Clock Anti-Clock – a time travel short movie

How does time flow in Clock Anti-Clock? Is there personal time, is it a matter of perception of time, or does time actually flow backwards?

Clock Anti-Clock is a time travel movie produced by Deepak Sharma (Paragravity) with the simple premise of a time traveler who meets himself. But there’s a twist…

I’ve only got one issue with this movie, and I only noticed it because it accentuates the first of a few of my thoughts when I watched Clock Anti-Clock: Is time personal?

It relates to the construction; when the character is experiencing a backward flow of time, he stares at everything running backwards; it’s strange, it’s unusual – it deserves a good look.

But why was no-one staring at him? Relative to their time frame he’s also walking backwards etc. and would be strange to look at. He seems to be in a personal time bubble.

Personal time

In my post A Unique Signature of Time I alluded to the question: Is time personal?

In Clock Anti-Clock the question is very relevant because I think it explains a situation at the end of the film where otherwise there’d be a paradox.

We hear the door knob rattle. He puts his glasses on and from then on it seems that time runs backwards from around 12:00 pm. This is inside the room where we see the clocks going backwards, and also outside where he observes people walking backwards, taps dripping upwards, etc..

By the end of the movie we have a better perspective on what’s going on outside. The ‘experienced’ version of the character tries to open the door (causing the door handle to rattle), and realising it’s locked, walks away.

But here’s the thing: if time is running backwards for the guy inside his room and opening the door (to find no-one there) why hasn’t he seen the guy outside walking backwards back towards the door and trying the handle?

In other words, time appears to be flowing in different directions by the door – or at least, in different directions for each character.

I think it’s clear by the end of the movie we’ve figured out that it’s the glasses which cause the change of flow direction for time (though whether time actually flows backwards, or that things look like they’re going backwards can be questioned!). Since only one person can wear a single pair of glasses at the same time, it seems reasonable to assume that time is indeed personal and that there is a time bubble or something around our guy. After all – he’s still walking forwards whilst everyone else is walking backwards.

The Perception of Time

The flip side of this is that no matter what direction time flows, we perceive it as forwards – rather like applying a modulus function on time ( -2 seconds becomes 2 seconds).

This already happens in physics; I remember a cretinous teacher who took joy in deducting a mark from me when I was calculating “work done”, given as force times distance. We were told that distance was measured positive from left to right, but in the example the force was applied to an object moving in the opposite direction, so I gave it a negative sign. Of course, this gave me a negative product, but since work done cannot be negative I applied the modulus and gave the final work done as a positive number.

Mr Cretin took a mark away because he didn’t even want to see the negative number in a work done calculation. I still disagree with him. But the point remains – having a closed mind and removing a negative sign completely, or being a budding scientist to be and applying the modulus are just 2 ways in which direction is made a non factor.

So why not with time? Maybe wearing these glasses “opens our eyes”!

(As an aside, you might like to read my guest post on the perception of time and its relevance in time travel on the Theory of Space Time blog.)

Time running backwards

The question of time either being personal and acting under its own rules within personal space, or being perceived to be so, brings me onto my final point – time actually running backwards.

Time travel seems to be obsessed with moving from one point in time to another, but for the large part, time flows in one (forwards) direction. It’s often referred to as the “Arrow of Time” – a term developed by astronomer Arthur Eddington which basically says that there’s an obvious direction or flow of time reference: Wikipedia.

(Sometimes we experience time appearing to move backwards from the viewpoint of a time machine making a backward trip, but I’d suggest that this is little more than illusion – parked cars don’t really move backwards when we walk forwards alongside them, for example.)

So how does physics work when time runs backwards? For example, we saw in the movie a plane flying backwards because time flows backwards. But for the plane to remain in the air, complete with its aerodynamic design, surely physics must have changed to keep it airborne?

Plane flying backwards

To the left is a snapshot of the plane in the sky. It’s not falling, yet it’s not defying gravity. The force of gravity is an acceleration so has a time term, but here in this snapshot time has simply been removed from the equation. Is the gravitational force now working in the opposite direction so keep the plane airborne?

Physical processes at the microscopic level are believed to be either entirely or mostly time-symmetric: if the direction of time were to reverse, the theoretical statements that describe them would remain true. Yet at the macroscopic level it often appears that this is not the case: there is an obvious direction (or flow) of time. Reference: Wikipedia

In practice, I don’t know what this actually means and how that relates to the (macroscopic) plane, but I wondered further about the sign of time in vector physical equations. For example, velocity. Where speed (a scalar) is concerned only with how fast something goes, velocity is more specific; direction is also important.

