December 7, 2015

SCA Goes “Back to the Future”

School Hosts Marathon of Films with Q & A

Rick Carter, Bob Gale, Tim Dowling and Christpher Lloyd after the screening.

Assuming that our timeline hasn’t been altered by time travelers Marty McFly and Doc Brown, USC School of Cinematic Arts alum Robert Zemeckis’ iconic sci-fi comedy Back to the Future hit the big screen thirty years ago this year. To celebrate the anniversary of the film, SCA hosted a marathon of the Back to the Future trilogy in Frank Sinatra Hall in the Eileen Norris Cinema Complex on December 6th followed by a Q and A with alum/screenwriter Bob Gale, Production Designer (Part II, III) Rick Carter, and actor Christopher Lloyd.

Lloyd told the capacity crowd that, although his role as Doc Emmet Brown has become an iconic part of American culture, he initially didn’t have any interest in the script. “I was doing a little film in Mexico and my agent said he was sending a script. The script came down to where I was and I looked it over. At the same time, I had gotten an offer to go back to New York and do a play. A good play. Hans Christian Anderson. I had done a lot of theatre work and I was ready to go back to my roots. I’m embarrassed to say but I threw the script in the waste paper basket. It was an astonishing career move. I had a girlfriend that told me not to leave any possibility without checking it out. I retrieved the script, met Bob Zemeckis, and that was that.”

Gale and Zemeckis met while undergrads at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and began trying to develop an idea for a time travel movie while making student films together. The script took on several versions and was passed over by several studios until Zemeckis directed Romancing the Stone and had enough heat to produce the ambitious script.

Gale insisted that he and Zemeckis’ commitment to classical Hollywood filmmaking is what made the film so iconic. “I watched the movies again in 2002. It had been a long time since I had seen them,” said Gale. “I was shocked that they were so good and I think it was our commitment to classical filmmaking. They look like they could have been shot yesterday. There’s no tricks. The stories are classic. The performances are great. In a way, it’s kind of an anti-tentpole movie. Special effects get old. Classical filmmaking doesn’t. I think the longevity of the film is a testament to that.”

In addition to being the thirtieth anniversary of the time travel comedy, 2015 is also the setting for the future-set Back to the Future Part II.

Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis were nominated for the Academy Award for the screenplay of Back to the Future and have worked together on several films including 1941, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Used Cars, and Trespass.

Christopher Lloyd is also a long-time collaborator of Zemeckis, having appeared in the Back to the Future trilogy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Lloyd is best known for his films with Zemeckis and the iconic sitcom Taxi.

Rick Carter had the unique experience of first joining the Back to the Future team as a fan. When he was approached to be the production designer of Part II, he knew he needed to take the job. “To me, production design isn’t a technical experience,” said Carter. “It wasn’t even a decision. Bob used to call the problems with the shoot ‘insurmountable opportunities.’ That’s what it was. I was a fan. I like big imaginations, and what Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis created ignited me.”

Carter’s production design can be seen in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

For more information on the Back to the Future Trilogy, please visit: