Horrors! 'Monsters' director did it himself, didn't go broke

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Director Gareth EdwardsTORONTO -- Gareth Edwards might have spawned a new generation of do-it-yourself filmmakers at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Instead of making a creature feature with his own money, Edwards sold himself as writer, director, cinematographer and visual effects man in one economical package. Let someone else foot the bill.

Who could resist a four-headed value like that? The British studio Vertigo gave Edwards far more resources than he could have scared up on his own to make Monsters, a low-budget festival buzz-getter that will open Oct. 29 in theaters. Edwards also announced here that he had landed a deal with Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov to make a sci-fi thriller
with presumably cushier coffers.

To think that Edwards had originally planned to max out his credit cards and drain his bank account to make Monsters on his own. (He nearly did anyway.) He said he never felt the industry would give him a chance. But a compelling concept about octopus-like giants from space, an intrepid agent, and proven computer graphic wizardry sealed the deal. Edwards has a knack for bringing creepy crawlies to life at low cost.

"The irony is when you come up with something very cheap but has commercial potential, you don't ever have to spend your own money," he told WalletPop at the festival. "Somebody will give you money to do it."

Monsters cost "essentially in the very low six figures," Edwards said, wringing large-scale production value out of what is normally the laundry budget for a studio movie.(A rumor had spread that the film cost as little as $15,000, but Edwards might as well have used the rubber octopus miniatures you win at carnival games on the pier.) Vertigo already made its money back on foreign sales, so the fledgling auteur already has exhaled.

Most of the budget went to paying Edwards, the two lead actors, a crew of three and what the press notes called a fixer. Somebody had to negotiate rates with the locals to improvise scenes. The impromptu filmmaking safari through Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica was relatively inexpensive, according to the filmmaker.

Monsters
is a quest flick. A photographer (Scoot McNairy) must escort the boss's daughter (Whitney Able) across a Mexico infested with the eight-legged beasts to safety behind a giant wall around the United States. Mating season for the monsters and bubbling romance between the humans complicate matters.

Edwards designed and inserted the octopus creatures after principal photography. He had instructed his actors that they were being pursued by "something with tentacles." To keep the characters in jeopardy on both land and sea, he gave his ill-tempered cephalopods the ability to walk. For you techheads, he animated them on a program called 3DS Max. The entire editing suite he had at his disposal would retail for about $7,000, he said, but Edwards already had the equipment as an Emmy-nominated creative effects creator for BBC.

Edwards hopes more special-effects types get a chance to direct. More important, he hopes it's the right ones. And if he is going to be the start of a trend, he has one last piece of advice for those who follow. Be prepared to make the movie on your own. "When you're at the point that it's all sitting there looking like a no-brainer, that's the day someone will give you a lot of money to do it. "
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