For Layton filmmaker Colton Tran, now 22, directing and editing film using professional level software was just another day being a kid in the neighborhood — except this neighborhood had a nationally recognized producer/director, Scott Freebairn, willing to mentor Tran on the filmmaking craft.
His youth as a filmmaker would surface again when his grandparents-funded directorial debut, a short film titled “$1.11,” screened at the 2008 New York International Independent Film & Video Festival.
Upon arriving in the Big Apple with his mother, Amelia Vargo, Tran learned he was barred from the awards ceremony due to alcohol-related age restrictions — leaving the then 18-year-old director curbside. Fearful for her son traipsing around the city alone while she went on ahead, Vargo changed their flight to return a day sooner, only to learn that “$1.11” had won “Best Family Short.”
Months later, Tran was shopping in a second-hand store when he happened upon several monster figurines. “It was such a cool take on monsters. They were very colorful, but dark and dreary at the same time,” Tran said.
Tran stared at the monster until his director ideas fell into a plenteous state. “I kept thinking about a concept where two physical worlds collide,” Tran explained. “One of those worlds is inhabited by humans, shown in black and white onscreen, while the monsters live in a very colorful world.”
“Unpleasantville,” which is an excellent illustration of the German Expressionistic style made famous by director Tim Burton (“Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands”), was screened alongside Oscar-nominated short film “The Lost Thing” at the 2010 Chicago Children’s International Film Festival.
The positive feedback was tremendous, prompting Tran to expand on the single neighborhood concept found in “Unpleasantville” to a global scale. The end result is “Monstrosity.”
Lockhart and his platoon of “Pumpkin Henchmen” are “Monstrosity’s” antagonists. Lockhart’s morphed vampire bat look is the creation of special effects makeup artist Chris Hanson, who has worked on films such as “Men in Black” and “Hellboy.”
Tran’s advanced skills and strong penchant for directing were showcased when the visually stunning trailer for “Monstrosity” hit the Internet (monstrositymovie.com) in September 2011. The extensive and immediate media attention brought Tran and producer Laura Young to one conclusion: move to Los Angeles.
In addition to the benefit of being closer to the LA-based writers, Kevin Callies and DJ Halferty, Tran had been approached by powerhouse studios Warner Bros. and Sony, whose initial interest came from the trailer. “The good thing about it was they were asking us, instead of the other way around.”
Now two months into his hiatus from Layton, Tran’s days and nights have been filled with meetings and getting the word out by introducing “Monstrosity” to the industry’s movers and shakers. All the day-to-day fiscal worries have been removed by Tran’s super-supportive family, leaving the director to focus on bringing “Monstrosity” to a theater near you.