When they were putting together their sci-fi adventure Earth to Echo, producer Andrew Panay, director Dave Green and writer Henry Gayden had one simple goal: to hark back to classic 1980s pre-teen classics E.T., Stand by Me and The Goonies.

Earth to EchoEarth to Echo 

As Panay began to wonder how a story like E.T would be told now, he immediately thought about how children all have cameras in their pockets. "Kids today are doing a lot of their own filming," he says. "There are all these different social media outlets and ways of communicating which comes down to turning the camera around and shooting yourself and sending it off. It just makes sense."

More: read our review of Earth to Echo

So Gayden created the central character Tuck, as someone "who needs to have a camera. Like so many kids, he films every moment of his life."

"We wanted to lean into the idea that Tuck not only shot the whole thing, he's also cut the whole thing," says Green. "And he's put music to it when he feels like it's necessary. And he's put titles in there, and he can pause the movie, and he can interject."

Brian Bradley (better known as the reality-TV competition rapper Astro) plays Tuck in the film, and admits that the character is "not really the coolest kid in the neighbourhood. It's filming that makes him feel cool. So he's like, 'Let's just go out there. Let's do the impossible!'"

More: watch the trailer for Earth to Echo

But making a movie in this style brought challenges to the young cast, especially since shooting everything in this way meant that they had to break the cardinal rule of acting: don't look into the camera! "It was very hard to get used to," says Ella Wahlestedt, who plays the Emma, a mean girl who joins the boys on their adventure. "We had to interact with the camera and talk to it like it was a character."

Since opening in America two weeks ago, Earth to Echo has made a moderate $28 million at the box office, with a middling 47% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes but a slightly higher 58% from audiences on IMDb. It has now begun to open around the world, arriving in Southeast Asia last week and Europe next week.