Usain Bolt is the fastest human on the planet and ran 100 m in 9.58 seconds (reference: Guinness World Records). (That’s a speed of 10.43 m/s – he can run further in 1 second than he can fall if he fell off a cliff in the same time!) But Usain wouldn’t have won the Olympics unless he ran in the right direction – i.e. from the start line to the finish line. He needed to have the fastest velocity.

Where speed can’t be negative, velocity can (e.g. if Usain ran in the opposite direction). We’re back to my work done calculation here…where we can switch the sign for distance and come up with a negative velocity, can we not equally change the sign of time instead? We’d end up with negative velocity – and it would explain why everyone would be walking backwards…

Personal, perception or actual?

So how is time flowing in Clock Anti-Clock? Is there personal time, is it a matter of perception of time, or does time actually flow backwards?

The more I think about this movie, the more intricacies I find. And getting someone to think can only be a good thing!

You can see more of Deepak’s productions on his website (paragravityfilms) and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter (@deepaktrivadi).


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Film: Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus

Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus (William Rosenthal and Tristram Geary) is an action Sci-Fi film about how the world would react if time travel was a virus. Does biological time travel have a head start on us?

Echo/Back – The Time Travel Virus

A couple of weeks ago William Rosenthal shared his film with me and asked what I thought of it. Will co-wrote and co-produced “Echo/Back – The Time Travel Virus” with director Tristram Geary. In his own words, “it’s an action sci-fi about how the world would react if time travel was a virus.”

A question of authority

The premise of the film is a simple one – that authorities who control us don’t like the idea that history can be changed. In some ways I echo their sentiment, though with the authorities it’s more sinister – they wish to remain in control and “Time travel dissolves their power”.

The ability to time travel is not attained through technology but by contracting a virus. There are echoes of the X-Men movies where the infected (i.e. those who are different to the societal ‘norm’) are forced to register or submit to the authorities.

In Echo/Back – The Time Travel Virus we identify with the main character, Vance (as we tend to with the X-Men), who in a way for us represents the underdog, albeit infected with the time travel disease (or who has advanced powers).

But it’s a possibility that there may be others who have less scruples than Vance and who would use time travel for more sinister purposes. For example, not just stopping the authorities making our decisions for us, but standing in their place, or other reasons for self gain and harm to others.

Then again, we don’t really know why Vance is being hunted, do we?

Biological time travel

We don’t always need a time machine to time travel.

In X-men: Days of Future Past biological time travel comes through accelerated or staggered evolution. In Edge of Tomorrow a time loop is set up through contact with blood from an “Alpha Mimic” (an alien).

And here Echo Back is similar – time travel comes to a select few through contracting virus. There’s no time machine, no flux capacitor and no TARDIS. Time travel is of a more natural origin – albeit unwelcome (by some).

The neanderthal reaction to something we don't understand is to club it.

I can’t help recognising the basic Neanderthal reaction in Echo Back – if we don’t understand it, whack it over the head with a club. Or a gun. It seems a shame (perhaps) that the authorities don’t think to approach the problem intelligently. Why not try to develop a ‘cure’ for the time travel virus? Or come to think of it, deliberately contract the time travel disease themselves to keep themselves ahead in the game?

Neanderthal reaction in Echo Back - The Time Travel Virus
Neanderthal reaction in Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus

(One of these guys is played by Will…)

Biological problems often require biological solutions.

Actually, technological problems often require biological solutions too and we see that technology frequently seeks to emulate nature. Nature is often just much better at things than we are – she can provide the strongest materials, the strongest glue, the most beautiful artwork, etc. and generally speaking it seems that we try to mimic nature where we can. Bullet-proof vests, velcro, swimming technologies…

We’ve always done it, and to quote the source of the image below, “Stone Age man copied Nature by wearing the fur of slaughtered animals to keep warm.” (

Nature's echo - technological problems often require biological solutions
Image source: (Illustration: Mette Friis-Mikkelsen)

Whilst we can sit with a pen and paper and work things out, even develop computers or other tools to help us do that quicker, it’s much more difficult to develop biological solutions to assist us with life’s obstacles. Copying, or being inspired by Nature is much easier.

My personal thought is that for whilst theoretical physicists are beavering and banging away at Einstein’s equations to find out if – and if so, how – we can travel in time, Nature is probably busy finding it’s own way. Maybe it’s already got there. And when it’s found or evolved or contracted, we’ll imitate it with our trailing technology.

Or maybe just whack it on the head.

