Although we might bemoan the nostalgia epidemic that has overtaken the pop culture world, we can’t help but buy into it from time to time. Occupied so densely by irony and cynicism, the present slate of film and television can seem on occasion to pale in comparison to the spirited, whimsical material with which many of us grew up. We look back to the dawn of Steven Spielberg’s triumphant ’80s, honing in on films like E.T. and The Goonies that enchanted audiences young and old. We might feel like movies of this nature cannot exist in the callous climate of 2014, but Earth to Echo writer/producer Andrew Panay seems to disagree.
“I think one thing that hasn’t changed,” he says, considering the past three decades of cultural and technological evolution, “is the way young adults process things. I don’t think that feelings change, or emotions change.” Panay’s sentiment is clear in Earth to Echo, a science-fiction family adventure in the vein of the aforementioned classic pictures told through the lens of the everpresent iPhone. We might instinctively assume that the inclusion of modern devices robs a story of that pre-digital wonder, but Earth to Echo actually uses the found footage technique to access that sort of Spielbergian intimacy front and center. “What’s endearing about Echo is that you’re actually seeing people’s feelings right there,” Panay says, citing something that many audiences could treat as hokey in a standard contemporary picture but might be more willing to embrace in a found footage film… specifically one that taps into the immediacy of sharing videos.
Earth to Echo
In fact, Panay delights in things like Instagram and Facebook in helping to bring people together: “[We're] praising it. I think it’s a wonderful thing that people just wanted to share and … change the world. It’s done a lot of good. Look at how the world has come together so quickly. You can press send, and you can be sharing photos and skyping someone across the world. I think it’s a positive thing.”
The Earth to Echo gang — a trio of boys (played by Astro, Teo Halm, Reese Hartwig) and their popular schoolmate (Ella Wahlestedt) who trek out into the desert on a mission to save an endangered alien — represents just as much of the “old world” as it does the new. “I think [the movie speaks to] parents who want to get into the space tour era, that ‘80s era … but I think this movie was really to give kids the same experience that I had when I was a kid.” Plus, the genre can truly help cineastes like Panay and director David Green pay tribute to the power of filmmaking. Panay says to anyone who commands a lens, be it a movie camera or simply an iPhone used to record the events of the day, “You’re your own director of how you view the world.”
Check out Earth to Echo hits theaters now!