Scoot McNairy & Whitney Able interview 2
From first-time director Gareth Edwards, Monsters might be one of the most ambitious indie productions ever mounted. Shot on a shoestring budget with a skeleton crew, the film is the tale of a couple’s journey through a Mexico infested with alien invaders. Actors Scoot McNairy (last seen in monochrome cult indie In Search of a Midnight Kiss) and up-and-comer Whitney Able lived, slept and breathed their characters during a gruelling shoot. It was a test for their fledgling real-life relationship, but at the film’s Edinburgh Film Festival premiere it seems the gamble paid off.
Aren’t you here on your honeymoon?
Scoot McNairy: We got married last Saturday. Whitney and I had just started seeing each other at the time of the shoot. Looking back on it now, Monsters is almost like our wedding video. The most expensive, CGI, 8-week shoot wedding video.
You were dating before being cast, so how did you both land the roles?
SM: When the producer, James Richardson, talked to me about it originally he was looking for a real couple.
Whitney Able: We started sending over names of people in LA and he said, “No, no – I want to cast you guys.”
SM: We’re like, “But you could get someone so much better!”
You shot guerrilla-style – what did that involve?
WA: We flew to about 16-18 different cities over the course of 8 weeks. We started in Baja and then we hit the road. After that we shot every day, 12-hour days. We were even shooting on travel days; when we’re on a train, Gareth would be filming us.
SM: I like the guerrilla-style of filmmaking we used and I’d seen Gareth’s short film before this, so I knew what he could deliver. But there was no script. We had to really understand every aspect of these characters.
Is it rare to be that involved?
WA: It’s extremely rare. Often you’re on a plane two days after getting cast and you have no time to rehearse or get to know each other. It takes time to build that rapport. We got to spend a month before we started just immersing ourselves in that world.
Scoot, you play a photojournalist, did you look into that job?
SM: I got a bunch of textbooks, learnt the path of becoming a photojournalist and how they photograph warzones. I found that they were incredibly… boring, or rather quiet, silent and emotionless. I can completely understand why; the things they’ve seen in their lives. For the film, I felt that would be a little too bland, so I pulled from a friend of mine named Andrew Calder. He’s been everywhere, experienced everything. I brought that to the character to make him a bit more interesting.
What did you take away from the experience?
WA: So much was going on for me on an emotional and personal level. I was working on this character and at the same time falling in love and trying to figure out the logistics of working and living with Scoot. But I was especially moved by the drug war that was going on and the devastation that it was causing. Everywhere we went something was happening either just before or just after we were there. The vice president’s plane crashed two days after we left Mexico City, and that was all related to the drug wars.
So much is achieved through CGI – how did it feel to finally see the finished product?
SM: I was blown away. I was always hopeful it would be good, but on seeing it I’m convinced Gareth is a master. We were there, so we know what’s real and what isn’t, and it’s unbelievable and unfathomable what he did with the project. I wish people could see the raw footage with none of the effects in there. And to find this softness of tone and this real character story at the heart of it all – that’s the mark of an amazing director.