Interview Writer/Producer/Director Monte Light: Space

I recent had the chance to chat with writer/director/ producer Monte Light, about this horror thriller film Space. In which an astronaut finds themselves trapped in space fending off an evil entity. In the interview we talk about the final frontier and why it is so scary. Enjoy.

Q: Who is your filmmaking inspiration?

A: I have so many throughout film history. Off the top of my head, the big ones would be Howard Hawks, Leigh Brackett, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Mamet, Dario Argento, Kenji Misumi and lots more.

Q: How would you describe this film in a word?

A: Claustrophobia.

Q: What was your catalyst for getting this film made?

A: ‘Space’ is the quintessential micro-budget, independent genre film. It was a labor of love, self-financed. It utilized talent both in-front of and behind the camera, who did it for the sheer love of the story. I called in every favor I could. I worked with amazing artists, some of whom had been working on my projects for almost twenty years before we made the film.

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting out as a filmmaker what advice would you give yourself?

A:  I would tell myself to start writing feature length screenplays from the get-go. I first picked up a camera when I was sixteen, and I was obsessed with the actual construction of movies, (the cameras, lenses, lights, non-linear editing, use of score and sound cues, etc.). So I spent a number of years making several short films, but actual feature length screenwriting didn’t start for me until college, and I wish I would’ve started on that earlier.

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

A: The spacesuit helmets were an absolute beast to use. They were constructed in Australia, and because of shipping issues we only got them a few days before we started filming. They were never quite fitted correctly to each actor’s head, since we had to move so fast, and the visors were constantly fogged up by their breath. There is a scene where three of the actors had to appear on-camera in their helmets at the same time, and because of the found footage style we had to roll on long takes. So before each take our poor costume mistress, Madi, had to fit each helmet individually, then de-fog the next, and then probably have to go back to the previous because the helmet had slipped down. The whole time the actors are trying to remain as still as humanly possible, but you got to breath, right? I’d be ready to call action, and then something would happen to one of three helmets. It got to the point where it would take ten or more minutes to get those damn things perfectly situated, and then try to shoot out a scene. Needless to say, my language may have been a bit salty that day.

Q: Space is such a vast isolating place; how did you turn that into a tight claustrophobic thriller?

A: You know, it’s funny. I wrote the screenplay at the beginning of 2018, and we filmed the movie by the end of that year. I was very interested in the psychological effects prolonged isolation would have during deep space travel, as well as how communication technology would need to evolve to facilitate that travel. I thought it would be an excellent way to explore the found footage horror genre in a way not seen that often. In real life, when we watch astronauts communicating to us from outer space, we’re always seeing them in cramped, industrial looking environments, performing mundane tasks. The vastness of space is out there, beyond the spaceship walls, a vacuum that will kill those astronauts quickly. But we never see that, (hopefully). We just see low hanging walls. The experience of traveling through space is an inherently claustrophobic experience, like being in a submarine. In addition, I was fascinated by the challenge of maintaining tension and gripping storytelling for almost forty minutes through just split screens and “zoom” calls. Mind you, this was several years before the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone inside and onto their computer screens. It’s interesting how quickly the theoretical can become a reality.

Q: What was important to you when crafting the scares/thrills for this film?

A: I knew because of the budget constraints and the kind of story I was telling, I needed to put the characters front and center. This is a slow-burn horror film, and that was done deliberately. Rather than focusing on jump scares or makeup effects, I wanted to impart a creeping sense of anxiety that mounts over the course of the whole film. So my biggest challenge was to create the reality of being stranded in deep space using almost entirely “in-camera” tricks and techniques, as well as getting the best actors I could to capture the reality of astronauts being put to the ultimate test. What was the message of the film? To me, the message is very much a pro-science one. As much as we like to focus on all the selfishness, ignorance, and arrogance that humans are capable of, there are also brilliant, positive people in the world making our lives better through research, medicine, and even examining outer space. I wanted to tell a story where the worst possible survival situation could be overcome through the power of scientific thought.

Q: Sequel plans or other upcoming work?

A:  I am in post-production on a black-and-white, surreal vampire thriller called ‘Blood Covered Chocolate’. That should hopefully get a release sometime next year, 2022, which would be really cool. It’s the one hundredth anniversary of the release of F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’, the first vampire film, and a large inspiration for ‘Blood Covered Chocolate’. There are currently no sequel plans for ‘Space’, but I do adore outer space science fiction and the great world hinted at in the movie, so who knows?

Q: If you won an award for this film who would you thank?

A: Without a doubt, I’d have to thank The Price is Right. The budget for ‘Space’ came from that show, when I played the game of Plinko.

If you want to watch Space you can check it out on iTunes and Amazon Prime, and as always check out my review on site now.

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