‘Life Tracker,’ the perfect movie for the end of the world
If you could find out when your last day on Earth would be, would you want to know?
With all of the frenzied lead-up to today’s “end of the world,” it almost seems like some people will be disappointed if the Mayans weren’t right. Still, I have no doubt that come sunrise tomorrow, there will be a new prediction of when we’ll meet our maker in some planetary catastrophe. But what would happen if the date of our demise was somehow coded into our DNA and the technology was available to reveal this and other key facts about our future? Would you want to know? What kind of implications would this knowledge have on the rest of our lives? This is the provocative premise of “Life Tracker,” a film written and directed by Joe McClean.
“Life Tracker” tells the story of an aspiring filmmaker, Dillon (Barry Finnegan), who is intrigued by this new controversial technology that has just begun to attract widespread interest (and paranoia) around the world. He decides to make a documentary about Life Tracker Limited, the company behind the new DNA analysis. With the help of his two best friends, Scott (Matt Dallas) and Bell (Rebecca Marshall), Dillon embarks on a journey to find the real story behind the science, a journey that tests the trio’s friendships well as their individual beliefs.
I visited the set of this thought-provoking film earlier this year and watched the three talented leads shoot one of the film’s key scenes—the moment when they open up their own DNA “prints” and discover some very surprising things about their own futures. I talked to the director and actors about this suspenseful tale set in the near future. One challenge director Joe McClean faced was telling this huge story with a tiny indie budget.
“We’re doing an end-of-the-world movie here,” McClean said, “but we had to find a way to bring it down to a very small, personal scale. We focus on these three characters who are making a documentary about this worldwide story. How does it affect each of them differently?” McClean explained that during the course of the film, the technology behind the DNA testing continues to advance. At first people view it like some kind of fortune cookie or palm reading, but then it starts to be used in all sorts of ways. If everyone in a certain area gets their DNA prints read and they start to see a huge percentage of people who are going to develop cancer, that obviously brings up some very important questions. How would individuals—and governments—respond to such predictions? “One of the things that comes up in the movie,” McClean explains, “is a prediction that the entire population of Belfast is going to die on the same day. Why is that going to happen? How could knowing that change things?”
While the story is clearly based on “movie science,” there’s a plausibility factor in the premise that makes you wonder if something like this might be possible some day. Look at all of the genetic markers we currently can see in DNA that were impossible to catch just a few short years ago. Joe McClean mentions a real-life parallel that came up after he wrote the script. “The actor who’s playing the guy who invented this technology called me up one day and told me to turn on the news. There was a scientist from Spain talking about this new blood test his company developed that could measure the end caps of your chromosomes to see how far they’ve deteriorated. The thought was that such a test could eventually give you an approximation of how much time you have left!”
I talked to the actors about whether they’d like to know their future if such technology was really available. “It’s such an interesting concept,” said Rebecca Marshall, an actress who has appeared in many TV series as well as “Saw 3D” and “That’s My Boy.” “That’s what made me fall in love with the script the minute I read it. But would I want to take the test myself? Probably but I’d be absolutely terrified!”
“I’d hold off as long as I could,” said Matt Dallas, best known for his starring role in the sci-fi series “Kyle XY” (remember the kid without a belly button?), “but as much as people resist new technology at the beginning, I’m sure I’d eventually give in if everyone I knew was getting their prints read.”
“How could you not do it?” agreed Barry Finnegan, an actor who appeared in Joe McClean’s acclaimed short film, “How to Make a David Lynch Film.” “But I see what knowing the future does to these three characters. It changes their lives completely and also makes them confront the concept of free will vs. determinism. The whole idea is sort of Shakespearean in a way.”
While the story is told through Dillon’s documentary footage, the look of the film changes as the character gets more funding for his project and upgrades his equipment. And the story takes a big turn once the documentary’s three subjects read their own prints. “I think every woman has an idea of what they want their future to be, from the time they are a little girl,” Marshall explained, “so when Bell finds out that what’s going to happen in her future is not at all what she expected, it kind of breaks her heart. All of these characters really get tested.”
“Life Tracker” will be making the rounds at upcoming film festivals and will be released theatrically some time in 2013—that is, if there is a 2013.