Earth to Echo is the story of a group of suburban kids going through a tumultuous time in their lives. The group of friends who have grown up together will soon be forced to move apart as their families head in different directions. It’s a story inspired by classic family films of the 1980s, such as E.T., The Goonies, and Stand by Me, which all placed normal kids in extraordinary situations. We spoke to Earth to Echo director Dave Green about what makes these kinds of stories, which use young people as their main protagonists, so endearing.
“I think when you’re a kid, when you are 12 and 13-years old, you are living in the real world,” says Green, “you’re old enough to be cognizant and you know what your own thoughts are and you’re enough of an adult. But at that age you’re still holding on to and you still have imagination and excitement and you still have that spark of what it means to be a kid. I think that could be part of it. I remember, when I was the age that the kids in the movie are, I was running around with a video camera kind of filming my environment and my friends growing up, who were actors, and we’d all just pretend, ‘great, there’s this big explosion there!’ And I was putting my first short films together at that age, and I was kind of living at that intersection between just being a kid and being a young adult and kind of still being caught up in that magic and wonder and excitement and imagination.
“And I think what’s fun about that as an adult, what’s fun about watching stories like that, is that there’s part of us that always hangs off that stuff, that always has that imagination and I think part of the reason we might see stories like this is because stories about 12, or 13, or 14 resonate, at least with me, because at that age it’s the first point in your life where you’re thinking like an adult and you are really standing on your own two feet and also dealing with responsibility. And even though the kids in the movie sometimes have kid logic, in that they would do things that you or me would never do because they’re kids and they think differently - sometimes more brilliantly - than we do, that makes their stories fun to watch and funny to watch. It’s like when Tuck thinks Echo is a bomb and he’s slamming it on the ground. It’s just kid logic, but it’s also…you can see a version of yourself doing that at the same time.”
While there’s archetypal similarity between Earth to Echo and E.T. - and even other films that have been inspired by it, such as J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 - Green says that, when you look closer, they’re really about different things.
“It’s always kind of an honor and a surprise to be brought up in the same sentence [as E.T.],” Green says, “and I know we’re in no way on equal footing whatsoever, but it is a film that I admired so much as a kid growing up. Super 8 is a movie that I liked a lot when it came out, but I think all three movies are very different animals. E.T. is a story of a very close friendship between two characters, a boy and an alien over a course of two or three weeks, maybe more time, and it’s a friendship. Earth to Echo is a story about friendship as well, but the friendship in the movie is really not between the kids in the movie and the creatures in the movie. The friendship in the movie is about the human characters and the fact that at this point in their live, this very dramatically charged point in their lives where they’re being forced to say goodbye to each other, and they meet a new friend who needs help. It’s in the process of helping this little being on its way, which for me it could have been a baby bird they’re returning to its nest, it’s in the process of helping this thing come back to health and safety that they come to understand what it means to say goodbye, what it means to communicate with each other, what it means to stay in touch even though they’re not going to be next door to each other.”
“Super 8, which is a movie I liked a lot, is very much a nostalgic movie for adults that adults, like me, who grew up in the 80s and grew on those Spielberg films,” he says. “Through the sake of setting the movie in the late 70s and a lot of other cinematography tropes, that was very much built as a nostalgia piece for people my age and not necessarily a film that was built for a kid audience.
Green also explained that the use of found footage in Earth to Echo has gotten a unique and surprising reaction for young people who see the film.
“Part of what’s been so excited for us is we got to see kids react to this movie,” Green continued. “What’s really awesome and what’s been so surprising to us is we’ve got to see the kids react in such a positive way to the movie because they feel a great deal of ownership over it. Unlike those other movies, these kids [in the film] have shot and told and cut together this entire adventure themselves, and what that does is it makes the experience of the movie their document, and it makes it their experience, and it makes it feel very much like a firsthand experience. And for a kid, let’s just say a kid whose 8 or 9 years old whose never seen a Chronicle or a Cloverfield because they’re scary, the power or the impact of getting to witness this adventure through the POV of these kids who went on the adventure is very surprising to them and its very cool to see them say ‘I’ve never seen a move like this before,’ because they’ve never seen a movie shot and told in this perspective because the format is usually reserved for kind of very grisly horror movies.”
Earth to Echo will open in theaters July 2.