvise and made their own time machine based on the blue prints they found. Even though the characters find these schematics that were put together by DARPA 12 years ago, it’s not going to be the best time machine in the world. Israelite noted that these characters “don’t have the money or the resources to build the machine that’s laid out”, so obviously they need to improvise it. For example, the characters feed information into a glass circuit by using the graphics processor from an Xbox and some common CPU processors.
…but then they have them interface with some hydrogen that they steal from school. They use an app they created for their phones to plug in their desired date, boot up the machine, it pulls hydrogen into the glass circuit and that’s where the fusion reaction takes place so that they can go time traveling.
This is exactly the reason why the time travel in the movie is very raw and grounded because the time machine has limited power. Israelite explained that “there’s gonna be a whole bunch of ideas” when the characters switch on the time machine. The electromagnetic energy cause weightlessness and the objects start to levitate, which Israelite explained, “It’s the regular world reacting in irregular ways.”
8. The writers once dated a girl at the same time and decided to name a character after her
Take note, everyone! In case you find a less favourable female character in this film, the character’s name could be the name of a girl that Stark and Pagan once dated at the same time. Stark explained that they found out about it the hard way, and thus they decided to name that character after the girl they dated.
Originally planned for release in early 2014, “Project Almanac” is officially slated for release on 30th Jan 2015. However, it will be released in Malaysia on 29th Jan 2015.