Interview with Primer director Shane Carruth
Q: What was your inspiration for writing a script and how did the idea for this story come to you?
A: "It took about a year to write. I found myself reading a lot of books that had to do with discoveries. Whether it involved the history of the number zero or the invention of the transistor, two things stood out to me. First is that the discovery that turns out to be the most valuable is usually dismissed as a side-effect.
Second is that prototypes almost never include neon lights and chrome. I wanted to see a story play out that was more in line with the way real innovation takes place than I had seen on film before. I knew what I wanted to accomplish thematically well before the plot was devised. I was interested in how trust wears down between people when the stakes are raised and the complexity involved."
Q: Explain the relationship between Aaron, Abe, Robert and Philip.
A: "Like the majority of people that I know, these are guys that do one thing during the day and in their free time work on what they are passionate about. They have built a small business of selling error-checking devices for computers through mail order. However, they are constantly working on new ideas. They each take turns with a two month period where the group as a whole pursues the individual's idea. I have always imagined them as little kids in a club and the garage is their fort. They have a logo, a motto ("building the device that's missing most") and a set of rules for voting on purchases: Basically everything a six-year-old would think was cool about having his own company. Even the fact that they are constantly wearing ties comes from the image of prep school kids in uniforms that almost never fit their outdoor activities."
Q: Explain the purpose and limitations of going back in time as it relates to this story and how the travel results in carbon copies of Aaron and Abe and how these copies or ghosts co-exist and interact?
A: Basically, the boxes reverse the arrow of time so that if you enter the box at 3pm and wait 6 hours, you will exit at 9am the same morning. This introduces doubles (the time-traveler and the original). The idea is that if the original's experience stays the same he will get in the box again at 3pm, the cycle completes itself, and everything stays symmetrical. If this is the case, there is no difference between the experience of an original and a double. There is no distinction as to who is "the first in line" or more prime. The characters can still feel relatively certain that they are masters of their fate. The trouble starts when symmetry breaks down leaving them to wonder where they fit in the long line of travelers.
Q: This film is most accurately described as an intellectual thriller. Why was this the genre that you pursued when setting out to make a feature film?
A: I don't know if I ever chose a genre. I was interested in seeing the process of invention take place on a small, non-professional level and I knew thematically where I needed the story to go so those two things dictated the type of film it would be. It was really just a matter of setting up a premise and following it to a logical conclusion in an interesting way.
Q: How many locations and shooting days did it take to make this film and where was the film shot?
A: Everything was shot in Dallas over the course of about five weeks. We took two breaks in there somewhere so that I could get "weeklies" from the lab and make sure we knew how to operate a camera properly. I think there must be something like 40 locations, at least 10 of which we had permission to use.
Q: The film was shot on Super 16mm, how was the editing done and give an explanation of the post production and transfer to film process?
A: I had the film telecined to miniDV and used my home computer to edit it. Post-production was mainly me sitting in my apartment for a year learning how to edit and do foley work.
Shane Carruth (Aaron)
Shane Carruth was born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. As the son of an Air Force sergeant, he grew up all over the US. Shane graduated college with a degree in mathematics, went to work, and promptly quit all of his first three engineering positions. Enamored with stories since childhood, he set out to learn everything he could about filmmaking with the end result being his first feature film PRIMER.