Seafood Fights Back in Epic Short 'Monster Roll', Plus VFX and Behind the Scenes Videos

It's becoming increasingly more practical for indie filmmakers to bring the impossible into the realm of possibility, even in terms of visual effects. This has allowed low-budget productions with small or skeleton crews to make high-concept films with great production value (see Monsters). A recent short called Monster Roll fits into this categorization, but puts a bit of a twist on the formula. It has the effects, it has the style, it has that fantastical element -- except it's about sushi chefs battling gigantic sea-monsters, and the creators made Monster Roll with the hope of demonstrating its potential for a feature. Click through to check out the movie (if it doesn't put a smile of pure joy on your face, I don't know what will).

Here's what director Dan Blank had to say on the film's about page:

We’re really excited to finally release MONSTER ROLL online.  This short was created as a proof-of-concept for a feature about sushi chefs fighting sea monsters.  It’s a crazy idea, but one we just really wanted to see made.  So, we made it.

We sorely miss the tone of those big, fun fantasy movies we grew up with–movies like Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and Big Trouble in Little China.  We also want to continue the tradition of more recent movies like The Host and District 9 where strong story, characters, and humor take priority over expensive VFX sequences.

If you like MONSTER ROLL and want to help it get to the next stage, please share the film with friends.  Just by spreading the word, you can help prove that we’re not totally crazy in thinking this is a movie a bunch of us want to see.

I can certainly appreciate those sentiments, and I too miss the sense of both hilarity and wonder of films like those Mr. Blank mentioned. One of the things I think cinema is really about at heart is that sense of wonder, and nowadays, visual effects are a primary force in the portrayal of amazing worlds -- and one that more and more of us can use to our advantage. Dan has posted several videos on Vimeo detailing how they achieved the final product. Here's a great side-by-side demonstration of where and how VFX come into play in Monster Roll:

Monster Roll's story-reel is also posted on Vimeo. It's interesting to see because some of the film is straight out of the animated storyboards, while other shots were apparently added later in the development process (likely to add to the kinetic flow of the final cut). The interesting differences and overall close-resemblance remind me of the Looper sizzle reel we recently posted about. Check out the story-reel below:

Finally, Dan Blank has also posted an early video-matic created by some of the film's team. Used in pre-production for preliminary blocking, ironing out the action, and anticipating VFX shots, this humorous but helpful video also bears plenty of similarities to the final film. Dan notes that once a shooting location for the scene was obtained, he replaced this pre-vis of the scene with an all-CG one which represented the restaurant more closely.

Consider me sold. I'd say modern cinema could use more films like this -- plenty of giant monsters and effects to keep everyone interested (and that is a consideration these days), but with a real heart and joy to it as well. I'm not saying there aren't films with these qualities being made at all today, but I would like to see Monster Roll in a real theater as soon as possible -- preferably among a packed, cheering crowd.

Would anyone be as excited as I would be to see this made into a feature-length film, along with a full theatrical release?

Link: Monster Roll -- Website

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Your Comment


"Horri sheet..." Im asian and even I smiled. This is totally fun and would love to see a full feature film.

October 22, 2012 at 7:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


It would be a "Brast" ! :-)

October 22, 2012 at 7:21PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Interesting to see Kerry Conran of Sky Captain credited as consultant and Eric Adkins as DP who was the DP on that film as well.

October 22, 2012 at 9:30PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Wade Blade

As well as Shane Acker (director of the animated movie 9) and Scott Morse, Pixar storyboard artist. Love seeing these guys pool their collective talents to make something so awesome!

October 22, 2012 at 11:07PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


"I'm gona take you to this one spot, next to Ralph's... its sushi AND chinese." hilarious.

The VFX people have such an advantage when it comes to this sort of spec work. So much free production value! Though on the other hand that is QUITE the list of credits. perhaps not as DIY as I thought. Lotttta favors called in, no doubt.

great, great work.

October 23, 2012 at 12:10AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Ha! Love it.

October 23, 2012 at 6:44AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Anybody know how they are doing those sky replacements - such as the hero shot in the first pic of this article? Luma matte and Roto scoping?? Great work.

October 23, 2012 at 6:55AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


"A secret society of sushi chefs keeping the world safe and well fed." I hope they can make the feature. It's very Godzilla but much funner.

October 23, 2012 at 7:59AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

moe film


October 23, 2012 at 12:15PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Great post. Thanks. Eye-opening to see all the hard work put in to achieve the really fun, well-done "final" product. Here's hoping that there is more to come for Monster Roll.

October 25, 2012 at 12:12PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hi guys
I'd really appreciate some input on this. I'm an Indie filmmaker(who isn't ;-) ) and am working on some visual concepts that need to be implemented. I have very little VFX background and I want to be able to do a couple of things. I vaguely realize the answer to these questions, but because of the media and information overload, I'm not able to proceed in a 'structured' fashion, I mean, I see no proper direction as to how I would go about. So, these questions came up...

1. As a director with very little VFX background, how does one prepare for making films with/involving VFX? Are there 'specific' procedures, approaches to this? Are there standard, specific websites for exploring VFX styles, possibilities, forums and other related stuff?

2. And say if I am able to procure funds for a VFX-oriented film(not too high a budget) where would I go looking for people to realize the concept in the script? Are there any websites/resources where I can go looking for professionals and teams of VFX people who aren't in the big studios but would be more open to smaller budgeted films with VFX?

Would appreciate any inputs you can share.

October 25, 2012 at 9:59PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Super !

October 26, 2012 at 5:14AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM