Putting words together to describe Astron-6 isn’t easy. They are a film collective from Winnipeg, Canada consisting of five Gen-X dudes. They commit themselves to subversive and twisted filmmaking that taps into everything that’s awesome about 80s genre. With shoestring budgets they somehow manage to produce quality retro-centric pulp that’s resonated across the world and has been embraced by just about everyone who recalls BETA and VHS with fondness (and hard ons). Their debut feature was FATHER’S DAY, a kick-ass celebration of hardcore grindhouse cinema that also pays homage to the better films of Troma. You may recall that it was denied classification twice by the Australian Classification Board… yep BANNED! With a passionate persistence the film’s Aussie distributor (Monster Pictures) fought feverishly to get it released and its now out there proudly flipping a “fuck-you” finger at the censors. Their follow-up release is MANBORG, a Chroma-key feast for the eyes. Shot almost entirely in a small garage against a green screen in the midst of a Canadian winter, the film is a testament to Astron-6's passion for 80's cult cinema. I’ll let the trailer speak for itself but I do encourage y’all to watch this gem of a thing. With an awesome line-up of short films and pseudo trailers, Astron-6 is riding a high right now and we can only hope that there’s stacks more to come.
FakeShemp is a modest hobby site and having such personalities give their time generously is a huge boost. This week’s Brain-Pick belongs to Adam Brooks and Conor Sweeney from Astron-6 who were too kind in giving me their time.
Were you addicted to movies from a young age?
Conor: Yeah. I would rent the same handful of movies every weekend, week after week.
What were some of your favourite movies growing up?
Adam: Back to the Future, Something Wicked this way Comes, Terminator, The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters etc.
Conor: Back to The Future, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Return of the Jedi, Ghostbusters, The Neverending Story
When did you decide to pursue film making?
Adam: I tried to make a lil' zombie movie on hi-8 in 2001, but it fell apart. my friends proved to be unreliable as far as unpaid, non-actors go.
Conor: I started doing it seriously and consistently when I met Matt in high school. We started shooting sketches together and performing live comedy for about five years leading up to us joining Astron-6.
Has the Canadian lifestyle influenced your work in any way?
Adam: I don't think taking a dogsled ride to school from my igloo house has made me any different, but how would I know, eh?
Conor: Canadian film and TV is exceptionally terrible, especially comedy. All our good comedy writers and performers migrate south, so we're left with castrated unfunny garbage. There's the occasional SCTV or Kids in the Hall, but these are exceptions to the rule. We're influenced in the regard that we don't want to make traditionally "Canadian" content.
What are some of your favourite Canadian films?
Adam: Videodrome, The Fly, Hardcore Logo, Pontypool and Beyond The Black Rainbow.
Conor: Videodrome, Rituals, Black Christmas, C.R.A.Z.Y., PIN, The Fly
Where did your love of genre films come from?
Adam: I think it came from growing up in the 80's when genre film seemed to be everywhere.
Conor: The mom and pop corner video store by my place. The horror section was alluring and terrifying. Video stores were a great hangout for kids in the 90's. It had an arcade and pizza and candy and hardcore porn if you were sneaky enough. It was a great time.
Are there any Canadian directors who have helped shape your love of genre?
Conor: David Cronenberg
As Astron-6 have you received any praise from other filmmakers?
Adam: Guy Maddin, The Soskas, Jason Eisener and James Bickert have all been very kind to us.
Conor: Mark Neveldine, the Soska sisters are awesome. Steven Spielberg, Werner Herzo
Father’s Day was denied classification twice in Australia. Was this a bitter sweet sentiment?
Conor: It's pretty annoying, but I guess it's cool.
Monster Pictures eventually released the movie down under, have you had much interaction with those guys?
Adam: yea, they seem nice.
Conor: Yeah we have a good relationship with them.
With several obvious references to Troma in the movie, was it always intended to be part of their catalogue?
Adam: Unfortunately it was.
Conor: There are references to Troma? This was unintentional if so. Other than the Tromaville license plate and Lloyd's cameo... now that I think about it there are a bunch of Troma references in Father's Day, my bad.
How did you find working with Troma, particularly Lloyd Kaufman?
Adam: a nightmare.
Conor: Absolutely awful. I recommend any filmmaker considering working for them to make think long and hard about their decision.
A few years ago the retrospective documentary Not Quite Hollywood was made showcasing the glory days of Aussie exploitation movies. Have you seen many Ozploitation flicks?
Adam: a few.
Conor: Yeah, there are some fun ones. Crocodile Dundee counts right?
What are some of your favourite Aussie movies?
Adam: Long weekend.
Written by Everett DeRoche.
Conor: I liked Dead End Drive In. The Howling III, Long Weekend, Mad Dog Morgan, Stunt Rock.
Your most recent film is Manborg. How did this little nugget come to be?
Adam: Skostanski and Jer came up with it, and then we all suffered for about a year in Kostanski's parent's garage.... then a couple years later it was finished.
Conor: Steve wrote it right before Father's Day, then for the next year I had to squeeze into painted on jeans and steel toed boots and act in front of a green screen in either a boiling garage or a dusty asbestos filled concrete basement of a blinds store.
Conor, you tackled an Aussie accent in the movie. Aside from the occasional mispronunciation, you NAILED IT! What was your secret?
Conor: I'm really from Australia, mate. You should be asking how I nail a Canadian accent.
How did shooting this compare with Father’s Day?
Adam: for me it was completely different because almost all of my scenes in Manborg were shot alone in front of greenscreen with no other actors to work off of. they're very different movies.
Conor: It was a lot less fun. Shooting in front of a green screen is very limiting, and it was always either too hot or too cold. And I can't stress how miserable doing action scenes in those pants was. I couldn't bend my knees.
Whats next for Astron-6?
Adam: The Editor.
Conor: The Editor, A sexy Giallo throwback.
Who are some other up and coming Canadian names we should be aiming our attention at?
Adam: The Soskas.
Conor: Panos Cosmatos, Jen and Sylvia Soska, Milos Mitrovic
Adam & Conor thank you so much for you time. I am salivating for The Editor!
Monster Pictures recently interviewed Manborg's director and Astron-6 member Steve Kostanski.
Click the image and check it out.