Primer is a 2004 American science fiction drama film about the accidental discovery of a means of time travel. The film was written, directed, and produced by Shane Carruth and was completed on a budget of $7,000. Carruth graduated from college with a degree in mathematics and is a former engineer. Primer is of note for its extremely low budget, experimental plot structure, philosophical implications, and complex technical dialogue, which Carruth chose not to simplify for the sake of his audience. One reviewer said that “anybody who claims he fully understands what’s going on in Primer after seeing it just once is either a savant or a liar.” The film collected the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2004 before securing a limited release in US cinemas, and has since gained a cult following.
Primer was filmed in five weeks, on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas. It was produced on a budget of only $7,000 US, and a skeleton crew of five. Shane Carruth acted as writer, director, producer, cinematographer, editor, and music composer. He also stars in the film as Aaron, and many of the other characters are played by his friends and family. The small budget required conservative use of the Super 16mm filmstock. The extremely low shooting ratio of 2:1 meant they had to carefully limit the number of takes. Every shot in the film was meticulously storyboarded on 35mm stills. Carruth created a distinctive flat, overexposed look for the film by using fluorescent lighting, non-neutral color temperatures, high-speed film stock, and filters.