Back to the Future Part 2.5: A Less Impressive Trip to 2015 (TPM Analysis)

Hello Interwebs! I recently realized our Back to the Future Part 2.5 sketch released 5 years ago. Where has the time gone? For this anniversary, I’d like to share with you some behind-the-scenes stories from the making of BTTF2.5. And be sure to keep reading for a story analysis of the sketch… 

To get the most out of this article, check out the sketch below!

BTTF Part 2.5 Behind-the-scenes Stories

The year was 2016; twas the month of March. Justin and I were in the tail end of high school, a few months from graduation. While close to the finish line of that 4-year marathon, there remained a great deal of work to power through. To be more specific: one of our last assignments for Communications Technology was to produce a 2-minute film. The teacher’s intent, from what I recall, was to have the class practice film editing with Adobe Premiere (an editing software) and generally test our camera-operating skills. This wasn’t even for a mark. But of course Justin and I went above and beyond the parameters anyway. We kinda had a reputation for overly ambitious projects.

It sounds easy enough, but few aspects of this assignment ran smoothly in execution. Problem number 1: our teacher partnered Justin and I with a third guy from class. That decision initially made us bitter but we took it in stride. Thing was, Justin and I had an established working dynamic; and our creative outlooks are similar; and we set high standards for ourselves. It’s not so much that we expected our classmate to be a bad partner so much as we feared ceding creative control to a third party. That’s a bad mindset to have, I’m aware. But that’s the situation we found ourselves in.

Thankfully, the guy ended up being a good colleague! So this problem wasn’t really a problem except in our heads. Justin and I actually teamed up with this guy for our next Com Tech project, “Batman 1966”, as well (which I’ll write about at a future date)!

“See Justin? Our partner isn’t that bad.” – Me, probably

Speaking of B66– Justin and I had intended to do that Batman video for this assignment. But our teacher suggested we put it off till the next one, which would actually be marked. That was a good call. So we came up with this Back to the Future concept instead. I can’t say a tonne of thought went into our story. I just liked the idea of Doc Brown being fascinated by smart phones.

The setup was simple and presumably easy to shoot. We didn’t need to get any more complicated than that. Justin and I also viewed this sketch as a screen-test for our home-made Marty McFly and Doc Brown costumes (in advance of Planet of the Beavers: Forward From the Past).

With the script in place, our team reached problem number 2: storyboarding. For anyone not familiar with the terminology, storyboards are little reference photos next to detailed descriptions of shots. They help communicate to your camera operator how you want the shot to look, and they also help with various aspects of production planning. Our teacher used this assignment as an opportunity for our class to get acquainted with use of storyboards on set.

Justin and I resisted this requirement at first. We were used to on-the-fly film shoots without set-in stone plans. Such extremely detailed outlining seemed constricting. And besides– making the storyboards looked like a lot of work. And it was… Hand-drawing reference photos for EVERY single shot in the video took forever! I hated it. But I admit the experience was worth-while. Storyboarding is TPM’s go-to method for planning productions now.

How Storyboarding makes me feel…

Problem number 3 began with our production, as my group only had an hour to film the entire sketch. Now this was technically another problem we made for ourselves, but also an understandable one. First thing to know: our Com Tech period only lasted one hour, and then we had to wrap production to attend other classes. Second thing: we weren’t in any particular rush. Nobody said we had to get the whole thing finished in one day. But, considering we were bound to get the majority of clips finished within the hour, it seemed like a waste of time to return for a pick-up day if we didn’t absolutely need to do so.

Unfortunately, rushing to complete everything resulted in some tension amongst the group for the majority of our allotted hour. I’ll go ahead and take the blame for that. Concern largely derived from Justin and our partner’s disbelief that we could finish the sketch in one day. I insisted otherwise. And the longer the hour dragged on the more stressed they became. Annoyance-levels grew on all sides. The only reason I held more confidence than they did is because I controlled the storyboards; therefore, I had the best concept of our workload. So I knew how much we had to do, and I had a rough idea how long it would take us to do it, but I should have communicated that information better.

