At SFA, a graduate student's thesis project is the crowning glory of many academic careers - an exhausting project that allows the student to demonstrate their competency before a committee of future peers. The crowning glory of Ricky Kennedy's academic career is a movie about a time machine fashioned from an Atari game system.
Though the movie has already played at two festivals, the movie will show at its first Texas festival on Saturday, at the Austin Film Festival.
Shot in the style of a made-for-TV documentary, "The History of Time Travel" follows the story of a father and son's creation, a time machine invented in post-World War II America, and the historical fallout of their device. Punctuated by interviews with "experts" and dramatic "re-enactments," the film follows the documentary style closely, presenting the bizarre events as fact.
An Austin Film Festival staff pick article written by Annie Wells calls the movie "brave and refreshing."
"The story line is flawless," Wells wrote. "The character arch is intriguing. Using the classical scaffolding of the typical historical documentary, the film pulls you in, even makes you question, 'Wait, is time travel, real?'"
The movie was shot in about 18 days in the summer of 2013, at SFA's science classrooms, bookstore and cinematography building, and at parks and houses around Nacogdoches.
The History of Time Travel is not the first film about time travel written by an SFA graduate. "Primer," a 2004 film that earned the grand jury prize in the dramatic category and the Sloane feature film prize in the Sundance Film Festival, was written, produced and directed by 1995 graduate Shane Carruth.
Like "Primer," "The History of Time Travel" was produced on a low budget, but Kennedy names a different film as his primary inspiration.
"I enjoy time travel movies. 'Primer' was just one of many inspirations, but 'Back to the Future' is clearly the number one inspiration," Kennedy said. "As a matter of fact, there's a throwaway line in the film about time travel, where Marty and Doc have taken Marty's girlfriend and they've set her on a porch in alternate 1985 and they leave her there. Marty's concern is what's going to happen (to her) when they change time. And Doc's like, 'Don't worry, time will change around her, she won't even notice' - something to that effect. I thought it would be interesting to have the point of view ... of the people who aren't the time travelers so all these changes would be happening, but they wouldn't be aware of it."
Kennedy's film has been accepted to the feature film category at the Austin Film Festival. In this category, the festival bestows awards on screenwriters, rather than directors. Kennedy said he likes the attention the festival draws to writers.
"My film is all about the storytelling element. So that's very gratifying to get into a film festival that's all about screen writing because that's one of the things I most enjoy. All the films that I directed I wrote myself."
Kennedy said it was satisfying to see "The History" screened at the Super Geek Film Festival in Miami, Fla., and not just because it won Best Sci-Fi Film.
"When I show the movie around here in Nacogdoches, you know it can get a good response, but a lot of it is because 'Oh I know so-and-so, he's in the movie,' or 'That's funny, I know where that's at,' but to show it to people who know nothing about us - they can just sit and watch it as a movie, not subjectively - and for them to embrace the film and to get what I'm doing with it is very gratifying. To win best (sci-fi) film was just icing on the cake."
"The History of Time Travel" will play in Austin at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village and at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Galaxy Highland 10 Theatre. Tickets for either showing will be $12. To view a trailer for the film, visit vimeo.com/90862696.
Homepage photo by Andrew Brosig, The Daily Sentinel