Production The film was devised, storyboarded and directed by Gareth Edwards, who also worked as the visual effects artist. Allan Niblo and James Richardson of Vertigo Films work as producers on the production. The filming equipment cost approximately $15,000, with the budget coming in at under $500,000. The film was shot entirely on location: any settings featured in the film were real locations often used without permission asked in advance, and the extras were just people who happened to be there at the time. Edwards had the idea for the film while watching some fishermen struggling to haul in their net and imagining a monster. He had the idea to make a monster movie set "years after most other monster movies end, when people aren't running and screaming, but life is going on" and "where a giant, dead sea monster is considered completely normal." He pitched the idea to Vertigo Films, and they asked Edwards to watch a film called In Search of a Midnight Kiss which starred Scoot McNairy and had been made for $15,000. As the chemistry between Edwards' two characters was so important, he wanted a real couple, and luckily McNairy's then-girlfriend (and now wife) Whitney Able was an actress, and joined the project. The film was shot in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Texas in the US, over three weeks. For about 90% of the filming the crew comprised seven people transported in one van: Ian Maclagan (sound operator), Jim Spencer (line producer), Verity Oswin the Mexican 'fixer', Edwards, a driver, and Able and McNairy, the stars. As the low-budget production didn't run to a camera dolly, Edwards made do by sticking the camera out of the van window, cushioned on some bundled-up clothing. As most of the extras were non-actors who were persuaded to be in the film, their action was improvised. "As a result of all this random behaviour, the idea of scripting the film went out of the window. Instead I had a loose paragraph describing the scene with just the main points that had to be hit; how the actors carried this out was left up to them." Each night during the shooting period the editor Colin Goudie and his assistant Justin Hall would download the day's footage so the memory sticks could be cleared and ready for the next day's filming. Back in the UK, Edwards had over 100 hours of unique ad-libbed footage (rather than repeated takes of scripted scenes which would be very similar) to edit into a coherent film. Edwards did all the special effects himself using off-the-shelf Adobe software and Autodesk 3ds Max. The first assembly was over four hours long, and over eight months of editing was trimmed to 94 minutes. Once the film was locked, Edwards had five months to create all 250 visual effects shots, a process he undertook in his bedroom. "[I was] churning out about two shots a day, which was fine until I got to the first creature shot. Then suddenly two months went by and I still hadn't finished a single creature shot; it turned out to be the hardest part of the whole process." Due to time constraints, the sound effects had to be produced before the special effects were undertaken.
Release Monsters premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival, as part of the SX Fantastic screenings, on 13 March 2010. On 17 March, Magnet Releasing acquired the rights for the North American distribution. In May, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Market. Monsters had its UK premiere as part of the 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival, on 18 June 2010. The Los Angeles Film Festival also held two screenings, part of the Summer Showcase, on 23 and 26 June. The film's theatrical release took place in Russia on 30 September, distributed by Volgafilm. Magnolia Pictures released Monsters in US theatres on 29 October 2010. The Canadian theatrical release was on 5 November, after DFilms acquired the rights on 24 May 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsters_(2010_film
Monday, 4 April 2011
'Monsters' offers up a new view on classic giant monster movies
By Drew McWeeny - Magnolia picks up the SXSW midnight movie, and could have a hit on their hands
Mar 23, 2010 1:45 PM
Gareth Edwards is a very smart guy with a keen eye for composition, and I'm guessing when we look back at 2010 in film, his name will be one of the names that helps define the year.
"Monsters" played SXSW this year as part of the Fantastic Fest at midnight line-up, and with a title like that, it was easy for the festival to fill the theater every time they played the movie. Going into the film, though, I knew nothing about it aside from the title. Someone in line told me that they'd heard it was "the first mumblecore horror film," which sent a chill down my spine and not in a good way. I'm not a fan of mumblecore as a genre or even as a descriptive word. I think it's an excuse for people to make films that are damn close to anti-audience, like a dare. I love small-scale character drama, but there's a fine line between effective and personal and deadly dull whining. Having seen "Monsters," I can see why someone would describe the film that way, but I disagree. I think it sells short of what Edwards has accomplished, and I worry that it would scare off people who would end up really liking the movie.
