Relax, I’m From The Future Interview: Filmmaker On A Time Travel Tale 10 Years In The Making

Summary

  • Relax, I’m From the Future is a time travel film with a unique twist, subverting cliches of the genre.
  • Director Luke Higginson aimed to create a film that prioritizes humor and heart over hard sci-fi elements.
  • The chemistry between actors Rhys Darby and Gabrielle Graham is a standout in the film, bringing the characters of Casper and Holly to life.


Fans of time travel stories will have a ball with Relax, I’m From the Future, which is the feature directorial debut of Luke Higginson. He also wrote the screenplay and edited the movie, culminating a ten-year journey since he first premiered the short film of the same name at TIFF 10.

Relax, I’m from the Future stars Our Flag Means Death‘s Rhys Darby as Casper, a novice time traveler who finds himself trapped in the past. He soon makes friends with Holly (Gabrielle Graham), a drifter who helps him make use of his future knowledge in the present — which unknowingly throws them into the path of a more experienced traveler named Doris (Janine Theriault). The movie also stars Julian Richings, Zachary Bennett, Louisa Zhu, and Marye Barton.

Related: 10 Best Time Travel Comedies, Ranked

Screen Rant interviews director Luke Higginson about how Relax, I’m from the Future went from a short film to a feature-length movie, the wonderful chemistry between Rhys Darby and Gabrielle Graham, and the internal logic of time travel.


Luke Higginson Talks Relax, I’m From The Future

Screen Rant: Luke, fantastic job on this film. It’s actually a different take on a time travel story that I hadn’t seen yet. What inspired the concept of Relax, I’m from the Future and how did you develop the storyline?

Luke Higginson: Well, thank you very much. Originally, it was actually a five-minute short that I made in 2013, I wrote and directed it, and at that point it was literally just a joke. I thought it was funny, the idea of a time traveler who was completely unprepared, who had no plan, who had no sort of reason for being there. That was just an idea that tickled me. I made a five-minute short about that. People liked it and I decided to try to expand it.

Once I was trying to expand it, it became a way for me to work through all my various anxieties and insecurities about the future and the dark places I’m afraid that it’s going and my feelings of an inability to do anything about it is sort of all of those issues. And I was writing it around 2016 too. I think there were a lot of people having existential crises around that time and just filtering a lot of my feelings through that, and that became sort of what the film was about and what I was trying to deal with it.

Time travel is such a huge part, a part of this, and this one really stands apart from a lot of other time travel things. How did you want to make this one stand out from things like Terminator or Doctor Who?

Luke Higginson: Going into it, I really wanted to subvert a lot of the cliches of it, so a lot of things that I had seen done one way I was just like, “I’ll just do the other way.” One of the simplest examples is literally in Terminator, only organic matter can go through.

In my film, literally no organic matter can go through. You have to be completely covered, head to toe, leading to our lead character desperately needing to find an air hole for his costume when he arrives, and little things like that where, yeah, it’s like if there was a thing I felt I’d seen before, my instinct was to go in a different direction. And that’s not the case in every aspect, but that was my guiding principle. It was follow what I thought was funny, what I thought would lead to something interesting and just try to do the unexpected thing as often as I could.

Has this story just been in your head for the last 10 years as you’ve been trying to work it out?

Luke Higginson: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely spent some of those years in the last 10 in a drawer. I definitely had a few times where I took it out, I was like, “This is garbage, what am I doing?” And I took it away, but it did always stick with me. I just kept not being able to shake the characters of Casper and Holly. They just really lived with me and every time again that I started feeling strange or down or in a weird place, thinking about them was the way I would get back and center myself. And I couldn’t put them away until I had finished the script, until I had made it into something I was happy with. Yeah.

How did you approach the creative process when blending sci-fi elements with humor and drama in this film? Because this definitely means more comedy than sci-fi.

Luke Higginson: Definitely. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it was very important to me that the comedy and the heart is what mattered in the film. I mean, I love hard sci-fi time travel films like your primaries and all of that, but I knew that wasn’t the film that I’m not smart enough to make a movie like that, and that wasn’t the movie I wanted to make. So I really did follow that first and then use that as a guiding principle and build the sci-fi logic around it. I worked very hard to maintain internal logic and consistency within that once I got there. But definitely what I was following was the humor and the heart.

I think a great example is the Back to the Future movies as the gold standard. They’re nonsense, but they make perfect sense emotionally and they make perfect sense comedically, and that’s what matters and that’s what you follow.

Were there any particular challenges that you faced when bringing the feature to life?

Luke Higginson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’re an indie film. We didn’t have a lot of money. We had our star, Rhys Darby, for 15 shooting days – which is not a lot of time. He’s in basically every scene in the movie. And he’s from New Zealand. And we shot in Hamilton in Toronto, Ontario in December, and it was very, very cold. We frequently had a tiny window of time to shoot a sort of very complicated, very dialogue-heavy scene in the freezing cold.

It was just really needing to move, move, move while still getting what we needed to get was a huge challenge. And I’m incredibly grateful to my crew and to the cast. Rhys was an absolute champion for putting up with all of that.

When I was watching this movie, I almost felt like I was paging through a graphic novel. What directors did you look at for inspiration when crafting this film?

Luke Higginson: I’ve been a comic book reader all my life that is burned into my artistic DNA, so that’s definitely a thing that was always there. I’m a big fan of Edgar Wright. I really liked the way he creates comedies with visual flare and with real momentum. That’s the thing that I really loved about his films that I wanted to emulate. I also really like the British director, Alex Cox, who made Repo Man, and Sid and Nancy, and Walker. And he has this really punky dirty but still colorful and with visual pop to what he does. And I was very, very inspired by him and his films. And yeah, those two I’d say were the two I took the most from for this film. But obviously, there are a million filmmakers that I love.

