STARLOG Preview: Director Dave Green talks “EARTH TO ECHO”
Sci-fi fans, FANGORIA is proud to announce that STARLOG will relaunch on Monday, July 14th. In the soft reboot of our sister publication, STARLOG will be providing you with the latest in Sci-fi, fantasy and nerd culture as well as new perspectives on the genres. To celebrate our announcement, FANGORIA is providing STARLOG fans with an exclusive preview of what to expect: an interview with director Dave Green, who spoke to STARLOG about his latest venture, EARTH TO ECHO.
STARLOG: EARTH TO ECHO has a very Amblin-esque tone. Was that intentional?
DAVE GREEN: Absolutely. Those were the movies I grew up watching and loving, as well as John Hughes and early Tim Burton. The movies of the ’80s, for me, were fun, funny, adventurous, scary and had a lot of heart to them. It was a tonal thing about the movies I loved, including the Amblin movies, that I wanted to use here because I hadn’t seen that in a long time. So for EARTH TO ECHO, it was more of a tonal reference point for me from the cinema I grew up with.
STARLOG: When approaching a family-centric project, you want the relationships between the child characters to seem as real as possible. How did you work on making sure the actors had chemistry and compatible personalities?
GREEN: Well, we had chemistry reads where the kids were in the room to see if they’d gotten along. Plus, through the audition process, we were able to find the kids that worked together and didn’t seem too old. But there wasn’t too much time once we had the group of kids, since I think we cast them two weeks before we started shooting.
I did want to see if the kids were compatible in the real world together, though. So what I did was I sent them to Universal CityWalk for the day with my assistant to watch over them, but without cell phones so I could see if they got along or not. I think that really helped. In the week leading up to shooting, they were in rehearsals every day and were inseparable. So they were comfortable when they got on set, and that was very important to me.
I wanted them to feel free to talk to Henry [Gayden], the writer, or myself when on set if they had an issue with everything. If they weren’t comfortable with the way they were walking or talking, I wanted them to talk about it. The set is not supposed to be a scary place for them.
STARLOG: Since Henry is credited as the writer, how did you come aboard the film?
GREEN: I actually met Andrew Panay, who was the producer on the movie, first during a meet-and-greet. And he pitched me the idea, which was only one sentence but was really cool and in the wheelhouse of things Henry and I were kicking around together. We also liked the story idea, since a movie with kids in the main roles was something I hadn’t seen done like this in a very long time.
So I brought the idea to Henry and asked if he had any ideas, which he didn’t since it was just a sentence at the time. The next day, he called me and said, “Okay, I have some ideas.” So over the next three weeks, we started fleshing out what the story was and I shot a one-minute video as a pitch presentation as to what the movie could feel like. So we pitched the story to the studio and they said, “Yes.”
STARLOG: At what point did you decide to present the film via the found footage aesthetic?
GREEN: To be honest, it was something that was pitched to me in my very first meeting with Andrew. At first, I wasn’t sure because it was a bit of a hindrance to me and I didn’t think we needed it. But as I started talking to Henry more and more, it became something we embraced as a part of the movie’s reality because that was our goal.
With EARTH TO ECHO, we wanted to make a movie that felt absolutely real. We wanted to make an adventure story where we put the audience in the shoes of our main characters. So we thought, “You know what? If aliens were to make contact with Earth today or if kids were to really discover something, they’d be shooting it all on their phones and sharing it.” That’s how we perceived it through their lens, especially that generation of kids.
So it’d be odd to me if we were to tell this story and found footage wasn’t a story point. So something I was at first very cautious about became something I was very excited about. It allowed us to take off our “old man” hat for when we were shooting and editing, and it allowed us to cut the movie as if we were the main characters. So we were thinking, “Well, it’s not how Dave would cut the scene; it’s how Tuck would cut the scene,” so if he’s embarrassed by something, he’d pause the movie, skip over it and move on to the next thing.
STARLOG: Considering the film boasts moments of comedy, drama and sci-fi, how did you and Henry work on balancing those tones as to not become reliant on any specific genre?
GREEN: Hm. That’s a really good question. I’d really just give credit to Henry with the script, and since we grew up on the same kind of reference points, we both gravitate towards the same kind of stuff. So Henry’s gift was weaving in those elements throughout the script, since when we were pitching it, we had no idea how jokes would land in the story.
When we put the movie together and started showing it to audiences, we saw how much the comedy worked and saw where we got the huge laughs. It’s almost like cooking a broth and making sure you don’t add too much salt or sugar. I’m glad it came through and we didn’t add too much to one aspect or another, because I like to be taken on a ride when I go to the movies.
EARTH TO ECHO hits theaters today from Relativity Media. Keep an eye on STARLOG’s Facebook for more on the brand’s relaunch.