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NORMAN: Featurette / Building a Time Machine

One of the initial problems I had when setting out to make a film that includes time travel was creating a time machine that could achieve several things.

1. Look visually interesting.
2. Have a unique take on design and function that is fresh and new.
3. Look like it could be "possible" that it could work.

Jason and myself talked about many designs before settling on a few that we thought were interesting and achievable within the budget I had to work with. One of the early designs we toyed around with was using carving foam to slice, glue, and sand together a very complicated shape, and then add led lights within and paint the exterior with a glossy white plastic type of paint that would have a very nice sheen to it.



We actually started to build this version using the carving foam, but only after getting over halfway finished, did we realize a few problems we might have after the fact.

1. Using carving foam made a crazy huge mess. (haha)

2. If the time machine broke during filming, the process of rebuilding it would be extremely time consuming and the cost of additional materials was very high.

3. We also had a hard time designing this version that could have enough weight so that when we attached it to our movable base plate, it never had enough mass to look convincing enough that it wasn't just a cheap prop.

Even though it would cost me quite a bit to abandon this idea and start over from scratch, it was extremely worth it in the end. So many times do you come up with an idea that works so well on paper but completely falls apart when it actually comes down to trying it in real life.

I had an idea in the back of my mind that I couldn't shake. I told Jason I would love to make one of Norman's time machine's feel like the millennium falcon. Old, barely working, and you have to smack it to get it to work. I kept coming around to this idea of a time machine that looks like it couldn't possibly work but somehow it does. I personally think this crazy idea has paid off in an unexpected way, lending this feel of Norman only using the available technology and scraps here or there to duck tape this together.



I am not sure if this was cruel or not, but I wanted to show Norman building the time machine in the film, piece by piece in a cool montage type way, so Jason and I, as we would build each new section of the time machine prop, we would disassemble it and have Stephen in character rebuild it piece by piece as I would film, allowing me to have a lot of footage to work with, and to show all the little screws, nuts, bolts, tape, wires, of the time machine itself being pieced together. I am really proud of our final design of the prop, because I wanted it to look and feel like it was built by hand, almost like we in real life could do the same, using a bit of wood here, metal here, screws and bolts.

I think the end result has a really fascinating look and makes it all the more exciting to see that Norman's time machine actually works, yet at the same time seems like it could blow up or do some serious damage.

Here is a short behind the scenes video showing us putting the time machine together and a few extra shots from the movie. I hope you enjoy it.

-Joel Guelzo