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Interview: ‘Monsters’ Director Gareth Edwards On Pushing His Actors, Delays Caused By Prison Riots, and Stretching a Micro Budget

Obviously you never packed it in, but how often did you look around you and think you should quit?

There was a point in the middle of filming that if you had given me a button that I could have pressed, and it would have gotten me out of there and gotten me out of the project [laughs], I would have pressed it.

Was it the heads on spikes or the gun fights?

No. It was none of that. I got my phone and wallet stolen, and the camera was so heavy – I still have real bad back problems from it. I was wearing all these straps to keep my back together and taking four or five pain killers a day just to keep filming. Then one day in the middle of the shoot, we had a day off, so I chose to go off the pain killers and it was like crashing – how a drug addict must feel when they go cold turkey. Mentally, I just crashed.

That day, I would rate that day as the worst day of my life. Mainly because of the pain killers, but I just lost the plot a little bit, and I was fine the day after. I just think, yeah, it was hard.

This is inspiring stuff for all our readers looking to say Yes to themselves and make the movie they’ve been talking about.

[Laughs] Yeah.

It sounds like the Werner Herzog school of indie filmmaking.

Yeah. What surprises me is that people are surprised by the way we made this film. I assume everybody, especially the people reading this, are so aware of the technology. Like you can have something like 35mm now, and stick up in front of a hi-def camera and it’s cinema resolution, and computers can track things and can put the things in afterward. I really felt like I was racing another ten thousand people around the world to make a film like this, the way we made it. And if I didn’t get my act together soon, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.

I felt that way five or ten years ago. I was amazed at how long it took me to make it and how long it took the technology, I mean this is me making excuses again, but with the cameras it’s only been in the last few years that you can have the 35mm look on a digital camera – which was a missing link in terms of doing a low budget film that didn’t look low budget.

I imagine your television work gave you a head start on all the other would-be indie filmmakers trying to do this.

Yeah, I think. I don’t know. Maybe because different people are different, but I always had stupidly high aspirations. My ideas were always way too ambitious as far as films I wanted to make. But I would still try to make them anyway, and they’d turn out shit.

I think over the years, I’ve never changed my ambition, and I think the films have gotten less and less shit over time. Hopefully, it’s not shitty enough that it’ll do okay, but it’s like other people start off low. They have low aspirations. They get more ambitious as their ability grows, but I just always had this stupidly ambitious idea to do science fiction. It’s just that all my early stuff was total crap. I just couldn’t do it. The equipment I had and the ability I had.

Well, you’re right, though. It does sound like the technology caught up with your ambition.

Which makes me sound like James Cameron, but it’s…[Laughs]

You’re the James Cameron of indie filmmakers.

[Laughs] Naw.

Cameron started in B-movies. If you feel like you made a couple of crap films, that’s how you learn as you go, but Cameron started with Piranha 2.

Again, that’s like in the edit suite. You’d sit there, and there would be moments of paranoia where you think, you know, “Are we making a piece of shit? What are we doing here? Are we the only people that like this film?”

We’d sit there, and initially have high aspirations, like you wanna do Jaws. After a while you go down a notch, and down a notch, and by the end of it, the editor and I are looking at each other going, “Hey, it’s better than Piranha 2.”

You at least beat James Cameron’s debut.

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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