Right now, there are a number of companies chasing the success of last year's "Paranormal Activity" and "District 9," realizing that the idea of what you can do on film and how much you can make certain films for has changed. Paramount's got a new division that wants to make ten movies for a total of a million dollars. I hope they take a look at "Monsters" and reach out to more people like Gareth Edwards, who has been working for a while in the FX community. Makes sense, because while there are some inventive and ambitious special effects in the film, there's a handmade feel to it all that is a big part of its charm. Edwards pretty much ran this all as a one-man show. He wrote and directed, he shot the film himself, and he did all of his own FX work, on a budget of $7000. This is what independent filmmaking in the 21st century is going to look like. The most impressive thing about that is how you can sit in the theater and never once question how much the film cost. It's a "real" movie. And thankfully, Edwards chose not to make a "found footage" movie, something which I'm personally very tired of, and a cheap solution to a budget issue. His film has a documentary feel to it that comes from how it was shot, but the camera isn't an actual character in the film.
Set several years after a space probe carrying samples of extraterrestrial life broke up during re-entry, scattering samples all across North and Central America, the film concerns a journalist who is asked by his publisher to track down the publisher's daughter and bring her home. The journalist, Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), is determined to get into the most dangerous part of the infected zone so he can capture some images of the giant monsters in action, so the last thing he wants to do is babysit Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), especially if that means leaving the place where the monsters are located. Edwards took his actors to Central America and shot his entire movie guerilla, using real people as much as possible, layering in the textures of the world, the details that sell the idea that alien invasion has become a way of life, all in post-production. It's a seamless world he's created, and the film has a lovely, authentic quality to it. Both McNairy and Able are low-key, never pushing the drama too hard, but selling a real sense that they are living these events.
I remember Quentin Tarantino at one of the many festivals he threw in Austin talking about how he wanted to make a movie set in Tokyo that was just a low-key love story that played out while Godzilla rampaged elsewhere in the city, a distant threat that never became front and center, using the giant monster as background during a human story. Well, Quentin, Gareth Edwards beat you to it. Ultimately, his movie is about these two people realizing that they've got a genuine connection and that they would rather spend a life of uncertainty together than continue to protect themselves and be alone. Which is not to say that there are no giant monsters in the film... there are, and they are genuinely freaky and alien. It's just that there's never the feeling that the movie is about the monsters or about the infected zone or even about the invasion of Earth. Edwards is far more interested in what's happening between these two people and what it is that has driven them to this place where they meet than he is in just throwing effects and sensation at you. It's a very controlled film, very intimate. Because so much of it is improvised, not every character thread adds up, but the big picture works.
Magnolia picked the movie up during SXSW, and with some careful nurturing and a smart campaign, this could be a real break-out hit for them. And if nothing else, it's a fascinating look at just how much it's possible to do with limited resources, a miniscule crew, and boundless ambition.
Check out http://www.monstersfilm.com/
Monsters received generally positive reviews from critics, with the film garnering a 71% "fresh", or 6.6/10 rating, on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes with the site's consensus stating, "It doesn't quite live up to its intriguing premise, but Monsters is a surprising blend of alien-invasion tropes, political themes, and relationship drama." http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/monsters-2010/
Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half out of four stars and said "Monsters holds our attention ever more deeply as we realize it's not a casual exploitation picture." http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101117/REVIEWS/101119967
The film ranked #3 on Moviefone's Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of 2010 list. http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/12/28/top-10-sci-fi-movies-of-2010/
Filmmaker Kevin Smith is a fan of the film, saying on his Podcast Hollywood Babble-On "It will appeal to everything about the child in you that used to like the Four o'clock movie."
Monsters was nominated for six British Independent Film Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, and eventually won the Best Director, Best Technical Achievement, and Best Achievement in Production awards. At the 2011 BAFTA's Monsters was nominated for Outstanding Debut by a British Director, but ultimately lost to Four Lions.
In the weeks leading up to the UK release date of 3 December 2010 a marketing campaign using social network Foursquare was announced. Vue Entertainment and Cineworld Cinemas set up 'infected locations' which gave users access to exclusive Monsters content and the chance to win random on-the-spot prizes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsters_(2010_film)