Kaiju Web Series, “ENORMOUS” Premieres; Director Q&A
In ENORMOUS, a giant monster graces the small(er) screen with no plan to lose scope in the process. Backed by Machinima, the web series adaptation of Tim Daniel and Mehdi Cheggour’s comic book opens on a familiar post-apocalyptic landscape, though one not ravaged by natural disaster or nuclear threat. Instead, it’s the almost always awesome giant creature, the concept of which is in something of a renaissance at the moment, most notably in last year’s PACIFIC RIM and the approaching return of GODZILLA. But with little history or guideline for what exactly web series can or should be, crafting something as inherently tremendous and cinematic as a monster story leaves everything open to possibility. As the ENORMOUS pilot premieres online, Fango spoke with director BenDavid Grabinski about everything a web series, and giant monsters, can offer.
FANGORIA: There’s a lot of discussion of television becoming more cinematic, but web series don’t really have a precedent or history of not being cinematic. Does that attract you to something like this?
BENDAVID GRABINSKI: The interesting thing for me is that there are no rules. You’re bound mainly just by logistics. You’re not bound by someone saying, “This thing needs to be this,” or “this needs to be that.” I came into a situation where there were almost no notes or suggestions on how I should shoot it or anything, they just really supported my idea of making it as cinematic as possible. The real weird appeal about all of this is that I spent the last year on a movie that still hasn’t been made. There’s a lot of work that’s gone into it. I still think it’s actually happening, but that’s the sort of process. This, someone came to me on Halloween and it was done January 31st. So, part of the excitement of it was you get to do everything you do on a movie, but in a much shorter time span. Same amount of prep, same amount of everything, just the length of it is shorter.
FANG: How did you approach what to take from the comic and introduce in just a ten minute pilot?
GRABINSKI: There were a couple of things that were helpful for me. One, Andre [Øvredal], the director of TROLLHUNTER wrote a script and structurally, we’re pretty close to it. The thing that was really helpful was right when I was hired, I got an email from the creator of the comic and he had liked COST OF LIVING. He was really supportive for basically whatever I wanted to do, because he really liked my sensibilities. So, I really felt like I wasn’t beholden to anything.
You really cannot discount how helpful it is to have the people who made a comic be on set all day everyday and not be demanding that you make decisions just because they’re in a book. There’s a way where you can do something like this and be like the 300 or SCOTT PILGRIM version where you’re trying to recreate the comic. One, I don’t think it would work in ten minutes; and two, it would cost $200 million. The comic is so gigantic. To me, this is the ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN version of the comic where you’re with a small group of people, away from a different conflict and you’re following them and what they’re doing.
GRABINSKI: They came in and said I could design a monster from scratch. The concept artist and I, in about twelve hours, came up with this monster and had to go off to the races. That was really the most difficult part about the entire thing; doing any kind of CG or creature in a matter of weeks is almost impossible. The only shots that were planned beforehand were the FX shots. Everything else was sort of made up on set. You had to figure that out beforehand and try and do that as quickly as possible. You usually need four, five, six months to do any type of giant creature work.
FANG: The last 15 years have seen apocalyptic stories become hugely popular. Now, as giant monsters get their due in that, is it a cyclical thing, or something more?
GRABINSKI: I think it’s two things. One, it’s people like you and me who grew up on stuff who love that shit. What you liked as a kid was not about really a trend as much as things you respond to that kind of scare the shit out of you, or seem awesome. At the same time, not to get political, I think that a lot of people are a little scared about where things are going to go in our world and it’s the same reasons why we love horror. Giant monsters, they could represent global warming, or represent this… I was saying about PACIFIC RIM, the whole metaphor to me was, “once people decide how to fix the environment…” It was optimistic of what we would do. I’ll know later what I was thinking. A lot of times it’s bullshit when directors pretend they had reasons for these things thematically or emotionally. Usually, you figure it out later and then pretend that was your intent. In this case, I was just trying to make it entertaining and scary and kind of fun.
Personally, it’s probably easier to think about a giant monster showing up and destroying civilization then the logistics of, “are we going to have enough food or water?” I’m so scared of a big LA earthquake; the monster showing up, that makes more sense to me.