Interview with William Rosenthal and Tristram Geary

In this interview with director, writers and producers William Rosenthal and Tristram Geary we get a behind the scenes view on Echo Back, as well as their personal thoughts behind some of the ideas they’ve written into their film!

Time is a precious commodity – Will and Tristram, many thanks for giving us some of yours!

The fight between the authorities and Vance might be viewed as a clash between technology and biology. Given enough time for development / evolution, would you consider technology or biology to have the upper hand?

In the earlier stages, while the ability is new and underdeveloped, technology (and existing power structures) would very easily mobilise to control it. However, time travel is such an incredible advancement that it simply couldn’t be contained forever. Ultimately, we feel technology and human ingenuity would make time travel more efficient, and expand its possibilities. It may be positive or negative, weaponisation or integration, but as long as we humans have such inquisitive minds, it feels like our biology will always be shackled to our technology.

Physical limitations are well known when it comes to operating technology and we see how you’ve incorporated biological limitations into your time travel method – avoiding cleanly the grandfather paradox and the creation of ‘major’ alternate histories! Were there any aspects of time travel that were difficult to incorporate into Echo Back and how did you solve them?

Oh absolutely! Time travel in fiction is so tricky, partly because you need to make something physically impossible at least internally consistent, but also because it needs to be emotionally satisfying in some way.

Logistically, it was quite difficult to come up with a scenario that would clearly demonstrate the power of small time jumps. We eventually figured out that we needed a clear space or object- something that moved or reverted whenever Vance jumped back in time.

The action also helped, as the audience can see Vance learn through trial and error (and injury!)We wanted to show that despite the huge advantages of this ability, there are still plenty of limitations. We also needed to work out some tactics and technology that would give the police an upper hand.

Can you explain the “Echo” aspect in the film title?

Well firstly of course, there’s the idiom ‘to echo back’, meaning to evoke something similar from the past. The way in which the world reacts to time travel is similar to other, world-changing phenomena; excitement, fear, and ultimately a desire for control. The nature and mandate of governments means that they’ll always aim to regulate things, the internet for example. Sometimes that’s a helpful step, other times, less so.

It’s also a reference to the mechanism of our form of time travel. In the film, Vance jumps through what is essentially the same scenario many, many times. Each variation shares the same key features, but is slightly distorted from its predecessor; like an echo.

To turn things upside down, how do you think people would feel if their local authority was able to time travel and they weren’t?

As regular citizens, we’re already very much at the mercy of our systems and those more powerful than us. Authorities can monitor your phone activity, control the legitimate use of violence, and make decisions daily that most of us will never know about but which will profoundly affect our lives. Now, these aren’t always bad things- you could argue they’re necessary components of a government- but time travel would probably just be another (albeit near-omnipotent) string in their bow.

However, who knows, a shift in power this enormous might actually galvanise many people into protest and defiance. Instead of being the ultimate weapon for control, time travel could be the catalyst for a regime’s unravelling.

Are there any plans for a sequel / prequel to Echo Back?

Actually, we’ve drafted a screenplay for a feature film, so we’d love to see the concept explored further!

How did you go about writing Echo Back? Did you write, then ‘convert’ it into a screenplay, or did you write it as a screen play from the outset?

We always intended to convert the basic time travel mechanism into some sort of film, but we initially had very few specifics beyond that. Our excitement about the premise meant that we spent some time throwing ideas at each other. How would it work on an individual level? How heavily could it shake the world’s establishments? What would it mean for how we perceive death? Given our miniscule budget, we were obviously limited in what we could show, but we still wanted to express as many of these possibilities as we could- hence the narrated sections.

As a scientist I’m told that I need to spend about an hour in preparation for each slide I present at a conference. I can’t help considering that a movie comprises many frames per second, and arguably the story line is much more important! How long did it take to make this film?

We spent roughly three months on pre-production, including design, costume, rehearsal, choreography, and searching for locations.

We were extremely fortunate to get David on board to play Vance. On the day of filming, he spent about 16 consecutive hours being beaten up. Our budget limited us to just one day with the camera and shooting gear, so we had to make the most of it! He and the rest of our small, brilliant crew of volunteers were consummately professional and seriously hard workers.

Our tiny post-production crew spent the next months editing, sound editing, scoring, and crafting effects. It really was a huge undertaking for a small number of dedicated people.

I love the interplay between the narration (done by Tristram) and the action sequences which show the more physical side of the battle between the authorities and time travellers. Were there times when you struggled to mesh these two techniques together?

