Monsters: Theatrical Effects on Indie Budget
Gareth Edwards (Attila the Hun, Perfect Disaster) is the latest VFX/director hyphenate, and his Monsters feature debut shows a lot of promise, not only for the creative creature work and tense action, but also for the love story between a cynical journalist (Andrew Kaulder) and shaken tourist (Samantha Wynden) trapped in the alien infected zone of Mexico. And that's just the way Edwards wants it. The British filmmaker, known primarily for cool atmospheric effects for TV, abandoned greenscreens in favor of real locations in Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala. However, he tells us what it was like creating a CG creature for the very first time.
Bill Desowitz: I really like your description of Monsters as "an alien road movie."
Gareth Edwards: Yeah, I find it the hardest question when you sit down and they ask me what the film's about. You'd think I'd be good at this by now.
BD: That's because you don't have to simplify into a logline for a studio.
GE: No, exactly, we had to figure it out in the edit.
BD: A lot of alien movies today. Are the comparisons to District 9 tough to take?
GE: That's the one that stings the hardest because it puts too much pressure on our film to deliver a big action thing, which it doesn't do. It's a completely different movie.
GE: It's all based on the possibility of life existing on Jupiter's moon, Europa, which scientists believe has a liquid ocean that is heated by volcanic vents at the bottom. And so there are the same conditions for life happening on earth, and our premise is about NASA bringing a sample back and it crashes on its way to re-entry on earth. And so, for me, the creatures were always on the bottom of the ocean. So when I was designing them, I bought every photography book on deep sea fish and just made loads of sketches. But it's funny because when I look at the final design, it's not like any of the things that I sketched. You can trace it back to a couple of animals. Someone described it once as spiraling inwards to hit the target. The two main things were crabs and octopi. And adding to that was bioluminescence, which is the idea of creating or displaying with light in the water.
BD: It's great you were able to make it with Adobe Creative Suite on your laptop at home in London. What else did you use?