The Beast Within: Seb Cox Talks Are We Monsters

One of the film’s playing in Arrow Video FrightFest’s First Blood strand is Seb Cox’s coming-of-age debut movie, Are We Monsters. Charlotte Olivia is Maya, a werewolf seeking to understand her dual nature before things become deadly. Not helping are two werewolf hunters, armed and ready for combat.

An imaginative dive into a world of troubled souls, lycanthropy folklore, Greek mythology, and British legends, Cox’s film conjures memories of A Monster Calls more than The Howling. Not that there aren’t beastly goings-on out in the film’s dark woods…

We caught up with Cox, the film’s director and co-writer, to discuss his singular take on the werewolf movie.

Rob Daniel: How did the idea for Are We Monsters come about?

Seb Cox: I’m a lover of fantasy and making films that tell stories to help us grow emotionally as people. For that reason, I wanted to explore the question of our identity, and werewolves immediately sprung to mind. A person, forced into a world where they physically change out of their control once a month into something that they’re afraid of. I feel that everyone has a good understanding of werewolves and their struggles already, hence they work as a great way to communicate questions about identity for the audience.

RD: What do you hope audiences will take from the movie?

SC: Are We Monsters has two main purposes: to create an expansive world with its own lore for an audience to get lost in, and secondly, to get us thinking about our perspectives on finding an identity, and how we interact with others who are finding their own.

RD: The film has inventive monsters. Who designed them and how easy or difficult was it to incorporate the FX sequences into the film?

SC: With a background in Visual FX and animation, I had a large part in the design of the monsters. We wanted to give the werewolf a unique design. Two main aims were to get us exploring the lore created for the film, and have us question identities. Therefore, the look of the werewolf was supposed to feel unfamiliar. That way we encourage the audience to explore new ideas and open themselves up to the questions being asked.

In Are We Monsters’ lore, werewolves are formed from the evil of man, hence I designed werewolves for each of the deadly sins.

Seb Cox’s 3D-printed creature designs for Are We Monsters

In the film, we are faced with the werewolf linked to Wrath. We were very fortunate to work with an extremely talented monster actor, Kyle Menzies, who usually works annually at Tulley’s Farm as one of their leading monster actors. Kyle brought some incredible physicality and audio design to the creature.

Other monsters in the film, such as Maya’s idea of what a monster looks like, stem from a combination of her illustrations and her greatest fears. For me, when walking around in the pitch black of a forest at night, a creature that blends with the darkness and can flow between trees is quite the terrifying predator. Its animation was designed to feel sporadic, and full of uncontrolled energy. A source of inspiration was one of my favourite franchises, Naruto, when we begin to see the unleashed power of the demon within.

RD: Was the film made during the pandemic? If so, what challenges did you face shooting in those circumstances?

SC: We filmed the project in the summer of 2019, so luckily didn’t face any issues with the pandemic during production. I was editing and animating when lockdown happened, which worked as a benefit as it encouraged me to stay inside and finish the animation.

RD: What were some of the more general challenges you faced? How did you deal with them as director?

SC: I think when a producer says, “filming at night in a forest,” everyone braces themselves for long, cold, and wet nights. We were fortunate that the filming times lined up with a two-month-long dry spell, with very little rain. Other than that, figuring out a lighting system that felt realistic and provided enough visual information was a challenge.

I wanted the forest to feel real. In many films, they use extensive lighting systems to illuminate everything. If you’ve ever walked around a woodland at night with a torch, it’s not like that, it’s very dark. I wanted to capture that level of darkness in the film. For that reason, we invented clever ways to catch the torches held by the actors. The actors became part of a choreographed lighting team as well as delivering on their roles.

RD: What advice would you give to aspiring independent filmmakers?

SC: I often get contacted by independent filmmakers just starting out, asking where they should begin. I always recommend starting with your friends, on smaller projects with cheap gear. Once you’re happy with your process, consider making features. The most important part of filmmaking is your idea, it’s so important that I put a video together on how those getting started can formulate film ideas: 

Find an idea with a message that fascinates you. The genre, the themes, and that section of people you want to entertain. Work with the team you’ve built up on smaller projects and expand with new talent.

RD: Could you tell us how you feel about Are We Monsters playing in the FrightFest First Blood strand?

It’s an exciting one for sure, still yet to sink in fully. FrightFest was the number one festival on our list, so its selection has blown us away. To have both screens sell out for our debut feature in London, Leicester Square is awesome, and we love it! I’ve been doing all I can to get into the spirit of things, preparing giveaways, 3D printed figurines and T-shirts. We can’t wait for everyone to watch the film and get engrossed in the folklore!

Many thanks to Seb Cox for making this interview possible




Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
Podcast: The Movie Robcast

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