I love Rhys Darby and Gabrielle Graham’s chemistry in this film. They’re incredible. How did you work with those actors to bring these characters to life?

Luke Higginson: That was such a wonderful thing. They met for the first time the afternoon before we had to start shooting, and Rhys had just flown in after shooting the first season of Our Flag Means Death. They had never met each other. They’re such different people, and they got in a room together. We did one read-through of one scene that was a little shaky, and then we talked about it and we talked about the characters, and then we did another read-through and just something clicked. It was just, despite all their differences, they just found it immediately.

I had been so terrified up to that moment and that was the moment where I was like, okay, we have a movie here. And yeah, they got along great. They really did just fall into this very easy rapport and I really think the movie’s built on that. Yeah.

I love the character of Casper. I think he’s so well-written. Talk to me a little bit about the future that he’s from.

Luke Higginson: The idea I wanted to play with, and I don’t want to get too dark here because as I said I was working through some sort of difficult thoughts at the time, but for him, the future is what he would describe as fine, kind of fine, maybe boring, little flat, little drab, but essentially he’s fine and everyone in his bubble is fine. And one of the things the film tries to poke at and explore a little bit is like, but is that the case for everyone?

I am a relatively lucky, privileged person, globally speaking. And as much as I fear things that may be coming down the line, I am aware of how much worse it is for so many other people. And that inherent sense of both fear and both guilt and gratitude is a thing that I wrestle with and is something that I very much put in the script and is a thing that is part of Casper’s character and the vision of the future that he’s from.

If you could go back in time to any era, where would you go? Would you also change anything when you’re there?

Luke Higginson: That’s the question. Would I be able to? Would I be able to change stuff? Let me noodle on that.

My selfish, not-at-all-helping-the-world answer is similar to what Holly refers to in the movie. I would love to go to New York in the mid-seventies, and that music scene is my favorite music of all time. I want to see the Ramones, I want to see the Talking Heads. I want to see The Damned. I want to see all of those guys, and I want to see them in tiny little clubs.

My altruistic answer? I’ll kill Hitler. I’m going to go back.

relax i'm from the future poster

What character from any series or film would you want to time travel with?

Luke Higginson: Ooh, that’s a good one. Not to be cliche, but it’s got to be Doc, right? That’s the most fun. I want to ride the DeLorean. I want to put on the crazy hat. Yeah, no, I’ve got to go with Doc. Actually, I got to meet and work with Christopher Lloyd a number of years ago. I am basically an extra in a zombie film I edited called Dead Before Dawn 3D. I got to play one of the zombies on screen with Christopher Lloyd very briefly, and it was an incredible honor. He’s the sweetest man in the world. I couldn’t believe how nice and kind and generous he was. I love Christopher Lloyd. I love Doc Brown. I’m going with that.

What a bucket list. Are these characters and is this situation out of your head or would you like to follow this up and maybe go to Casper’s future?

Luke Higginson: My producer, Tim Doiron, and I wrote a pilot and are developing currently a TV series that we’re pitching around loosely based on the same concept with Casper as the lead. And in that, we do explore his future, and we do go into that. The series plays along two simultaneous timelines where you’re seeing his future and you’re seeing the present at the same time and cutting back and forth. And I’m very proud of it actually. I think it’s a lot of fun. I hope we get to make it.

I think that Gabrielle Graham is amazing in this. Can you talk to me about what she brought to the role of Holly that wasn’t on the page?

Luke Higginson: She was the person I knew I wanted to cast for Holly. I didn’t know her from before, but when I were started the early stages of casting, I saw the film Possessor, the Brandon Cronenberg film, and she’s in the first 10 minutes of that movie. Immediately, she just pops on the screen. She’s got such an incredible presence on camera, and I just immediately, I was like, “Who is this?” And I was like, “Oh, she’s Canadian? And oh, she’s playing a character named Holly?”

I then looked into her and I was like, can she do comedy? And she had just done this series on BET, the Lena Waithe show Twenties. And so I could see that she had comedic timing, so I immediately was like, I know this is my Holly. And we met up, we Zoomed, and we got along immediately. She really loved the script. And yeah, I really think she grounds the movie, and I think she brings just this charisma, this cynical, but open-hearted charisma to the role that I think is very special. I think she’s phenomenal.

What are you hoping audiences take away from Relax, I’m from the Future? Because it’s a lot of fun.

Luke Higginson: First and foremost, I hope people laugh. I hope people have a good time. That is the point of the film is to be fun and funny, and that is what I hope people take away. But yeah, I hope that people take away hope, for lack of a better term. In my ideal world, this would do for other people what writing it did for me, which is take them from a place of feeling helpless and feeling a sense of despair about the world and bringing them back to a place of, “Things are bad, but there’s a chance that they can be better. And the way that’s going to happen is if I do something, engage in life, and engage with the world.” If anyone takes that from the film, that would be an absolute dream.

About Relax, I’m From The Future

rhys darby as casper in relax i'm from the future

RELAX, I’m FROM THE FUTURE follows CASPER, a charming, but embarrassingly underprepared Time Traveler, now trapped in the past. When he befriends HOLLY, a jaded drifter, she helps him exploit his trivial knowledge of the future for a series of quick payouts, oblivious to the consequences they have set in motion. When DORIS, a more competent Time Traveler, tracks them down, Casper and Holly are forced to figure out exactly what they mean to each other and whether the future they’ve threatened is even worth saving. Will they embrace their fate, or do they have the courage to change it?

Relax, I’m from the Future is now available on VOD platforms.