by Shayley Blair

Lucy Campbell, director Matt Vesely and producer Bettina Hamilton came together at a film lab program facilitated by South Australian Film Corporation. “We got together through New Voices: Film Lab, and we actually went into the development process without any real idea of what we were going to make,” says Lucy Campbell today.

Bettina Hamilton, Matt Vesely and Lucy Campbell

The team had numerous “one paragraph ideas to sort through, which were whittled down to two ideas, and then we eventually decided on one idea. It was just a premise, and one night I wrote up a couple of pages,” Campbell reveals.

The screenwriter describes the original premise as being based on interviews with people who’ve had experiences with aliens. “We wanted to work in sci-fi and we definitely had the idea of podcasting. In terms of the rest of the story, that really came through the course of the development lab.”

During 2021, when the concepts for their sci-fi thriller were evolving, the global zeitgeist was rife with conspiracy theories, political protests, and subsequent “media misinformation.” Campbell reveals how these aspects influenced Monolith’s plot, and its ponderings on matters of truth and the impacts of isolation. “I guess on our minds, and certainly on my mind – and something I really like the idea of talking about – is ‘who controls the narrative?’ And because you were seeing a lot of misinformation, obviously from the media, and from a political standpoint,” she reflects, citing the Capitol Riots as an example.

Believability of what ‘The Interviewer’ character [portrayed by Lily Sullivan in the film] is going through, despite the sci-fi nature of it all, adds to the gripping effect of Monolith as you take the journey with her. The film has the rare power to capture the audience through only one on-screen player and keep them there for its duration, achieved even when the main character is never addressed by name. “We wanted to keep her a little bit at arms-length and there was something exciting about this idea of a protagonist that you don’t know,” Campbell shares. “You know something about this person, but actually, as you go along, she’s such an unreliable narrator that it sort of turns on you a little bit. There’s something not quite right about the story that she’s telling.”

All the action takes place in one house, an otherworldly space with museum-like vibes. “The house that really inspired us was the house from Ex Machina,” Campbell reveals. “We went around looking at different houses and none of them quite worked. And then our location manager found this house and it was just like, ‘wow, this is incredible. Modern, monolithic. It’s beautiful, but it’s also quiet’.”

We ask Campbell about the possibility of everyday objects possessing significance, as objects in the film appear to. “Crystals and things like that – they can sort of imbue almost any object with anything,” Campbell admits. “We were all fans of The Witch, the A24 film about a family that live next to a forest. For the whole film, you’re kind of like – ‘maybe there’s a witch in the forest’. It was really important to us that it’s not just a metaphor. Although there is a metaphor element to the bricks and to the story.”

There have been suggestions brought up that the Monolith team do an actual podcast on topics centred on in the film, as a promotional angle and possibly to expand the story. The film may even eventuate into a series, following mysteries solved by the same podcaster. “There are lots of stories to explore in the world… and you could keep on exploring stories,” Campbell acknowledges… watch the sky… watch this space.

Monolith is screening now