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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the DIY Feature 'Monsters'

12.12.10 @ 2:20PM Tags : , , , ,

Gareth Edwards’ appropriately-titled monster movie Monsters opened earlier this year and has grossed $1.7 million to date. With a $500,000 budget, Edwards shot the film himself on a Sony EX-3 and a Letus 35mm adapter; here’s a look behind-the-scenes.

The trailer:

A video from the NYTimes at the DIY 3D modeling:

Best Buy has an interview with Edwards about his use of low-cost digital techniques:

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Click on through to Brad Bell’s post for a good interview with Edwards as well as a look at his studio, which puts the “studio” in “studio apartment.” As the interviewer states, “the technology has gotten to the point that if you… have the mind to tell a story with visual effects and the technological know-how, you can physically do it. It doesn’t mean you’re artist enough to do it.” Exactly. The technology is there, which is not to say that the technology is what’s important; but it is consequential in the sense that it’s enabling, and that’s what’s new in DIY filmmaking. On the other hand, IFC has an interesting take on Monsters, raising the following questions:

To what degree do the flaws [of] “Monsters” deserve a pass simply because of the ingenuity of its creators? How much does how a movie was made affect what a movie is? If “Monsters” had cost $30 million dollars — and the movie looks so good, you could believe that it might — would we be less forgiving of its flaws?

I certainly find myself being much more forgiving of DIY and low-budget films than I am of $100 million movies, even in areas that have very little to do with production budget (i.e., writing). Maybe it’s because we assume on high-budget films that the creators had more time and resources, and therefore they should’ve been able to execute better than those of us working under more limited conditions. However, there’s a whole world of other problems that crop up when you’re working in a studio system…

I haven’t seen Monsters — anyone out there catch it?


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  • Pretty sure these rumors have been dispelled. Gareth Edwards has publicly said numerous times that the equipment cost $15,000; not the entire film.

    Why even post crap like this if you haven’t seen the film and are just repeating Internet rumors?

    • Because it’s an interesting look behind the scenes of a DIY feature, maybe? Thanks for the correction as to the budget.

      • Seriously, man…who do you think you are? How dare you post interesting and inspiring information about filmmakers working outside the studio system before you do in-depth research into every aspect of every filmmaker you write about? On a less serious note…*thanks* for pointing me to this…very inspiring…I’m going to track the film down…

  • Mark Doherty on 12.12.10 @ 8:37PM

    I watch Monsters a few weeks ago and thought it was really good and funnily enough the day after i watched it my dad started talking to me about a film he read about in a newspaper that was made for a budget close to what people are suggesting Monsters was made for. He couldn’t remember the name of the film but it was clearly Monsters since it was about Aliens. Funny how DIY films are now in the mainstream and no longer are for filmmakers and tech enthusiasts.

    Regarding the budget i haven’t seen anything conclusive saying how much it cost to make. I have seen interviews with different people saying it cost 15000 for the equipment and the cast but then others have said that the production cost 500,000 not including post production.

  • The real point is how much can be done with so little money and by doing it yourself. Even if the movie cost $1,000,000 it would be impressive for what has been done.

    It gives hope that you don’t need a huge studio to do things at a massive scale. We all could have access to the same equipment that he did, we just need the talent and the dedication.

    Gareth Edwards has said in interviews that it definitely cost more than $15,000. He won’t say how much but it is well above $100,000 based on the studio wanting him to spend more money and him pushing them to spend less.

  • Not taking anything away from Mr. Edwards, but people need to realize – before they get a “Hey! Gareth Edwards did it! So can I!” idea in their heads – that the man is a very, very accomplished digital effects specialist. His stuff looked great because he spent years, and years honing his skills as a digital specialist before deciding to pick up the camera to helm/direct a project. He didn’t just decide “Hey. I think I’ll make a movie today and get rich.” while eating potato chips, looking at Sunday Night Football, and scratching his ass. He’s been working quite a while at this.

  • Another interesting behind the scenes interview about the post work on Monsters. Very humble guy, considering everything he has achieved! Deserves success.

  • wow

    if I ever make something that’s half as good as this looks like…

    and I don’t know how much the full budget was, but that on in the best buy video (best seen at 2:50) is the $20 ebay shoulder support with some added handles

    it doesn’t get any more DIY than that, other than making the handles yourself

    again, wow

    the missing bit is the distribution, let’s see how well they handle that one

  • U should definetly include two more links, audio link to interview with Gareth and video podcast episode, links are here: – short article – there is audio podcast (Oct 15, 2010) – there is a video interview (Nov 29, 2010)


  • “To what degree do the flaws [of] “Monsters” deserve a pass simply because of the ingenuity of its creators? How much does how a movie was made affect what a movie is? If “Monsters” had cost $30 million dollars — and the movie looks so good, you could believe that it might — would we be less forgiving of its flaws?”

    I think the big story here is that filmmakers have the tools to make *any* grade of movie. The changes that make this possible are DOF adaptors and more recently, HDSLRs, and 3D, visual effects and grading software. Previously we would have left FX movies to Hollywood and stuck to a few people talking in a room. That’s now changed very obviously.

    I think most of the angles on Monsters miss the option to dismiss all the standard questions as irrelevant. You can judge it by any standard. You can judge it by any budget. You can judge it by any crew size. It’s a good movie by any standards. It’s not a Hollywood movie: it doesn’t adhere to the dramatic formula. It’s not shot like a Hollywood movie: there’s a lot of hand-held camera. It’s not edited like a Hollywood movie: it’s full of jump cuts (which I love). It is it’s own movie. The effects serve the story, rather than the other way around; it’s not really an effects movie. It’s actually a love story in an unusual and interesting context. And the picture is *very* dark. It’s like Blue Velvet dark. It’s failure to rely on formula is going to make it stick in my head for days. That’s what a movie is supposed to do.

  • Not sure if anyone posted this already, but apparently you can preorder the blu-ray on amazon:

    Its due for February release. :)

  • If you can, take Gareth’s After Effects class at Best class I’ve had there.

  • I saw the film 2 weeks ago and it’s… perfect. Really a joy of intelligence in filmmaking, on the acting and the improvised scenario as the use of SFX as they should be use. It makes a very good score here in France.

    I just learn that Gareth Edwards made SFX during 10 years for “mockumentaries ” at the BBC, like th ones dedicated to Dinosaurs that’s why what he made for this film is so brilliant. In an interview for french TV Gareth said that the “rumor” budget said of 15 000$ was effectively for the material only, excluding all therest (salary of 5 people + travel expenses + post production job) Even if he do not said the total amount I believe that we are more in the 150 000/250 000ê budget which stay a micro budget as Gareth said comparing to mega studio production…

    More information with these links (english interview with french subtitles)


  • its on Netflix now. Stream.