Immediately following its US premiere during the 2010 SXSW Film Festival, Gareth Edwards’ Monsters became one of the more buzzed about films from the festival. The movie takes audiences into a world where aliens have existed on Earth for six years after a NASA probe crashes in Mexico, infecting the area with new life forms. Amidst this dangerous new world two strangers set off on a dangerous journey from Mexico through the infected zone so that they both can safely return to their lives in the United States.
Edwards, who wrote, directed, shot and provided the VFX work for the project, recently sat down with Dread Central to talk about his experiences getting Monsters made as well as his unique shooting style and the challenges of creating visually compelling aliens that are unlike anything fans have ever seen before.
“I came to Vertigo with the idea for Monsters, and even though this was my first feature, they were really responsive to what I wanted to do with it,” said Edwards. “Working with Vertigo has been a dream because they have been supportive from the start and never questioned my decisions as the director.”
Edwards added, “There’s a loophole in the filmmaking business model that if you make a movie for under a certain amount of money, then it will be profitable regardless of how it does. Luckily, Monsters fell into that budget category, and I think that’s why Vertigo was gracious enough to take a chance with my vision.”
Edwards set off to film Monsters himself in Central America for several weeks, using only two lead actors and relying on locals’ willingness to be a part of movie magic when asked to be included in filming. That minimalist approach to filmmaking captured the essence of what Edwards was trying to create for audiences.
“We never had a script for Monsters,” explained Edwards. “I just had two sets of notes to shoot from: The black pages were of emotional responses I needed from our two leads and the blue pages were all the plot developments that needed to happen in the film. I really wanted the feeling of the movie to be realistic and not just actors reciting lines from a script, and I think it translates into something really special in the film.”
“I am so proud of my actors’ work in Monsters. It’s really the Scoot (McNairy) and Whitney (Able) show in this film. Everything they do with their performances is raw and organic. I couldn’t have been happier with how they did, and I think the biggest part of what made the movie work so well was using this improvisational approach and just giving them that kind of space,” Edwards added.
Even though Monsters at its core is about an emotional journey of these two people finding each other while trying to evade aliens and get back to the United States, much of film’s success would rely on Edwards’ ability to create a compelling creature.
Edwards said, “There has been scientific research that says Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, is composed of ice with oceans beneath that ice that could sustain life, similar to what is here on Earth. It was based on that data that I thought of going with a creature that resembled something you’d see from the ocean. I immediately thought of either a crab or an octopus but ultimately thought something that resembled an octopus could be both scary but beautiful for audiences at the same time.”
“I had over 100 sketches of what I wanted the monsters to look like, and when I went to Vertigo to see what they thought, they couldn’t pick one they liked. So I don’t know if it was that they were overwhelmed with all the choices or they just wanted to see what I wanted to go with, but they ultimately liked what I decided on,” Edwards added.
Now that Monsters is set to hit limited theaters this October, Dread Central asked Edwards if he had more plans for this new world in future films.
“Sadly, I don’t own the rights to Monsters, but I purposefully made the story take place right in the middle of a world where aliens have invaded and it’s become part of the everyday life,” Edwards explained. “Because the movie doesn’t start with the invasion and it doesn’t end with the aliens being conquered either, I left everything open to the possibility that there are more stories that could be told within the context of this world.”
“I just don’t know if Monsters in the future would involve me or not, but I do think there have been discussions about looking into a television series based on what we created with Monsters. I know I’d like to try something different for my next project and then maybe see what happens from there,” Edwards added.
Our thanks to Gareth for taking the time to speak with us. For more information dig on the official Monsters Facebook page and of course the official Monsters website. Look for the flick on October 29th.
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