Found footage isn’t a genre often associated with sci-fi; horror is where it usually feels at home. But Michael Bay’s latest movie Project Almanac combines sci-fi and found footage with time travel and teen angst. It’s been compared to Chronicle, but if Chronicle was a rom-com with a time machine.
The basis of the film is simple enough: a group of friends find plans for a time machine and decide to build it. There are limits to the machine. You can’t go back far enough to see the dinosaurs, for example. But you can go back a day or two for second chances, to fix your lottery numbers, work on relationships or freak out school bullies. The film asks the question, ‘What would you do if you had this kind of power?’ It’s basic, everyday sci-fi, but the found footage style adds a human element.
Allen Evangelista (The Secret Life Of The American Teenager) plays Adam, a studious kid who acts as peace keeper between members of the group.
“Sometimes [sci-fi movies] can go way over the top but I feel like the found footage style is used as a tool and it works well with grounding the movie,” he said, speaking exclusively to SciFiNow.
“This generation, everyone is recording everything on their phones and we have such great cameras on our phones now so it makes sense that these kids try to film everything because that’s what kids do nowadays. It just grounds it completely.
“As actors we just give it our all at once and we go all the way through. We don’t cut all the scenes up and I think it’s fresher like that. It’s like theatre. You get more spontaneity. You never know what you can come up with in each take.
“The script was great and I think the writers nailed it. There have been many different drafts but I just loved how the focus was not just time travel but the relationship between these teenagers. You’re going to feel like these guys are your friends and you actually care about them, which I think is the most important thing you have to establish in a film before you do anything else.”
Project Almanac is directed by Dean Israelite, a relative newcomer – “He seems like he’s been in the business forever because he’s so good at it,” says Evangelista – but it’s produced by Hollywood hot shot Michael Bay.
“Whether you want a love story or a comedy or the special effects of a Michael Bay film, you’re going to get all of it with Project Almanac,” says actress Michelle DeFraites (Pregnancy Pact).
“There’s definitely that Michael Bay touch of the explosions and the action, but it’s also more than that. On the surface everyone is like, ‘Oh, it’s Michael Bay, it’s just going to be explosions and running around and all this craziness,’ and it does have that, but it also has these moments where they are just sitting around in a basement talking.
“[You get] to know these characters too, so there’s a lot of development as well as the exciting action. I love those moments because that’s what makes you fall in love with the character and really care about them.”
DeFraites plays Sarah Nathan, a typical high school ‘mean girl’ bully. “The way we’ve [filmed it makes it] feel like it could actually be happening at your high school and it just happens to be shot on a cell phone. And then all of a sudden this crazy thing like time travel happens. When you’re sat in the audience and you’re watching it, you forget it’s a film. It’s like a movie you’ve found in your basement for like a family film.”
Project Almanac is in cinemas 30 January in the US and 20 February in the UK. You can buy Chronicle on Blu-ray for £5 from Amazon.co.uk. Get all the latest sci-fi movie news with every new issue of SciFiNow.