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From small indie flick to Hollywood, British director Gareth Edwards of "Monsters" gets a shot at the big time

posted 9 Mar 2011, 08:05 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 9 Mar 2011, 08:49 ]

Director Gareth Edwards talks about his independent critical hit "Monsters" which has helped win him his next project: the Hollywood remake of "Godzilla".

Director Gareth Edwards is about to go from one extreme to another - from shooting on a shoestring budget to helming one of 
Hollywood's biggest upcoming studio projects.

His directorial feature debut, "Monsters", is the ultimate exercise in low budget, guerilla film-making. He wrote, directed and shot the movie as well as editing and creating the special effects for it on his computer.

The film was shot on location in Mexico with off the shelf cameras and equipment costing less than 20,000 U.S. dollars. The two lead characters in the film (played by real life husband and wife Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy) are the only parts played by professional actors. Edwards recruited locals or whoever happened to be nearby at the time to play supporting roles - sometimes less than 30 minutes before shooting a scene. With a completely opportunistic shooting schedule and no real sets much of the dialogue was improvised.

"As we were making it, every hour - not even everyday but every hour - there was something that made you think this ain't ever going to happen is it? Like a problem when we were filming, or even in the edit when you're trying to iron out the story, you know, it becomes this roller-coaster ride of ups and downs like: 'Oh it's going to work, oh not it's not, it's all been a waste of time, oh it's good', you know," Edwards recalled.

As well as a hugely positive critical reception, the film almost instantly reached cult status. More than a year since making "Monsters", Edwards says he is still reeling from the fact that his film is out there and still finding audiences.

At a screening of the movie at the Royal College of Surgeons, held by London's Cult Film Club, hundreds of people lined up around the block to get into the event where "infected area" sets and costumed attendants recreated the setting of the story.

"I still can't believe that it has kind of worked and doing things like this is really surreal because like two years ago you're picturing some little story and you're picking a costume of the internet for the actress to wear and then walking around here and they've got people dressed up like it. It's so surreal, like in your wildest dreams this shouldn't be happening," Edwards told Reuters Television ahead of the screening.

Despite the low budget, "Monsters" has the look of a much more expensive production.

"A lot of people have been surprised that you can create a film that looks like a Hollywood film, or however people describe it, like, using just prosumer cameras and normal Windows PC. And it sort of surprised me that people have been surprised by that because everyone who does this for a living-- I did visual effects for a long time and everyone I know who does visual effects has been kind of secretly working on little pet projects like a film or a short film or something."

But "Monsters" didn't impress everybody. The title and marketing of the film attracted audiences expecting a more action packed formula - and left many disappointed by the slow, atmospheric, sci-fi/road movie/romance they found.

Edwards is well aware of how expectations can effect the viewing experience. At a Q&A session ahead of the Cult Film Club screening he took care to warn the audience that many of them may hate the film.

He said that blending genres made marketing the film problematic.

"Out of all aspects of our film the most marketable one was the monster movie element because those sorts of movies can make 30, 100 million so it was inevitable that people were going to latch on to that but we were into doing a character piece, more of an artistic film in a way that just happens to be set in a world with these giant monsters," the director said.

Whatever the mixed audience reactions to "Monsters" may be, the film has brought Edwards to the attention of Hollywood.

He is now to helm a re-imagining of one of the ultimate monster movies.

"I'm very lucky, I have two projects that I'm developing. One of them is 'Godzilla' with Legendary and Warner Brothers and the other one is a personal project which I've always wanted to do which is science fiction as well and apparently that's quite typical in Hollywood. I'm brand new to the whole thing but apparently it's very normal to have more than one thing ahead of you so we'll just develop them and see what happens," he confirmed

The mega-budget, major studio experience will be a new one for the director - so new that he says he has no idea what to expect.

"I don't know is the honest answer so I don't know how I'll cope in that sense, but I didn't know how I would cope on this (Monsters). I think the most important thing is to see the film in your head and then just reverse engineer out of that, what's the best way to go get that. For this it was run around Mexico with a camera and two actors for another film it might have an incredibly talented crew and lots and lots of money behind you which, fortunately, I'll probably get for at least one of them," he said.

"Monsters" gets it's DVD release in the UK in April.