Monsters Dark Continent is the follow up to the 2010 hit Monsters which was directed by Gareth Edwards who has since gone on to direct Godzilla and a Star Wars spin off film. This time Tom Green sits in the director and writer’s chair for this story set ten years after the first movie. We managed to grab sometime Tom to chat about the movie.
Geek Syndicate (GS): Congrats on Monsters: Dark Continent. I did not know what to expect and you managed to get a bit of everything in the movie. It felt like a roller coaster of emotions.
Tom Green (TG): That means a lot because there is a bit of distance between the process of making the film and hearing feedback.
GS: Tell us about the process?
TG: Well we always knew it was going to be a slightly unusual and unconventional narrative but we knew it had to be full of awe and a visceral kind of emotion. Yes it had violence but also beauty. The first half of the film is very noisy which contrasts against the the second half of the film which is really quiet.
We wanted to explore all the different sides of warfare and the psychology of it and fill the film full of cinematic exploration.
GS: Some of the locations were pretty impressive.
TG: We wanted to show the change of landscape where we start in Detroit with electric blue firebirds and then taking us to where we end up in the film which is a very distance place from where we start.
GS: I was pretty blown away by some of the visuals and some of the scenes that were made to just stand out as single piece of time that told a thousand words. Were these scenes always in the original storyboard?
TG: You have several stages of making a film and it exists in individual moments. You have an idea of how a film is going to look in your head and then there is the writing process and then you come to shoot it. It is an approximation of that but something else happens that you don’t quite expect. On a good day something magical happens that you could not count for. Then in the editing process it kinda happens how you want it but the film does have it’s own life and what I am really proud of is that the film has real soul. The whole cast and crew put their all into the film and it really creates the soul which is what I wanted to happen.
GS: The scene within the helicopter was pretty raw, how did that come about?
TG: We got a very short amount of flying time in a Black Hawk helicopter. That was a miracle that we manage to achieve that on the budget we had. That whole scene had to be very precise and storyboarded first. I can stay that it was terrifying to shoot.
GS: You spent time with a Bedouin tribe. Was that hard?
TG: Each day was like it’s own story. One day we would be up in a Black Hawk helicopter then another day we worked with a Bedouin tribe. On that day I wanted it to feel much more documentary style as I wanted to capture that feeling of being with them and among them and in a very informal way and find our narrative that way instead of a formal storyboard.
GS: How did you feel coming into Monsters: Dark Continent based on the great reception the first film got?
TG: It was important for me to remain respectful and truthful to the first film. I was nervous before starting and it is my first feature film. I remember Christopher Nolan saying there is the same pressure making any film like Memento or The Dark Knight. You just want to do a really good job and that your story has emotion. I loved Monsters and seeing what Gareth has gone on to do just adds up the pressure and expectation. Which is OK but I think the important thing to remember is that my film needed to be different. The sequel sense is that it is a sequel in ethos.
When I came on I said to the producers that I did not want this to be a sequel in narrative, because I do think this film had to stand alone but with the same principals.
GS: The film looks impressive; did this mean that you had a much larger budget than the first one?
TG: The misconception is that I had a lot bigger budget than Monsters but I didn’t. Gareth joked that he had £5 to make his well in that case I had £8 to make mine. So we really went for it with what we had, the tenacity, the dedication of the filmmakers and cast to pull it off. We had no right to make a film like this because of the tiny budget we had. That is the real story here. We were all inspired by what Gareth had done but we said lets see if we can take it even further but still be respectful of the first one in the Monsters franchise if there even is one.
Taking a budget that is very small and would normally cover a council estate in the UK and turn it into a war film. It was very bold and brave to go to the Middle east with just a few people and little money and also Detroit and turn it into a film in a short period of time.
GS: The film was shoot in an incredible four and half weeks. How was that possible?
TG: It was a four and half week shoot and I had to count every bullet I shot. We would put two bullets in the gun for a scene that required two bullets fired and no more. So I had to work it out like that. This was real short filmmaking. But that was what I loved about it, making the film with sheer ambition and everyone embraced that.
GS: There was a small but impressive cast. Tell us why you choose them.
TG: It is a very special project for all of us and as I said before the film has a soul to it and that is the actors so I tried to create a very trusting environment for them but they all had to turn up and bring it. Also I wanted to find some unknown breakout talent. I knew Sam Keeley from Misfits which I directed and cast him as Nathan’s brother so I always kept my eye on him and I felt the film needed to be viewed through the eyes of a normal kind of kid. So he became the heart of the film. Sam has that quality and hulking physicality but also has this raw depth of emotion. Then we have exciting stars like Joe Dempsie, Kyle Soller and Parker Sawyers coming up. Nicholas Pinnock who I have always loved and watched.
GS: Then you have Johnny Harris leading the way in what I can only describe as another powerhouse performance in probably his biggest mainstream role.
TG: Johnny for me is one of the finest actors in this country and it is a mystery for me why he does not get bigger roles and this is his first lead role. Johnny sees things as a title fight and he was a former boxer and I think he saw this as his title fight and it was mine in a way. We both had to fight hard to get to this point my first feature film and his first leading role. There is nowhere he is afraid to go, he will go anywhere as an actor. He will put his heart and soul on the line for you and he really did. Johnny stayed in character the whole time along with Sam. The levels he went to in this film were amazing and I hope people will see that in the film. I can’t thank enough all the cast for what they gave me.
Thank you and good luck with the film.
Monsters Dark Continent is released in cinemas on 1st May
Find out more at: Monsters: Dark Continent