Director Dave Green was once like the kids in his film, “Earth to Echo,” a found footage entry about three friends who come to the aid of a beset-upon alien, which they shoot with a variety of cameras.
“I constantly had a video camera,” Green recalls. “I’d make films with my friends, or stop-motion shorts using my stuffed animals.” Of course, this was back in the day. “There was no way to edit. You had to edit in camera. Now if I talk to the kids who are actually in that movie and I say, ‘I had to connect two VCRs and edit that way,’ they’d be like, ‘What are you talking about, grandpa?’”
Actually, “Earth to Echo” isn’t “found footage” at all. That would imply the footage was lost. In the world of the film, the three lead characters shot and, after the fact, edited it. To be more specific, it was edited by adults trying to act like kids with exponentially snazzier technology than they had themselves when they were growing up.
“What made the movie exciting to me for me was that we were telling the story from a really distinct point of view, and that point of view happens to be from a 13-year-old,” Green says. “He’s able to pause the movie, fast forward through the movie, skip through time and say, ‘You know what, I’m embarrassed by this part. Let’s not show it.’ That idea cracked the egg on what the storytelling potential could be.”
Of course, pretending to be a 13-year-old moviemaker can be difficult, though at least there’s plenty of examples. “It only takes one look at Vine to see what’s going on online — and to feel like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so old. My ideas are so old.’ Because there’s so much freshness.”
Of his cast, Teo Halm — who plays the more serious one, Alex — is “probably the filmmaker of the group,” Green says, though Brian “Astro” Bradley has dabbled as well. Halm’s videos so far mostly star his cat. “I saw one where he was looking out a window with his cat, and then he leans in to bite his cat in the head. That was the whole clip,” Green recalls.
At least some of the footage is actually shot by the kid actors themselves, who also had to deal with pretending to interact with special effects that wouldn’t be seen till later. “I wanted to create an environment for the kids where they had the freedom to tell me, ‘This blocking doesn’t work out,’ or ‘I can’t stand there,’ or ‘I don’t think I would look at the camera at this time.’ Even Astro, who holds the camera, would say to me every once in awhile, ‘I think I would shot it THIS way,” Green says. “It was really important to make them feel like they weren’t on a real ‘movie set.’”
One of the main ideas behind making “Earth to Echo” was that it be, for Green and his regular writing partner, Henry Gayden, nostalgic. “We were children who had grown up on these adventure movies that had kids as the main characters. We hadn’t seen a movie like that in a long time,” Green says. Indeed, along with “E.T.,” a clear inspiration was “The Goonies,” which also features a suburban neighborhood being uprooted.
But here, the big move — which will split up the three friends around the country — can’t be reversed. This adds a melancholy that runs under the film’s adventure. “I put myself back in the shoes of being a middle school kid, who was transitioning into high school. You have certain friends that go away, and then when you’re going to college you have other friends you drift away from. We wanted to create this period of time for the kids that felt very dramatically charged,” Green says. “It colors every scene. You know it’s these kids’ last adventure together.”
See our review of “Earth to Echo” here.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge