EIFF Interview: Justin Hall from Monsters

89F93DA3-9089-4F17-9E7C-649FCD9BAB21.jpgMonsters had its UK Premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival where its director Gareth Edwards brought home the “Best New Director” Award. It tells the story of Kaulder and Sam who are in Mexico and want to return to America. The problem? Aliens have landed about six years earlier and their journey home forces them to go through “The Infected Zone”, where few people live now the monsters have taken over. You can read my full review of the movie here.

How many people were actually involved in making this movie?

Well there were the two main actors who were in every scene, then I think about…another seven crew members. I actually counted at one point, we had more drivers than crew. So it gives you an idea how small a production it was.

What was the budget for the movie? I read Gareth got the money after winning a 48-hour film-making competition? How did the movie actually get made?

Yeah, Gareth won the sci-fi competition, then spoke to Vertigo and told them about his idea for Monsters, and how he could make it for next to nothing. They loved the idea and bankrolled it. I don’t know if you know much about Vertigo, but they normally get investors in to get movies made, so for them to just give Gareth the money was pretty good, especially since it was just this idea Gareth had had in his head for a while, and he hadn’t written a script or anything for the film.

As for the budget, you know if you read the right blog, they show how it could have been made for $15,000. I’m not sure on the exact figure, but what I think we had a shooting budget of around $500,000.

So when you started filming had you got a script?

No, just a plot outline. Well two actually. One was the basic plot points, the physical locations and so on they had to get to. The other was the emotional journey the two of them went on. When we meet Kaulder he’s quite difficult to like, but as the movie progresses he becomes someone we can really sympathise with. So Gareth had these two outlines and basically decided as filming went on how to mesh these two journeys together.

The actors didn’t have any lines or anything. We’d just drive along and Gareth would shout “Stop the car”. Then he’d tell the actors which scene this was supposed to be, how it fitted into the story and got them to ad lib the lines. He didn’t give them a great deal of direction in terms of that, most of what you see the actors made up. You know, the scene where Kaulder is drunk outside Sam’s room. Scoot just completely made that up himself. So yeah, they did a great job getting Gareth’s vision onto the screen.

And how did you manage to get all the other members of the cast to deliver their lines?

The majority of the extras were just people we’d met in the street. We’d just tell them a bit about the movie and then film their reactions to lines from the actors.

There’s a taxi driver in a scene at the start of the film- was she actually talking about aliens or something else?

Yeah, she was just talking about the hurricane that had hit recently [in real life]. So obviously we’ve edited it to make it seem like she’s talking about the monsters. There’s another scene round the campfire where the extra was just talking about his own experience seeing a UFO, and again we’ve made it look like he’s talking about the aliens in the film.

There’s also a scene when they get off the train, we actually filmed that backwards. Since in the film they knock on the door at night, but we started filming at the day, the member of our crew who spoke Spanish did a really great job of making that family comfortable and Whitney who plays Sam as well – since she really spoke Spanish. So between both of them, they steered conversation in the right direction so we had the right footage we needed to make that scene work.

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