A Los Angeles Film Festival audience turned out Saturday for the premiere of "Earth to Echo," a PG-rated sci-fi flick that follows kids in Nevada aiding an alien on his journey home.
Director Dave Green, who makes his feature film debut, said his movie represents a rare find: the live-action family film.
"There's no live-action family content out there whatsoever," Green said on the red carpet Saturday outside Regal Cinemas L.A. Live. "I think there's a way that you can hook into a story through live action in a way that you can't through animation, and vice-versa. I'm excited to get this out there because it is a little bit of an anomaly."
Relativity Media picked up the film from Disney last summer, which started the project two years ago in secrecy as "Untitled Wolf Project." It wasn't until after casting that the young actors starring in the film discovered that aliens played a role.
"We assumed it had to do something with wolves, which was far from the case," said Ella Linnea Wahlestedt, 15. "Only after we were cast I was able to read the script and realize how lucky I was to be a part of it. I mean, how cool are aliens?"
The film brings Brian "Astro" Bradley, 17, to the big screen for the first time. Audiences first saw him in 2011 in the first season of "The X Factor," showcasing his rapping abilities. Astro's character, Tuck, narrates the film and operates the handheld cameras and YouTube footage that help to drive the storytelling.
"The acting is just something I'm trying out. The music is still my main thing," Astro said. He said young people will relate to the movie "because everybody has Instagram, and all we do is film everything, so it's like if you found an alien today you'd probably do the same thing."
The approach to storytelling makes the film a good fit for the L.A. Film Festival, producer Andrew Panay said.
"It has a slight indie feel even though it's going big," Panay said. "I think the documentary style for a younger demographic and families is not something that they're used to, so it's fun to experience and it also makes the movie feel like it's really happening and that it's coming from the kids' perspective.
Teo Halm, 15, one of the young leads in the film, said the kid-produced quality of the film will appeal to audiences.
"Dave Green, the director, his goal was to kind of bring back that genre of family movie that anyone can enjoy: Kids will enjoy it, teens will enjoy it, adults will enjoy it," Halm said.
The film took just 30 days to shoot but two years to reach the big screen, time that transformed the young actors. Jason Gray-Stanford, who plays the pseudo-bad-guy in the film, looked at his costars on the red carpet and said with surprise, "They're so big."
"Earth to Echo" opens in theaters nationwide on July 2.