Saturday, March 19, 2011

Extraterrestrials In The Trees.

I just watched a movie. I do this a lot. Ask anyone who really knows me and they will tell you it's one of the very few things that i'm very good at. This particular film was the debut feature film by Writer/Director Gareth Edwards. "Monsters".
The film takes place six years after extraterrestrial life is discovered in our own solar system and the probe sent to collect samples breaks up and crashes upon reentry. Alien life-forms begin to appear and spread outward from the crash site and the entire area of the U.S./Mexican border is declared an infected zone. The American and Mexican militaries are in a constant struggle with the "creatures", attempting to stop them from spreading any further. Andrew Kaulder, a photojournalist, is documenting the devastation in Central America. He is ordered to escort Samantha, his wealthy employer's daughter, home to the United States. The film follows their journey as they slowly make their way out of Central America and through Mexico, attempting to reach the U.S. border.
As well as writing and directing Edwards also shot, co-edited AND was the visual effects artist on the movie. Very much a one man show kinda guy, which has always been my favorite type of filmmaker for some reason. It's most of the reason I love Robert Rodriquez as much as a I do. I think it's that slightly roguish attitude. "Hey, i'm gonna make the movie I wanna make, for very little money and i'm gonna employ some really unique methods in order to do so". Everything was shot entirely on location in Guatemala and Mexico. There was apparently no script per se, simply a collection of paragraphs with general themes for certain scenes that Edwards wanted. The crew was tiny. Around 7 people including the two main actors and they traveled in a van shooting at different locations. They would simply drive until they found a site they liked or thought worked for a scene and would then film multiple versions of that scene with a huge array of improvised lines. All other characters in the film other than the two leads were allegedly persuaded extras. Edwards also filmed as many of the dialogue shots as he could with the actor's back's to the camera or at an angle in which their lips could not be seen. This enabled him to dub in whatever dialogue he wanted later on the editing process, thereby syncing different dialogue with certain takes.
The film was shot for about $500,000 with Edwards doing all of the visual effects himself with home bought software. This is obvious when watching the film. There is very little action and very few sighting of the actual creatures. This movie is first and foremost a love story, with the creatures and the infected zone simply creating the world it exists in. The two lead actors, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able were dating at the time and are now married. Edwards wanted the relationship between the two characters to be as realistic as possible so he insisted on using an actual couple.
This movie really spoke to me for some reason. It wasn't even the story or the characters, neither were extraordinary. It was everything I just described. How it was made is what I loved most about it. I watch a movie like this and think "I could do this. I could sell everything I own, get a bunch of credit cards and max them out. I could find some people and a good idea and I could go out and make a film. I could". It's how some of the most interesting movies in history have been made. As long as you have an actual good idea and you're dedicated it has a good chance of working. Who wants to go out into the wilderness of the world with me and make a movie?

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