effects. As he tells it, the money was so good and the work so plentiful that he started to become a bit complacent.
“I can remember looking at computer animation when I was younger and thinking: it’s good, but it will take a few years before it’s perfect. In a few years, I’ll make a film using these skills, I thought. Then a few years became a decade.”
Now established as a visual effects artist, Edwards found it difficult to “claw his way” back into dramatic film-making. Happily, we are now in an era where, if you’ve got a good laptop and a great deal of talent, you can make a science-fiction movie for the price of an indie woolly-hat comedy. Joining forces with Vertigo Films, an up-and-coming UK distribution and production company, he set out to make Monsters using guerrilla strategies. Many of the supporting actors are amateurs. Happy accidents encountered on the shoot were incorporated into the final cut. Much of the dialogue is improvised.
“Oh yeah, I would say about 80 per cent is improvised,” he says. “It was all to do with making it feel as realistic as possible. I didn’t want dialogue right on the nose. I liked all the randomness. I had a paragraph written in black ink that described what happened in the scene, then, in blue ink, there’d be a description of the emotions we wanted to get across and what we wanted to learn about the characters.”
He’s an inventive chap, this Mr Edwards.
Where other budding film-makers might plough their way through Scriptwriting For Dummies, worrying over a “key incident” for page 17, Gareth devised his own, impressively original approach to the art. While travelling through Mexico, he made it his business to grab interesting strangers and drag them into the action. He seems to have grasped Jean-Luc Godard’s famous dictum to the effect that, to make a film, all you need is a “girl and a gun”.
“The Mexican authorities gave us this bodyguard and he looked so cool that we tried to get him into as many shots as possible. If anybody was about with a gun we tried to get it into the frame.”
The looseness of Edwards’s technique does lend the film the desired funky, organic feel. But there are also consistent, well-developed themes running through Monsters. Despite its verité energies, Monsters feels like the work of an ordered, focused brain. Nobody could watch the movie without detecting certain political undercurrents. In particular, the film-makers appear to have things to say about the US’s current paranoia concerning illegal immigration. A wall divides Mexico from the US. The barrier is allegedly in place to protect against extraterrestrial incursions, but the parallels with current right-wing demands for a similar structure – directed at another class of “alien” – are impossible to ignore.
“Erm, yeah. There were attempts at a political allegory,” he admits with a smidgeon of reluctance. “But, oddly, my main interest was in the ‘war on terror’. Here is this threat. How many people should the state kill to defeat it? Why are western lives regarded as more valuable? To be honest, we would have had the wall if we’d shot the film anywhere else. But it does work as an allegory for the immigration issue. That’s fine. I always think that what people read into a film says more about them than it does about the film. I like that.”
That sense of western governments caring less about third world lives does come through strongly.
“People said to me: ‘You have this area infested with aliens. Nobody would live there in real life.’ And I said: ‘ What about hurricanes? They come along every year in the same areas and people live there.’ Some people have no choice.”
At any rate, the unusual combination of intimate drama and socio-political horror show has already drawn a lot of industry attention towards young Mr Edward. Timur Bekmambetov, the talented, brash director of Wanted and Night Watch, has signed a deal with Edwards and, when visiting Los Angeles, he can barely put his head outside the door without being dragged into a meeting.
“Yeah. It’s crazy,” he says. “They seem to collect meetings in LA. They have them just for the sake of having them. Several times I’ve walked away saying: ‘What on earth was the point of that?’” One thinks of Robert Altman’s The Player. The phrase “ Lost in Translation meets District 9” would, I imagine, make sense to those people.
“I hope they’re starting to say Monsters meets Monsters,” he says with a goodnatured snort.
I reckon he can count on it. (Co-Op) Indie beeps and bleeps from Crystal Castles, Fever Ray (covering Stranger Than Kindness by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), Zola Jesus, Washed Out and OTR faves Factory Floor.
(Warner Bros) Easy-on-the-ear power-pop odes to love and life from Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice.
(All City) This fresh-as-a-daisy new-school boogie tune from the Dublin-born-and-raised producer comes complete with a headspinning, breathtaking remix by Hudson Mohawke.