“Justin, stop panicking. We can do this!”

I’m glad to report that the actual work of the shoot went decently enough. Our problems weren’t over, but at least we had some solid footage to show for our experience up to that point. I’ll delve into our other issues momentarily in the Narrative/ film-making analysis section below. But first I want to share a few more stories from set…

Firstly– I found it hilarious how the majority of random students in the halls paid no attention to us. We kinda proved our own joke from the video: people really don’t pay attention in the “future”. Justin and I were in full costume, and our group shot the sketch in a well-trafficked area of the school, and we barely got so much as a stare.

But we got the exact opposite reaction when we waltzed into our Drama class. Everyone in the room gawked at Justin and I all at once in utter confusion. It’s ironic that the people who are known for playing dress-up were more perplexed than anybody else. They all had questions, as they probably should have. But, when we explained who we were supposed to be, they all praised the accuracy of our outfits (Marty more than Doc, probably).

BTTF Part 2.5 Narrative/ Film-making Analysis

Because it wasn’t spelled out in the actual sketch, I’m going explain what was happening here. So, Marty and Doc are on a detour from the events of Back to the Future Part 2. They’re presumably in another potential timeline where fantastical inventions like flying cars don’t exist. But I guess climate change got ridiculously bad because there’s snow in California now… Anyway– they visit Banting Memorial High School (which seems to be what Marty’s high school becomes in this time line). Marty remains unimpressed by the place and tries to stay cool. Doc, however, is enamored with future technology– particularly the miniature light boxes which hold everyone’s attention.

The sketch was meant to be a minor commentary on how our world has become so absorbed with modern technology that people hardly pay attention to anything else. Even out of the ordinary occurrences, such as two brightly-costumed time travelers, go unnoticed. The only person who does question them (“What’s with the coveralls, man?”) was specifically approached by Marty and Doc, jarring him from his self-imposed trance.

These little light boxes may or may not control us. You decide 

Doc Brown is shocked when the man shows him Siri and (wrongfully?) assumes that humanity has invented artificial intelligence in this timeline. Paired with the notion of humanity becoming completely absorbed by their phones, perhaps Doc believes that this artificial intelligence is to blame somehow (AI has brainwashed people in the future?). Whether that hypothesis is true or not is up for debate.

Marty half-understands what’s happening, but quickly realizes it’s beyond his comprehension. Doc decides that, whatever may be happening in this timeline, his original mission with Marty is more important for the time being. And so they rush off to live out the events of BTTF Part 2.

Obviously they must have re-written this future in the process. Speaking from 5 years down the road of that alternate timeline, things couldn’t get much worse…

I really liked doing freeze frames at this period in time, OK? Stop judging

The post-production for this video turned out decently, although it’s not the way I would have cut it together if given the choice. Our teacher mandated a specific number of shots and cuts… Despite Justin’s best efforts, these parameters resulted in the video looking more unnatural than I was happy with. The ratio of shots to cuts remains jarring to me, even 5 years later. It’s too much jumping around for a 2 minute video. But it is what it is. We had no choice in the mater. I wish I could say the filmmaking carried any kind of meaning but, truthfully, most of our decisions were made to fill a quota.

That said– I was at least happy with our use of music in this piece. The addition of a “Power of Love” Karaoke version perfectly set the tone for this sketch! And that triumphant use of the BTTF theme during the credits lent a cool sense of urgency to the climactic moment.

BTTF2.5 is far from my favourite thing TPM has ever produced. As I said– Justin and I lacked a large amount of creative control, from our choice in crew to how many shots needed to be in it, and the shoot itself was spoiled by tension amongst the team. So, regardless of how it turned out (which I believe is perfectly fine, for the record), I was never destined to feel sentimental for this one. But the project gave us some much-needed practice with DSLR cameras, storyboards, and editing software– all of which I find invaluable now– so it was well worth the effort!

What’s your favourite Back to the Future Film? How was my Doc Brown impression? If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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