Project Almanac Time Teens
Ascience fiction adventure. A found footage film. A teen time travel story. Project Almanac combines all three, but it was the film’s basic coming- of- age story that attracted first- time director Dean Israelite to the $ 12 million project. “It was the emotional core of the story that attracted me, combined with a teenage adventure that reminded me of The Goonies in terms of its expansiveness and the imagination of the young characters,” says Israelite. “It’s a character- driven story that centres on a group of teenage friends, and then we introduce found footage and time travel, in an unconventional way.”
The story follows a group of high schoolers, led by David Raskin ( Jonny Weston), a brilliant teenager who discovers schematics for a time machine left behind by his late father. David and his friends build the time machine, which they use to try and correct mistakes in their pasts, resulting in various complications for them in the present. “The device of the time travel is tied thematically into the protagonist’s journey,” explains Israelite. “The adventure he goes on as a result of time travel is what ultimately allows him to come of age. I tried to make everything feel as real and grounded as possible. In that way, you would believe that this was a real kid going through real teenage problems, and if the time travel felt as authentic and grounded as his life, if it didn’t feel like just another big budget movie, with big budget visual effects, then everything would fit together, tonally and aesthetically.”
The film’s grounded approach is especially evident in the time machine that David and his friends construct in the story, which is a synthesis of the imagination and spare parts they have at their disposal. “They build the time machine with all of the spare parts they can find, like a graphics card from an Xbox,” says Israelite. “They control the machine with a smartphone, using a coded app they
“It’s really a fun teenage adventure, with some darker elements”
created that can interface with it. The machine is mobile; it’s compact enough to fit into a backpack, so they can walk around with it at school.”
Project Almanac’s offbeat assortment of genre elements, and Israelite’s inexperience, made the project a tough sell for producer Brad Fuller, when he approached Paramount Pictures with the Andrew Deutschman/ Jason Pagan script. “I would describe Project Almanac as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Weird Science meets Chronicle,” says Fuller, a partner in Platinum Dunes, the genre- themed production shingle founded by Michael Bay. “It’s really a fun teenage adventure, with some darker elements that appear later in the story. Paramount was wary of the project, and of Dean, who impressed them with his detailed storyboards, and with a sequence he shot from the film. Michael has a strong relationship with Paramount, and he wrote the executives a letter saying he believed in the project, and in Dean as director.”
Coming- of- age and time travel stories have a universal appeal and Israelite believes that Project Almanac will resonate with anyone who’s ever been young and thirsted for adventure. “The film is about how small changes can have huge effects on who we are and how we feel about ourselves,” says Israelite. “We all know what it feels like to go from boy to man or girl to woman – the struggles, the lessons; the wonderment that comes from that time in our lives.” Project Almanac is released in UK cinemas on 6 February.