‘Back in Time’ documentary celebrates the legacy of ‘Back to the Future’

Back to the Future fans have been waiting for this day for 25 years: Oct. 21, 2015.

It’s the day Marty McFly travels to the future in Back to the Future II and arrives to a world that doesn’t look much like the one we’re all living in today. Even so, three decades after the release of the first classic Back to the Future film was release, there’s still a huge fanbase for the popular franchise. 

These fans are the focus of a new documentary Back in Timereleased today. Director Jason Aron told the Daily Dot that he’s a lifelong fan of the movies, and he got the idea for the documentary when he realized he was far from alone.

“It was one of those movies that I had seen probably a hundred times, and I’m not really a big watch-movies-more-than-once person, so that definitely said a lot,” Aron said. 

“But I was working on a film back in late 2013, a private film for a family, and they had a DeLorean as a prop, and the day we were shooting, people were literally stopping their cars in the middle of the street, getting out [and] taking pictures of the DeLorean, and that was kind of the day that I realized how big Back to the Future was for others, not just me, and that it had this mass appeal, and I said, ‘I should do a documentary about Back to the Future.'”

Back in Time Films LLC

He brought the idea to an old friend Louis Krubich, who became Back in Time’s executive producer. Krubich suggested crowdfunding the film to gauge whether people would actually be interested in seeing it. The result was a successful campaign in 2013, and another Kickstarter held earlier this year to fund finishing the film.

“I think that first Kickstarter experience was the start of what’s been happening for the last two years, which is that [at] every twist and turn we are astonished by the support that the fans have for Back to the Future, because really, at the end of the day, this is a fan-made film. We’re fans and it’s for the fans,” Aron said.

The fans who appear in the film, like Bill and Patrick Shea and Terry and Oliver Holler, make up what Aron says are to him “the pillars and cornerstones of what made this documentary, and why we made this documentary.” They ended up doing more than 50 interviews, not all of which made it into the final product. The ones that remain are powerful examples of the cultural impact of the Back to the Future series.

Back in Time Films LLC

Before getting deep into the stories of fans, however, the film starts out by spending some time focusing on the origins of Back to the Future. A lot of it will probably be familiar to diehard fans, but the background contains some tidbits you might not be aware of—including the initial casting of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly, discussion of why he didn’t work in the part, and footage of his work on the film before Michael J. Fox took over.

Beyond this initial introduction, it’s clear the team wanted to avoid making yet another behind-the-scenes documentary. Aron weaves fan interviews with discussions with production team members including creator Bob Gale, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and director Robert Zemeckis. The creatives share their memories of making the magic happen; the fans share their memories of first seeing the movie. All of them talk about how Back to the Future impacted their lives.

Their stories do an excellent job of showing the size of Back to the Future‘s legacy. Aron also interviewed entertainment industry pros like Community creator Dan Harmon. Harmon serves up great commentary on the films, along with The Goldbergs creator Adam F. Goldberg, who also co-produced the documentary.

Back in Time Films LLC

Goldberg became involved with the project due to his love of Back to the Future. After helping the team get in touch with Michael J. Fox, Goldberg insisted that his role would just be behind the scenes and that he would not be interviewed for the film. But, as Aron explained, Goldberg had put too much of Back to the Future into his own show for that to happen:

[W]e ended up shooting half of our film on the set of The Goldbergs—as you can see it’s all very ’80s-themed—and we shot behind the scenes of The Goldbergs making their hoverboard episode.

So the day that we shot Lea Thompson on the set of The Goldbergs, Adam was there and I said, ‘Adam, you have to do an interview, because if you don’t, none of this makes any sense. We need to be able to connect the dots.’ And as a filmmaker and writer, he totally got it, and he said, ‘ok, fine,’ and he sat down and he gave us some great stuff.

Through all of Aron’s work on the film, he’s found the impact of Back to the Future to be even bigger than he expected. After the Kickstarter, he began to get requests for interviews from media in other countries.

“To know it has an impact, to see first-hand how it has an impact in the most remote countries all around the world, I think that’s where you go, ‘Wow, Back to the Future is so big and so impactful and has left a mark on so many people,'” Aron said. “It’s just a testament to how good this film was.”

Back in Time Films LLC

It’s getting a sense of that scale that makes the documentary a fun watch. Listening to everyday fans and industry professionals discussing the classic series gives you the sense that in another three decades we’ll still be talking about these films.

Back in Time is available on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon. The film will also be going on a 13-city tour across the country starting Nov. 3. You can learn more about the film on the Back in Time website.

Photo via Back in Time Films LLC

Lisa Granshaw

Lisa Granshaw

Lisa Granshaw reports on pop culture and geek fashion and is the founder of GeekFold. You can find her work on Syfy, Boing Boing, and Geek and Sundry.