Like many filmmakers of his generation, Montreal native Aristomenis Tsirbas grew up watching television ET the extraterrestrial, Back to the Future and other famous science fiction classics from the 1980s Timescape: Back to the Dinosaursthe 55-year-old director wanted to reinterpret this genre in his own way by writing a family adventure film that mixes time travel, flying saucers and dinosaurs.
Filmed in Montreal and Rawdon in the fall of 2019, Timescape: Back to the Dinosaurs tells the story of Jason (Sofian Oleniuk), a young geeky boy who accidentally discovers a mysterious flying saucer that has just landed in a nearby forest.
Upon entering the machine, he meets Lara (Lola Rossignol-Arts), a young girl who has also just discovered the device. By trying to understand how the UFO works, the two children unknowingly trigger a function that allows time travel and are instantly transported to the age of dinosaurs, at the dawn of their extinction.
“As my producer [David-Alexandre Coiteux] gave me the idea of making a family film, I was thinking about the kind of film I used to enjoy watching myself when I was young,” says Aristomenis Tsirbas during a phone interview granted to the journal.
“I immediately thought back to the science fiction classics that shaped my childhood and youth. So I tried to rethink this genre by giving it a modern twist. There are elements of that in my film, with time travel, science fiction, humor and archetypes. But ultimately my goal was to write a story about trust. During his adventure, Jason’s character must learn to trust others.
Benefiting from a modest budget for this type of production, Aristomenis Tsirbas shot the film in just 21 days with a small crew made up mostly of Canadians and Quebecers. The filmmaker, who worked in visual effects for several years, then spent more than two years in post-production on his second feature film (after Battle for Terra).
“We all worked very hard to maximize the film’s budget,” says the filmmaker. It was teamwork. Personally, I’ve had a lot of visual effects and storyboarding experience over the past thirty years, so I was able to use all that knowledge to make the film.
Photo courtesy of TVA FILMS
At James Cameron’s school
Aristomenis Tsirbas made his first experiences in the world of cinema through his work in the field of visual effects. And it started in Montreal, his hometown.
“I started doing visual effects here in Montreal while working for the International Auto Show in 1996!” he says laughing.
“That same year I moved to Los Angeles and the first project I worked on there was James Cameron’s Titanic. I then participated in several projects including My Favorite Martian (Disney) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was my path to directing. Visual effects allowed me to put food on the table while aspiring to be a director. It’s not the easiest way to get your bearings and it can take a long time. But I liked working with visual effects. It is an asset that serves me greatly today.”
Aristomenis Tsirbas doesn’t hide it: As a Canadian director trying to find his place in Hollywood, James Cameron remains a role model for him.
“He’s extremely passionate and definitely one of the hardest working people in this industry,” says Titanic and Avatar director Aristomenis Tsirbas.
“It’s primarily that work ethic that I keep from him. He places very high demands on himself and his team members. It takes a lot of work and perseverance to carry out ambitious projects like his. It’s amazing to see what he’s been able to do.”
Timescape: Back to the Dinosaurs was released yesterday in its original English version and in a French dubbed version.