At New York Comic-Con on Thursday, Jason Aron, the director of “Back in Time,” a documentary celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Robert Zemeckis’ “Back to the Future,” was asked by an audience member, “Do you feel anything would have been different if Eric Stoltz had played Marty McFly?” (Stoltz famously was replaced by Michael J. Fox as the lead of the film in the middle of shooting). Answered Aron: “We wouldn’t be sitting in this room.”
Touching on the enormous impact the “Back to the Future” and its two sequels had on pop culture, Aron said the documentary came about when, in the midst of working on a short film in 2013, strangers repeatedly would stop him to talk about the vintage DeLorean he was using. “It made me think we should make a documentary.” Two successful Kickstarter campaigns (raising $45,000 and over $140,000, respectively) and the assistance of “Back to the Future” co-writer Bob Gale and “Back in Time”’s co-executive producer Adam F. Goldberg (creator and show-runner of ABC’s “The Goldbergs”) later, Aron and Louis Krubich, executive producer, and Lee Leshen, producer, had interviewed cast members and crew of the original film including Fox (Marty McFly), Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown), Lea Thompson (Lorraine McFly), Steven Spielberg (executive producer) and Zemeckis (director), as well as VIP fans such as television producer Dan Harmon (“Community”) and Terry and Oliver Holler, who created a screen-accurate DeLorean time machine and have traveled to all 50 states with it to raise money for Fox’s foundation, which supports research for Parkinson’s Disease.
Never underestimate the impact of the DeLorean: In a clip from the documentary, Gale mentions that Ford offered thousands of dollars for the use of their Mustang in the movie. Gale’s response: “Doc Brown doesn’t drive a f—king Mustang.” Gale was a touchstone for the production of the documentary: “[He] really helped us out,” says Krubich, “[We said] ‘We need Lea [Thompson], can you help?’ In three or 4 minutes we had an e-mail address and in 30 minutes we had a scheduled date for the[interview].” Gale also assisted in getting clearance from Universal for the use of clips from the films.
Were the cast and crewmembers difficult to work with? Though all had busy schedules, some of them were surprisingly low-maintenance. On preparing for an interview with Lloyd, Leshen says, “We went to the Ralph’s [supermarket]…we got three different kinds of coffee, we got every kind of pretzel and chip you could imagine….he had one pretzel and a half a bottle of water. [it cost us] $400 dollars.”
The labor of love paid off by giving the crew access to some once-in-a-lifetime experiences. “Riding [a rweal, experimental] hoverboard and feeling frictionless movement under your feet” was the number one experience Leshen took away from making the movie. Meeting superfans like Bill Shea, owner of one of the original DeLoreans used in the movies (valued at over $500,000) was another. Fans who were present at the panel discussion got an experience of their own to take home with them: Each attendee was given a special limited edition bottle of “Pepsi Perfect,” a soda featured in the 2015 scenes of “Back to the Future II.”
More importantly, “Back in Time” will impact lives in the present day. A 13-city tour of the movie, with music by the “BTTF” tribute band the Flux Capacitors and appearances by the famous car, will raise money for the Michael J. Fox foundation. The tour comes to NYC on November 2.
When asked what the most amazing thing the filmmakers have taken from the experience their journey, Krubich instead mentioned the chance of an event that seemed impossible when “Back to the Future II” came out that, if the movie got it right, was supposed to happen this year: “The cubs winning the world series this year…if [the “Back to the Future” creators] got that right, that will be the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Back in Time” premieres on Netflix streaming on Oct. 21. The “88MPH” theatrical tour comes to NYC’s Mason Hall on Nov. 22 and the Sharp Theater on Nov. 23. Backintimefilm.com