“Monsters”: The ultimate indie sci-fi movie

I was watching “Monsters” on Netflix Instant tonight. A movie that every filmmaker should watch. A movie, full with CGI, made for “less than $500,000”. Script, direction, camera, CGI, all done by the same person, Gareth Edwards (previously worked as a CGI artist, this was his first serious film). “Monsters” is already a cult classic among sci-fi fans.

The camera equipment cost less than $15k. A Sony EX3 camera with a 35mm adapter was used. Vignetting, and lack of captured light (because of the adapter) is apparent in most scenes, but the story makes up for it. No artificial lighting was used, no location permissions were acquired prior to filming — this is the ultimate guerrilla film. It’s a bit sad that it was shot just a few months before the Canon 7D or T2i were released, they could have saved lots of money, and have better low light support!

The film feels both like a documentary (because most of the scenes were not pre-planned or had multiple takes), and a real movie. It was shot in 3 Latin American countries and the US, while the crew of 3-4 and 2 actors were traveling on a single van. Most of the rest of the “actors” on the movie are just random people who agreed to act! All the editing and 250 GGI shots were done with off-the-shelf software.

According to Wikipedia, “Monsters was nominated for six British Independent Film Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, and eventually won the Best Director, Best Technical Achievement, and Best Achievement in Production awards.” After all this, the director was asked to direct the next Godzilla. BTW, there’s a twist on the film, but you need to watch it carefully to get it.

The male star of the film, Scoot McNairy, in 2007 also starred in the drama “In Search of a Midnight Kiss“, a film with very good reviews, shot with the Sony HVR-Z1, for less than $25,000.

Another low budget sci-fi movie I can’t wait to see is “In-World War“, shot by an ex-Apple manager from Oakland, who left his post to become a filmmaker. This sci-fi one was shot with a RED One and it’s currently in post-production.

3 Comments »

CRFilms wrote on March 7th, 2011 at 8:20 PM PST:

Just finished this and….Eh. Once again good concept and execution for the money, but the overal story was, meh. The characters didn’t move me, plus I’m tired of the U.S. being the bad guy and while this wasn’t an overt indictment of america’s immigration policy, it had enough allusions to it, that I started to tune out. And I am hispanic by the way, my mom’s mexican.

Ultimately the best indi sci-fi movie is Primer. You wrote about it a while back and for $7000 and shot on film, that can’t be beat. When they were outside the Storage facility for the first time and his buddy handed him the binoculars, when I realized what was going on, I literally wept tears of joy. It’s so audacious a concept and how well they executed it for no money and NO SPECIAL FX, means it’s pretty much the champion of all time.


horace wrote on March 9th, 2011 at 5:36 PM PST:

no, dark star is the champion of all time. 🙂

i liked the ending of monsters a lot.


Yanni wrote on March 11th, 2011 at 3:34 PM PST:

I just watched this and was completely blown away by the acting. Most people were from the street and just feed lines. The two leads were great. Being an independent filmmaker myself, acting is always the toughest part of pulling together a production, especially something like this, that’s so massive and requires so many people and the fact that almost everyone in this isn’t an actor makes it amazing.


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