projectalmanac-posterWhat would you do if you had access to a time machine when you were in high school? Travel to the distant past to walk among the dinosaurs? Dial back a few hundred years to witness key moments in American history? Or just go back a few days to redo a particularly embarrassing moment in biology class? In this found-footage film, produced by Michael Bay and directed by Dean Israelite, high school brainiac David Raskin (Jonny Weston) finds an old video camera left behind by his late father. The tape that’s still in the camera of one of David’s childhood birthday parties contains a shocking element that sends David, his friends Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista), his little sister Christina (Virginia Gardner), and Jessie, the girl of David’s dreams (Sofia Black-D’Elia) on a quest to build a time machine and go back to undo past mistakes. But the group soon discovers that changing the past can have very dire consequences for the future. Altering the space-time continuum leads to all sorts of problems and puts some of their loved ones at great risk. Can these high school kids fix the mess caused by their jogs back in time? I spoke to the talented young leads of Project Almanac, Jonny Weston and Sofia Black-D’Ella.

Danny Miller: I saw this film the day after seeing Predestination, another film about the crazy things that start happening if you mess with time. Did making this film change any of your own fantasies about time travel?

Sofia Black-D’Elia: I never had any desire to go back in time! I’m really happy with the way things are now.

Jonny Weston: I still think it would be cool to hang out with my parents when they were my age.

All the overlapping time traveling gets pretty complicated. Did you ever get confused about where your character was supposed to be in time?

There were definitely times on set when I had no idea where or when I was! I was always thinking, “Wait, how many times have I been here?” But Dean Israelite, our director, was absolutely brilliant and very prepared. He always kept us on track.

Sofia: Yeah, and our writers were also on top of every single moment. If we ever got confused, we’d just turn to one of them and they’d explain exactly where we were. I never got too lost!

Sofia, I really appreciated the fact that your character was more three-dimensional than the typical “pretty girl” you see in a film aimed at teenagers.

I’m really happy that you noticed that she was different — that’s what made me want to do the movie. I think we’re all complex human beings but a lot of times that part in a film is so one-sided — she’s just “the bitch” or something.

Jonny: Yeah, Sofia’s character didn’t fall into any kind of stereotype. She was a very self-realized person which is a rarity in movies these days!

It was cool to see the chemistry between all five of you. I really believed that you were friends.

Sofia: We had a very long audition process so even before we started shooting we had already spent a lot of time together. We all clicked instantly and the friendships we made go way beyond the movie — we love each other so much! These are some of the funniest, smartest people I’ve ever had the chance to work with.

Jonny: That kind of chemistry was so important for this film. We shot this film a while ago and we’re all still good friends today. It’s really neat to walk away from a film with a new family!


Even though you’re both in your mid-20s, do you just resign yourself to the fact that you may be playing high school kids for a while to come?

I’m glad I finished high school before I even considered getting into acting. I feel lucky that I was able to have a relatively normal experience and that because of it, I think it’s easier for me to play a high school kid.

Sofia: As long as it’s an interesting part, I don’t care what age a character is. I’m happy to play teenagers when they’re three-dimensional characters. It’s not that hard for me to tap into that age — maybe I haven’t matured all that much!

Hey, I’ve been out of high school for decades and I can still tap into that misery!

(Laughs.) It’s such scarring time, I think we’ll all carry it with us forever.

Too bad we can’t go back and change it like your characters do.

But then we wouldn’t be who we are today. I think we just have to go through that stuff.

Sofia, your upcoming series The Messengers looks really good. Have you always been drawn to science fiction?

I did grow up reading a lot of science fiction so these characters are really fun to play. That show is even more out there than Project Almanac! I really loved the scripts for The Messengers and it was fun to play an older character — I’m a single mother in that.

Jonny, I talked to director Jen McGowan a few months ago about Kelly & Cal. I thought you were so good in that film.

Jonny: Thank you. To get to work on a daily basis with Juliette Lewis really changed the type of actor I am. She’s someone who’s making movies for all the right reasons.

And you’ll be in the upcoming Insurgent with Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller. You’ve worked with a lot of great people in your career: Juliette Lewis, Cybil Shepherd, Paul Giamatti, Liam Neeson — and many others.

I’ve been very fortunate. For me, it’s all about the material and who I’m working with. I’m also excited about a film I have coming out this year called We Are Your Friends that’s about coming up in the DJ world in California. That’s a very exciting little movie.

And Sofia, you’re going to be in the huge new version of Ben-Hur coming out next year with Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston?

Sofia: Yes, I actually leave for Rome in a few days. I’m very excited and nervous. I play Tirzah, Ben-Hur’s younger sister who falls in love with Messala. Except I get leprosy so it should be really interesting!