Fantastic to hear you liked it! It was definitely a difficult pairing to balance. We wanted to expose the audience to a larger world, while not encroaching too heavily on the emotional flow of the action sequence. The parallels with broader time travel struggles also hopefully reinforced Vance’s motivation and determination. However, we also couldn’t get too specific in describing these events, as it could jerk viewers out of his immediate predicament. Definitely a challenge!

Will and Tristram, many thanks again for your time – for both the interview and for creating Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus! I’m really excited to hear that you’ve got plans for a feature film!!

Follow Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus on Facebook and Twitter (@EchoBackMovie).

Edit: Will and Tristram have since compiled an “Action Cut” of Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus which offers us (yet) another view into the original film. Vance’s physical exhaustion and also his frustration in his need to endure the authorities and the masses really shines through in this cut. I’ve written a short piece (with the link to Action Cut) which touches on the ideas of other people’s role when you relive your life. It’s clearly not always for the better!


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Review: The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect


Evan is a young boy who suffers from blackouts which appear to be associated with moments of stress in his life. Perhaps this is not surprising given his troubled childhood – his father is held in a mental institution, and he lives with his single mother and a pet dog. His mother is loving and tries her best to bring him up and look after him. When she is shown a grizzly drawing Evan drew but couldn’t remember anything about, she takes him to see a doctor for a brain scan (a poignant point given his father’s mental condition). The doctor recommends that Evan keeps a journal to help him develop his memory. Ewan is diligent in this, and keeps his journals under his bed.

He is friends with Lenny, and also with Kayleigh with whom he has a soft spot. Evan and Lenny tolerate Kayleigh’s brother Tommy who shows signs of violence, even at an early age. As Evan grows up, he continues to get involved in a number of incidents with his friends, usually lead by Tommy, which lead into various forms of trouble. His blackouts continue, and often seem suspiciously strategic, absolving him of any responsibility in these events. Frustrated, his mother takes him out of his home town, and we see Evan showing Kayleigh a handwritten note through the car window which reads “I’ll be back for you”.

The movie slides to Ewan’s life as a college student, where we learn that he’s had no blackouts for 7 years. He comes back to his dorm after a night celebrating with a date who finds his journals under his bed and asks him to read one. He finds a section just before he blacked out, and on reading it finds himself back as a young child in the time of the blackout he has been reading about. He realises that he is reliving moments in his past and attempts to change them for the better.


The first part of the film seems slow to start off, and is naturally focused on Evan’s difficult childhood with its gritty details. Be warned that some of this is quite disturbing owing to the subject material. At this stage it would be easy to think of this movie as a psychological drama, but things start to get interesting from a science fiction / time travel viewpoint when Evan grows up and stops having his blackouts. This is when he discovers how to go back in time to the moments of his blackouts to try to change things for the better – whilst he’s blacked out as a child, he’s reliving the moment as an adult.

The matching between the present and the past is crafted beautifully, providing the viewer with information and insights which were naturally missing the first time round.

As a viewer I really felt for Evan – it is easy to share in his confusion when the repercussions of actions in the past filter through time and affect his present. I was particularly touched in that Evan strives to make things better for his friends and family, rather than for his own gain. This is made most clear when he tries to help his mother, and ultimately in the ending of the movie. In differing versions of his present, Evan loses friends and girlfriends, and towards the end, physically more.

The basic idea of going to the past to deliberately alter the future but suffering unforeseen consequences is certainly not original, but I thought that The Butterfly Effect applied it in an interesting…and perhaps more realistic…way than an other ‘easier’ film would have handled.

Despite the slow start, I really enjoyed this movie, and what I found to be missing at the start in terms of content was easily made up for when revisiting it through Evan’s eyes the second time round.

Time travel

Reading a journal (and in one case, watching a home movie) to travel back in time is perhaps a little similar to reliving a memory, but in this case, it’s more literal. No attempt was made to explain how this method worked, but this added to the sense of Ewan’s confusion when it happened, as well as its lack of credibility when he tries to explain it to others. Fundamentally, the time travel element is treated as black box, and is a vehicle where the viewer is invited to climb aboard and share in the mystery surrounding it. The movie touched slightly on the idea that Evan’s time travelling ability was hereditary and was passed down to him from his father.

I have read that there is an alternate ending available on DVD which reinforces this interesting idea – realising that there is no way for the past to be improved and that he himself is a cause of much of the suffering in the altered timelines, Evan kills himself in his mother’s womb, thus preventing himself from from being born. Evan’s mother refers to her earlier miscarriages, leading to the idea that he had brothers and sisters with the same time travelling ability and who had also reached the same conclusion. These suicides echo Evan’s father’s harrowing attempt to murder Evan.