Sam Lerner and Ginny Gardner Talk Found Footage, Operating the Camera Themselves, Breaking the Fourth Wall and More on the Set of PROJECT ALMANAC

     January 21, 2015


Project Almanac centers on David (Jonny Weston), a kid who finds his late father’s unfulfilled plans to build a time machine and takes it upon himself to put the thing together.  However, he can’t do it alone and that’s where Sam Lerner and Ginny Gardner come in.  Quinn (Lerner) may be a little crazy and reckless, but he’s one of David’s best friends and key to successfully assembling the time machine, and it’s David’s little sister Christina’s (Gardner) job to film the whole process.

While in Atlanta, Georgia visiting the Project Almanac set, Lerner and Gardner took a break from filming the music festival scene to talk to the group of visiting journalists about their characters, shooting a found footage movie and more.  Hit the jump to check it all out.  Project Almanac will make its way into theaters on January 30th.

project-almanac-sam-lerner-jonny-westonQuestion: When you guys first read the script, what were your thoughts about it? 

SAM LERNER: It was a long, long time ago.  For me it was like seven months ago. 

GINNY GARDNER: Yeah, I read it for the first time six months ago.

LERNER: The casting process took forever because the movie kept getting pushed back.  No, but we all were like obsessed with it and I was like, ‘This role is freaking perfect for me,’ and I definitely wanted to be a part of it a while back. 

GARDNER: Yeah, I’ve wanted to be a part of it since day one.  The first time I read the script I got so excited by it and thought the whole found footage thing was such a cool, exciting idea that isn’t done a lot and then if we could do it well, it would be a really, really fun movie.

Are you guys a fan of some of the movies that this film is referencing as far as either time travel or found footage movies, like Chronicle or Back to the Future?

LERNER: Oh, Absolutely! 

GARDNER: Chronicle was really fun.

LERNER: Chronicle was cool, yeah.  Yeah, we’ve seen Chronicle and a lot of people are comparing it to Back to the Future, Part 2 I think. 

GARDNER: Our generation’s Back to the Future.

LERNER: I read articles online that’s like, ‘This is dumb, it’s like Back to the Future.’

GARDNER: I think it’s better than Back to the Future.

LERNER: But yeah, Cloverfield and Chronicle, and End of Watch kind of had some found footage.  

GARDNER: Yeah, that was a great movie.

LERNER: So I feel like I’ve seen a good amount of found footage and it’s just so different. 

project-almanac-image-sam-lerner-jonny-westonDid that inform your process, when you knew from the beginning that this was going to be found footage and that you were going to have a different relationship with all kinds of different cameras?

LERNER: It’s super different. 

GARDNER: The eye-line is really hard.

LERNER: Yeah, eye-lines are hard because when you’re talking to someone, you don’t – it’s weird because you can break the fourth wall, you can talk to the camera because it’s like you want to save it for later, so you’re like, ‘Dude, blah, blah, blah,’ because you know your friend will watch this tape when he plays it back.  That’s definitely really weird.  And there’s no close-ups and wide shots and medium shots … 

GARDNER: It’s all just one shot.

LERNER: Everything is pretty much one angle, so that was definitely weird.  And also in terms of acting, it’s like, we were all talking about it when we first got here, we were like, ‘Holy sh*it, we have to be really freaking natural,’ because, especially if it’s found footage, it’s like, if it seems Disney at all it’s going to be freaking ridiculous.

GARDNER: It has to be so natural and real, and I think the coolest part about it is that when you watch it it just feels like five real friends who are just friends, normal people hanging out and it’s kind of a cool vibe to have.

LERNER: It’s cool, they let us improvise a lot too, which definitely helps with that.

Does that wind up blurring the line between you personally and your characters?

GARDNER: It’s fun because I think we’re all really similar to our characters.

LERNER: So freaking similar.  [Laughs] 

GARDNER: We all get to bring ourselves into it so much, which is really fun.  We’re like pretty much playing a version of ourselves.

project-almanac-posterSo who are you guys?  Is there a stereotype for each person?

LERNER: I’m like his friend that’s super confident and is all talk and is like, ‘Dude, I’ve hooked up with tons of girls,’ and it’s like, really I haven’t, but I act like I have all the answers.  It’s like in Project X, it’s like Costa.  It’s kind of like that.  Actually in the audition process they had me do sides from that character, so it’s pretty similar for sure to that. 

GARDNER: I’m just kind of the annoying little sister that’s always giving David crap for being a nerd.  He’s in his room doing science stuff instead of hooking up with chicks and I’m always giving him crap for that.  I’m like the cooler one.

LERNER: Yeah, she’s way cooler than he is. 

GARDNER: But I film everything, and once we find the time machine I start filming everything from there on out.

Your character is the primary camera person.  What is that like?  Did you have to practice?

GARDNER: We did.  When we first got here we did some practice stuff with the camera where I held it a couple of times.  Or, we do a lot of the times I’ll spin it on myself and say something to camera, so that’s all really rehearsed to get the hand-offs just right, and a lot of stuff where I set it down and put my face into it and I’m fixing the camera.  It’s cool to be able to work with the camera and see behind-the-scenes from the camera’s perspective.

LERNER: It’s so different. 

GARDNER: It’s really fun, yeah.

So are you actually holding the camera or do they have to have a real camera person?

GARDNER: No, he’s actually holding it but there are times when I spin it on myself and I have it.

And lots of voice-over for you, I guess.

GARDNER: And lots of voice-over.  [Laughs]

LERNER: She’s gonna have tons of voice-over.

GARDNER: Tons of voice-over after, yeah.

LERNER: There was one scene that we filmed in a car that I actually got to hold the camera because I was in the passenger seat and otherwise I would have to just not be in the car since there’s physically no space.  I was able to just clock everything and it was actually really freaking fun for me. 

GARDNER: Yeah, it’s cool to be behind the camera.

project-almanac-trailer-ginny-gardnerWith the actual RED?

LERNER: Yeah, I was holding the RED.  I had to get them in the backseat and then I had to pan over to David who’s driving.  Then he opens the hood and so I got him and then I was able to turn it on myself for a second, but mostly we have an operator. 

When you watch the movie you can be like, ‘I did that!’

LERNER: I feel like that’s my most proud thing!  [Laughs]


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