The $7,000 Sci-Fi Movie That Blew My Mind

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Ever since I was in high-school, I had a passion for music and Sci-Fi movies. On some levels, I managed to fulfill that need to create my own music and be praised for it, but I also had a personal dream of making my own Sci-Fi movie about time travel. I admit, it is a topic that fascinates me still, and I love to re-watch those cool time travel movies: Terminator, Back to the Future, Donnie Darko, Groundhog Day, Twelve Monkeys. Of course, I know that in order to make a watchable Sci-Fi movie from scratch, you need to undergo a test of endurance and patience, because you have to write the screenplay, you need to find/hire a cast, you need to shot those Sci-Fi scenes in a way that’s not ridicule and pathetic, you need to edit the movie and finally, you need a great soundtrack. Even if I write one sentence for each and every one of these “to do’s” on a piece of paper, it still takes a lot of time and imagination. Oh, and there is that little thing that makes the world go round: the budget. In order to shot any kind of low budget movie, no matter how cheap you go, you still need a budget. Before seeing Primer, I thought that all of the above were just reasons not to enroll into this kind of adventure. But everything changed when I found out that this mind-blowing independent movie was entirely-made with a budget of $7,000.


The movie starts slow, with 4 friends that are having weekend meetings in a suburban garage, trying to build error-checking devices. Instead, 2 of them discovers that one of these devices has strange side-effects that allows them to time travel to the near-past (few hours). From this point on, everything goes crazy and complicated, because the director (Shane Carruth) is trying to portray time travel from the geek perspective, making you wonder about loopholes, loose ends, paradoxes and strange events. If you had a machine that allows you to time travel few hours into the past, what would you do? For me, the movie is so realistic especially since it answers that question the same why that I would. I’m not going to reveal to much of it, but the idea of not knowing what’s real about your reality, not knowing your place in a larger scheme and eventually not knowing which version of you is the “good one” put Primer on top of my Sci-Fi time travel movie list.


The movie was released in 2004, and it was written, directed, starred and produced entirely by Shane Carruth, a former math graduate and an engineer. He used most of the budget for buying film stock, and many of the people seen in the movie are closed friends or family. Even more, most of the scenes seen in the movie are first takes, and Carruth said it was a real pain trying to assemble a movie with so few extra-scenes. After the release, Primer was immediately noticed by viewers and critics, and it won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. The outstanding plot structure, philosophical implications, and complex technical dialogue have elevated Primer into a cult movie, making fans wonder when this one-man-army would start his next project.

Do you remember when Matrix was released? Almost everyone wanted to see it for the second time in order to catch all the hidden gems that were overlooked at first view. Primer is that kind of movie. Someone said that if you think you get it at first view, you are either a complete idiot or a genius. I loved a line said by the main character, Aaron (Carruth), when he finds himself in an inescapable time scheme: “What’s worse, being paranoid or knowing you should be?”

Primer Movie Poster

Primer on IMDB and Wikipedia

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