By Clark Collis
April 16, 2015 at 08:02 PM EDT

How did first-time filmmaker Tom Green get the job of directing science fiction movie Monsters: Dark Continent? “The producers got in touch and said, ‘There’s a small amount of amoney. Go write a script quickly, and go make the movie,” says the Brit, who previously directed episodes of the U.K. superhero show Mifits. “It was a very dynamic process.”

He makes becoming a filmmaker sound so easy! “I don’t mean to,” Green laughs. “It’s been blood sweat and tears. The limitations of the filmmaking were incredibly challenging. It’s certainly not easy making a film. I’ve learned that!”

Green’s Jordan-shot movie (which is available to see on VOD and opens in theaters April 17) is a sequel to 2010’s Monsters, itself the debut film from future Godzilla filmmaker Gareth Edwards. Monsters posited a world in which a NASA probe crash introduced huge tentacled beasties to planet Earth. Monsters: Dark Continent keeps the creatures but changes the setting, the characters, and subgenre. Where Edwards’ original film was a Mexico-set love story starring Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able, Green’s ten-years-later sequel is a war movie in which a group of young soldiers from Detroit have to deal with both insurgents and the titular creatures in the Middle East.

“Page one, there needed to be monsters in it—but other than that it was an open brief, creatively,” says the director, who cowrote the script with Jay Basu. “I didn’t want to continue with the two characters. Monsters started with a military presence, and I went to Jordan, and I felt that was the most incredible environment to make the film. I thought, What could we do that explored something socially relevant and yet also gave something different within genre? A war film ticked all those boxes. I’ve always wanted to make a war film. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be my first film.”

Green admits the shoot was, at times, hellish. “It was,” says the director. “In terms of the actual physical challenges, it was damn hot and scary sometimes, hanging out of helicopters. But filming in Jordan was just an amazing experience. It’s an incredibly beautiful country and the people made the film possible. We traveled down to the southern desert to work with real Bedouin tribes. They opened their doors to us, and we did things there that we would never have been able to do in other places. It allowed me to create a very authentic environment to make the film. Also, the landscapes there are very beautiful and prehistoric and you feel that monsters might actually live there. I wouldn’t trade my experience there—it was very special.”

Prior to the shoot, Green was given the thumbs-up by Monsters director Edwards (who is an executive producer on Monsters: Dark Continent)—but the director was too busy toiling on Godzilla to contribute further. “We had a beer together,” Green explains. “He said, ‘Good luck.’ And I said, ‘Good luck with your monster movie.’ He was supportive, but mostly he was supportive in the sense that he let us take his legacy and be creative in our own way. He’s subsequently seen the film and really loved it.”