He's one of the most prolific movie producers working today, but no amount of experience and knowhow could have prepared Brad Fuller (“The Purge,” “Ouija”) for making a found-footage film, specifically Paramount Pictures' new sci-fi thriller “Project Almanac.”
|Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures|
The film stars Jonny Weston as David, a super bright high school student who finds a set of plans his late father left behind – plans to build a time machine. With a little help from his best friends, Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista), and his crush, Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia), David finishes what his father started while his younger sister Christina (Ginny Gardner) films the whole thing.
While on the “Project Almanac” set, Fuller took the time to talk to the visiting press about the challenges of playing by found footage rules, choosing to go with a first-time feature director and first-time writers too, the comparisons to “Chronicle,” and more.
Question: How did you guys come upon the script?
Brad Fuller: Interesting story. Platinum Dunes had a deal at Rogue five or six years ago, where we made “The Unborn” and Andrew Rona was the head of the studio at that time and his assistant was this great guy who I spoke to a lot and he wanted to be a writer, and I lost touch with him, and then three, four years later, he sends the script for this movie. I mean, I didn’t even know he was a writer and he says, ‘Would you guys be interested in producing this?’ And we read it and we just loved the script, so that was kind of how it happened. And then we developed it at Platinum Dunes for a year or two and then we took it to Paramount.
Q: What kind of changes did you guys concentrate on?
Fuller: As we were working on the script, the movie business changed a lot and budgets had to get smaller, and we kept pushing for a film that was really about wish-fulfillment. I mean, that was, at the end of the day, what this movie ideally is, and the price that can be paid for accomplishing that. And so we kept focusing on that idea, and the characters. We wanted to make sure that the characters worked. But there weren’t huge changes.
Q: So it was always the found footage?
Fuller: Actually, it was originally written as a hybrid where there was some found footage in it and then when we set it up at Paramount, they’ve had tremendous success with their found footage movies and they felt that this leant itself to that. To us – when I say ‘us’ I’m always referring to Platinum Dunes, my company with Michael Bay and Andrew Form. For us, a movie that we really loved at our company and we didn’t have the opportunity to make was “Chronicle.” We thought that movie was terrific and this felt a little bit “Chronicle-y” to us.
Q: Found footage movies tend to have an interesting tone, and a lot of times horror movies can play with humor and different things. Where does the tone of this one come in?
Fuller: The tone, assuming we’re successful with this and I think we will be, is fun. We just really want to have fun. For me, this is a very exciting movie. We’re not cutting off anyone’s head, we haven’t killed anyone in the whole movie so far and I think we’re going to go the whole way.
Q: Can you tell us about the director? He’s a first-time director, right?
Fuller: Yes. Dean Israelite is a first-time director. Dean also worked with Jonathan Liebesman on “Battle: Los Angeles.” When we got the script we gave it to Dean because he was looking to do his first movie. And he came up with a presentation that was art – I mean, Dean is as hard-working a director as I’ve met in a long time and when we gave him the script, he didn’t come back and say, ‘I’ve got three notes on the script.’ He came back with a full multi-media presentation on how he would make this movie. So he was the only director we went to. We as a company loved him and we had to convince Paramount that this was the right guy with the right vision and that he would be able to execute it.
Q: Is there anything particularly challenging for you here, whether it’s locking a location or tracking down a certain prop?
Fuller: The most challenging thing for me has been shooting a found footage movie. I’ve never done that before. And found footage movies have their own rules. It’s just different. I’ve been doing this for a long time now and I’m used to doing it a certain way and basically every rule or trick that I fall back on does not exist here. So it’s kind of, you’re out here, it feels like, without a net. It’s very challenging because we want it to feel like an authentic found footage movie, but it also needs to look a certain way and we have to make sure we’re capturing the story, and it’s a lot of different things to manage.
Q: Do you feel like there was excitement because of the concept, the genre elements, touching on the “Chronicle” thing, you’ve got a little bit of “Project X” going on out there?
Fuller: We hope it does. At the end of the day, I think that for our company, we’re always eager to make commercial films and when we read something that has a lot of commercial appeal we get behind it and push it as hard as we can. This obviously checked all those boxes for us and more. And luckily it’s not such an expensive movie where the studio has put themselves in a position, you know, we have a little bit of luxury to experiment.
Q: Michael Bay is one of your partners. What’s his specific involvement? It’s a name that fans obviously gravitate towards.
Fuller: Well, as a company, this is our 11th film together. His involvement is the same. It’s the three of us sitting in a room, figuring out what we’re going to do and how we’re going to make it work, and Michael lends his expertise at different times in the process. Michael’s very involved in the script, he’s involved with the casting, he’s involved with the wardrobe, he is very involved with the cut when we get to that, and he’s very involved with the marketing.
“Project Almanac” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.