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January 28, 2012

‘Time Freak’: Sci-fi short and an Oscar moment to remember

Posted in: Movies

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Michael Nathanson in Oscar-nominated short "Time Freak." (Credit: Sebastian Piras)

How great would it be to turn back the clock, peek into the homes of this year’s Oscar contenders and watch their real-time reaction to the nominations announcement? That’s part of the public fascination with a “you-are-there” video made by Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey, a husband-and-wife filmmaking duo who are now Oscar nominees in the live-action short category thanks to “Time Freak.”

The shorts nominees were were announced online Tuesday at 5:50 a.m. and Bowler and Causey’s natural reaction to the nerve-wracking wait was to turn on the cameras. When they actually got nominated, their Tuesday video experiment became a time capsule to share with friends and family but it went well beyond that once it hit the echo chamber of the Internet.

“We put [the YouTube video link] on Facebook for friends and family, but the weirdest thing happened – somebody submitted it to ‘Good Morning America,’ and it was [Friday’s] play of the day,” Causey said. “I don’t watch ‘GMA,’ so I didn’t think anything of it, but when I got up in the morning, my phone was full of texts from friends saying, ‘We saw you on ‘Good Morning America!’”

The reaction video — and, of course, the Oscar nomination — has stirred up plenty of interest in “Time Freak,” the 11-minute tale of an amateur scientist who invents a time-travel machine with dreams of visiting ancient Rome – instead he’s sidetracked, neurotically revisiting his recent actions, getting stuck in his own yesterday. Learn more about the film on our sister blog, 24 Frames.

That theme of regret in Bowler’s script for “Time Freak” was actually what motivated the couple to take the gamble of financing the film. Shortly after getting married, they originally were saving up for an apartment in New York City, but when Bowler began writing the short’s script, they decided to put their savings elsewhere.

“Andrew got inspired and wrote this script about a guy who is neurotically consumed with his regret,” Causey said. “We loved this script, and thought, ‘Do we ever want to be in this position of regret and not pursue our dream?’ We just said, ‘We gotta make this movie.’”

The film that came out of their apartment savings is one that is in many ways inspired by favorite time travel movies like “Back to the Future” and “Primer,” but Bowler and Causey don’t see always see eye-to-eye on sci-fi.

Bowler is a huge sci-fi fan (and beyond excited to have the Feb. 21 “Shorts!” Academy symposium be moderated by Brad Bird, director of “The Incredibles” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), but Causey doesn’t share the same enthusiasm.

“I’m not a real connoisseur of sci-fi,” she said. “I’m a bigger fan of human stories. But sometimes when the sci-fi element is there, I’ll be drawn to all the humanity in it.”

Bowler admits to tricking Causey into watching sci-fi on a few occasions, including with indie time-travel movie “Primer,” which captivated her more for its psychological thriller elements than its sci-fi roots.

“I’m always trying to pull her in,” Bowler said. “She is always a bigger fan [of a movie] when she doesn’t know she’s watching sci-fi, so I won’t tell her the premise.”

Now with Oscar night less than a month away, the couple have to decide who to bring to the Oscars. As nominees, Bowler and Causey each get a pair of tickets. After doing the math, “Time Freak” star Michael Nathanson is pretty confident he’ll be going to the big event.

Bowler said, “We told Michael Nathanson [about the nomination], and he said, ‘I am so happy I made a short film with a husband and wife team and you have two extra tickets to spare. If you weren’t married to each other, I wouldn’t be going to the Oscars.’”

Bowler is now working on a feature-length version of “Time Freak.” “Time Freak,” along with other shorts nominated for the 84th Academy Awards, will screen in over 200 theaters starting Feb. 10. The film will also be available for purchase on iTunes on Feb. 21.

– Emily Rome


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