Gareth Edwards talks about directing his first film "Monsters"

Gareth Edwards is the director of the new sci-fi film “Monsters”. Gareth has worked as an visual effects artist before directing. He took advantage of that crafty and was able to take a micro-budget with “Monsters” and create an amazing film that everyone needs to see. “Monsters” follows what happens after alien life forms appeared on the U.S.-Mexico border region. Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Gareth and discuss his new film “Monsters” and how he made this film on such a small budget.

Click here to watch “Monsters” right now on Video on Demand

Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally come up with the idea for the film “Monsters”?
Gareth Edwards: Basically, I really wanted to do a monster movie. It is one of the film genres that I love. It felt like it would be a good start for a first film. I thought that some sort of horror was a good entry to make on a low budget. Basically, I tried to come up with a different spin for a monster movie. The fact is I did visual effects for a living, so that is my background. I only had access to crappy cheap camcorders. I thought if I was going to make a monster movie, I knew it would be really cheap YouTube style footage. I thought that good be interesting if we did an invasion film all shot on a camcorder. I was trying to set that up, write it up and do some tests. Right in the middle of this, one day my friend sent me a link to a trailer for a film called “Cloverfield” and I just said “Oh Shit!”. I then had to bring it to a new level. I wanted to think what would be a post “Cloverfield” movie. I was on holiday and I was watching these fisherman and they were just pulling this big net from the ocean. In my mind I was picturing this CG monster on the end of the net. It was interesting because for the fisherman it is just an everyday activity for them. Because they were behaving so normal, I thought it would be quite a surreal site to see some so fantastic as a giant creature and they are like acting like it happens everyday. I thought we could do something cheap and easy by going to another country and filming it there. The fact that the people in the background aren’t running around and screaming, they are just carrying on normally actually adds to the realism of the world. For me, the crude way to explain it would be if Godzilla or King Kong is kind of like September 11th. Our film is kind of like the war in Afghanistan years later. People have gotten used to the idea that this crazy stuff goes on.

MG: Alright lets talk about the budget of “Monsters”, tell us about how you made this film on such a low budget?
GE: It wasn’t as low as some of the internet sites suggest though. $15,000 dollars has been used a lot and that was a misunderstanding. Best Buy did a great video piece on us, they totaled up the equipment we were using came to about $15,000. We also had flights, motels and things like that. It is more than that but still very very low budget. I think the trick is that when you write a script you sort of dictate in your script all of these details of things that has to be in the movie. It could cost a fortune trying to recreate all that stuff. For me I didn’t want all those details. I didn’t want it to be that specific. It was more like lets go places and what happens or whatever we see, we will incorporate that into the film. It is very open minded. Since I could do my own computer graphics, I got to add helicopters in the air, tanks in the street and change the street signs to warning signs. There is a lot of production value that you can bring to it with being open minded and a bit of computer graphics. That is how we pulled it off for the tiny money we had.

MG: The visual effects in the film are fantastic, tell us about of process of creating the monsters?
GE: [Spoiler Warning] The monsters themselves were done in a 3D software called 3DS Max. The thing I struggled most with was getting the tentacles to work because I didn’t know how to make it look real. I wanted it to sort of be enchanting and feel like it was moving underwater. There was one part of the software that you could use to simulate rope. It doesn’t look good though since it looks like rope but there is one setting called gravity. I put the gravity on it, set it to zero and I animated it again. Suddenly I had this really complex looking motion. That was a breakthrough for me in figuring out how to do it. I was suppose to do two shots a day. I got to my first creature shot and it took months before I could do one, since it took forever to figure out how I wanted to do it. They are based on deep sea creature like bio-luminescent. It was literally something you have to evolve, you can’t just stick pieces together it would look like Frankenstein. You literally have to do what nature does, take something that exists and just push, pull and stretch them. You kind of evolve it into a slightly new looking shape.

MG: Can you believe the buzz that the film has been getting recently?
GE: Yeah, I really hope so. I am sort of blind to it. If I see anything on the internet, it is because I type “Monsters” in on Google. It is hard for me to grasp how much I would know about this movie if I wasn’t exposed to it. I can’t resist it now and again to type “Monsters” into Google and to see what people are saying. Maybe people will send around the “Monsters” trailer like my friend who sent me the link to “Cloverfield”.

MG: How did you find the great cast for the film, since the film is really focuses on its characters?
GE: We basically didn’t cast the film. Scoot (McNairy) and Whitney (Able) were the first people we ever met and the only people we ever spoke to. I watched a film that Scoot had been in called “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” and I was watching it more because it was made for like $25K dollars. Scoot really stood out. He has that good balance of being charismatic and likable but not in a Hollywood perfect model type way. He feels like a regular guy that could be you. So I really liked him but I actually wanted to genuine couple because the chemistry is so important. With ad-libbing it all, I thought it was too big a risk not to have two people that have something between them. Scoot sent me a picture of his girlfriend who is an actress. She was gorgeous. Whitney will tell you this but it put me off, I actually didn’t want her in the film because she was too good looking. I wanted it to feel really real and not like a film that Hollywood would make. But then I met her and realized how ugly she was without her makeup on [laughs]…I am kidding. She is absolutely beautiful and realized how friendly and down to earth she was. I ended up staying at their house for like five days and sleeping on their sofa. It was more about do we all get along, then lets talk about the movie. Because if we did this, we were going to end up in a van for like six weeks going through the jungle and stuff. We had to make sure we didn’t have any personality clashes. Thankfully, I do not have a personality so they were good with mine.

MG: Tell us about your next film with Timur Bekmambetov producing?
GE: Yeah I am trying to work on it now. It is amazing how you never really appreciate how busy promoting a film can get. I sort of thought, I finished this film and if I was lucky I could do on a holiday and then so straight on to the next one. But it has been non-stop since we had our would premiere about six months ago now. Basically Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian filmmaker, who is currently working on “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” with Tim Burton. He was a big fan of the film and has been very supportive. Essentially what he has done is he is financing me to develop my next film so we can put it together on our own terms and get it going the way we want. It is always better to set it up yourself, that way it will be more likely to be the film you want to make and then try and offer it to a major studio. It will be science fiction and will be more ambitious than “Monsters”. I am pretty sure I will not get to do the effects myself next time. Our one liner that we have been giving out is: “An epic human story set in a futuristic world without humanity”. It is just of a contradiction but I kind of like that. We will keep it vague for now but their are only a few things we could mean.

Click here to watch “Monsters” right now on Video on Demand