STARBURST: Firstly, how did you come to be involved in the project and how conscious were you of making a film that was very different from the original?
Tom Green: It was important to remain faithful to the ethos of Gareth’s film while making something that was entirely stand-alone. It was never really a sequel in my head at all. Initially though, the producers came to me with a small amount of money and asked if I’d be interested in making a film. There’s usually such hard work getting a film off the ground; no matter how independent, it can take years. So to have it more the other way around was great. I thought about whether I could make it different and still good enough, and I thought I could. The only remit was that it needed to include monsters and be contemporary while still remaining in the genre. Apart from that it was a case of go and get on with it. I think as a result the film is quite experimental and free-form.
Watching Monsters: Dark Continent, you never get the impression that this film is as much a low budget production as the original. How did you create your world under such restrictions?
The funny thing is that we had virtually the same budget as Gareth so had similar challenges. What our team has managed to achieve within those constraints has been remarkable, with regard to monster design and world building. Because of that, the film has fallen on its sword in some ways. People think that this is a cynical cash-in with loads of money spent. In reality, it is a tiny film made with only one handheld camera. Everyone involved came to the project at the right time and were keen to create a cohesive collaborative environment. This was everyone’s film and everyone was keen to show what they could do.
Your monsters are amazingly complex creatures.
It was essential for me that these were potentially living creatures and so we designed them from the bottom up. They had to be breathing life forms, having come from a planet similar to ours. The difference was that their evolutionary process was fast, taking perhaps 10 million years in just 10 of ours. The other thing was that we were setting the film in this harsh desert landscape, so they had developed harder shells to protect their gelatinous insides. Our designers had to understand how the creatures would work anatomically and I think we succeeded in making them completely organic.
Your film’s characters have a real energy and a visibly close bond. Was this something that came about on set and how did you make sure you had the casting right?
For me Johnny Harris is one of the best actors in the country but has never been given a lead role. He’s very method, a talented actor and his process is amazing. He became a guiding force for the film, very raw and instinctive and you have to run with that. This kind of punk rock filmmaking bled into the other actors. He never came out of character once and was unbelievably intense. I remember someone came out to visit the set once and they were surprised how far we’d gone into the film and in our group. We’d created such a world that I know it took some of the actors a while to integrate back into their lives when they returned home. It was never a conventional shoot and that reflects in it not being a conventional film or narrative.
We did have a script but a lot of the scenes came from the shoot itself, particularly in the Bedouin scenes. They were mapped out, but we worked with the community and put the actors in with them and the scenes developed from that, almost shooting documentary style with the actors still in character. And the film is all about energy, whether in front of the camera with the actors or behind it with a young filmmaker like myself.
Stylistically where did your inspiration come from?
Primarily this is a war film and there’s an inevitable blurring of the lines and crossover with other films. We shot on some of the army bases as Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker which was necessary for the authenticity and landscapes we wanted. You’re not trying to mimic them but it just happens that way sometimes. That said, I think we made a completely different film than any other. So much comes from the real experiences we learned about from talking with marines who had experienced several tours which added to that documentary feel.
Finally, did you feel the trailers for Monsters: Dark Continent gave a slightly misleading impression of the film?
Possibly. I understand why trailers are cut the way they are to show the action within, but that’s not the film we set out to make or finally produced. This is a poetic, experimental film that explores human psychology in an interesting way with amazing visuals. I think there is a big misconception of the film which led to misjudgement. We were young filmmakers trying to make the best film we could with limited resources and I think we achieved that.
MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT is available on Blu-ray/DVD on August 31st.