How do you expect general audiences to understand all the technojargon that you so carefully put into making the backstory of the machine as realistic as possible?
I guess I really don't expect them to. I know I wouldn't watching it for the first time. The hope is that those scenes are written with an authentic dialogue but they're also written in the hopes that even if we're humming, that there's information coming across about the politics of the group and who's enthusiastic about what, who's proprietary, who the unofficial groups are within the group. So I mean, I guess that was the hope and I was just pretty adamant about the fact that I didn't want somebody coming into the discussion saying, "Okay, give it to me in English, Doc." And they get some really bad metaphor about what they're doing. I just needed it to be as authentic a world as I could muster.
You designed it to be an intellectual movie?
Well, when it comes to what it is thematically and at the end… yeah. I know that no one is going to care. Well, I don't know that no one's going to care. Like when I watch All the President's Men, there's a lot of journalistic process and lingo that goes way over my head, but I love the fact that I'm seeing something that is trying to stay true to what the real world is like and authentic. I would rather know that they know what they're doing than have it dumbed down for me or the general audience.
Are most sci-fi movies too surface level?
Wow, that's a general statement. Probably. It seems like there are two camps when it comes to science fiction. There's the aesthetic of sci-fi where it's aliens and chrome and explosions and space. And then there's the sci-fi that's used as a literary device to talk about something universal. It's a shorthand. So I don't honestly know. I guess for my taste, I would side with using it as a literary device and I know I don't see near as much as I would like to.
Are there time travel stories whose logic frustrates you?
Maybe not the logic, but there are things that I always thought were odd. There's a lot of time travel stories where they pick up at one point in time and then they immediately move to another. They'll move from present day to the ‘50s, and that always sort of bothered me because if you were to go back in time 24 hours, you would find yourself in empty space because of the distance that the earth has traveled since then. So it didn't make any sense. It seemed like if you're going to talk about moving through time, you need to talk about spacially keeping up with what the rest of the universe is doing. Space and time being part of the same fabric, these are things that you have to address. That's what I was trying to do. When these guys are going back six hours, it was important because they have to experience every minute backwards into the past. You want to go back six hours, you've got to spend six hours in the box. After I started messing with it, it just seemed like there was a sort of logic to the way I would like to see it work.
Did you have some fun with it, with lines like "I haven't eaten since later this afternoon"?
Yeah, that's the thing. The story started off thematically. I knew what it was before it had anything to do with science or science fiction, but once I know that I'm talking about this device, it did seem like there was just a lot of interesting fun things to do with it. I mean, the recursive nature of it and trying to avoid causality and preparing for it and still finding yourself in a situation that, with the cell phones, not knowing if the cell phone is ringing in the hotel and on the street, what does that mean? Is the experience different for the first and the second and the third, or does it matter? Is causality a recursive problem? It's all built on the premise that if you run into some type of paradox that it's not the universe that's going to break down. It's more than likely your ability to understand it. So yeah, I did feel like there was a lot of fun stuff to do with it.
Was Pi an influence?
No. I've seen Pi. To be honest, I never really saw the similarity except for the fact that yeah, it has to do with science fiction ideas and it's a low budget. But no. I don't think it did.
What are your favorite time travel stories?
See, I was never asked this until this year. I don't know what they are. I know that the one that seems to stick out is there's an episode of Star Trek called "City on the Edge of Forever" that always stayed with me. I always thought about it afterwards.
That more than Back to the Future?
Yeah, I mean, I like Back to the Future but a lot of these time travel stories, they feel to me very much like a fantasy. They don't seem to be using it as a device to talk about something else or with any subtext. It just seems like it's the whiz bang of being able to maneuver through time. H.G. Wells wasn't trying to write science fiction inasmuch as he was trying to write a satire about class structure. And it just seems like we've gotten away from that when it comes to science fiction.
Did you ever worry that the human story would get buried in the technicalities of it? No, I guess I wasn't worried. To be honest, I just think that what is metaphor? If I've got something to communicate to you, I can tell you outright or I can use a metaphor, and the reason I use one is so that it gets the listener to start thinking about it, to dwell on it so that the meaning stays with him. So if you can construct a story- - I mean, I didn't purposely make it complicated or convoluted just to confound people. But as far as making it more of a riddle and not tying everything up in a nice package, the hope is that people find themselves dwelling on the themes. I don't know if that will actually work out, but that was my hope.
Do you show the doubles together, or always cut around?
I cut around it. I didn't want to do any kind of split screen. Somebody even asked if I had thought about casting twins to be able to do something like that. There's a couple shots where we've got Aaron struggling with Aaron but they're all shot below the neck. It just seemed like any kind of special effect or anything like that was just going to take people out of the story. I know when I see an effect most of the time, I'll start to wonder how they did the effect instead of staying engaged in the story.
You taught yourself filmmaking. What were your sources?
I audited a film course for about two weeks and so we got to take a camera apart and load a mag and then it turned into a theory course of the professor's favorite films, so I had to step out because I needed to figure out some more practical stuff. I started going to production companies in Dallas, just door to door, asking all kinds of questions just to get any information on how the process all works together. I read a lot, I would go to rental facilities to see what I could afford and how it all worked together. I read as much as I could about cinematography. When I realized it was just photography with a set shutter speed, then I could experiment. So I got an old 35mm still camera and some Tungsten slide film so that it emulated the Tungsten motion picture film. And I just experimented a lot with depth of field and color temperatures and the compositions. And just spent months taking it apart so that by the time we were actually shooting, I felt a lot more confident. And we actually have storyboards to match.
Did you ever use DVDs and listen to commentaries?
Sure, yeah. I think since DVDs have been big, I've always tried to seek out great commentaries to learn a little bit more about the process.
What did your family think when you abandoned engineering?
It's weird looking back on this. I have no idea why, but they were really supportive. My parents, their oldest son is spending 18 hours a day in front of a monitor editing this thing that he's claiming is a movie. I don't know why they were so supportive, but they really were.
Were you taking notes through your time in that field?
I was a software engineer, so when it comes to the engineering in this film, I know hardware guys. I don't have any direct experience with what they're doing in this film. I made sure to research it all and run it by [experts].
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