Interview: Steven Kostanski – Director (Manborg)

As a member of Canadian Film Collective ASTRON 6, Writer/Director Steven Kostanski is responsible for unleashing last year’s demented “FATHER’S DAY”. If you haven’t caught up to it just yet it’s the tender tale of a man who is frantically hunting down the maniac who murdered his father, Chris Fuchman AKA The Father’s Day Killer. If you think about his last name you can figure out what it is that Chris does to his victims before killing them (It ain’t pretty). You might feel guilty for laughing at what sounds like such extreme subject matter but “FATHER’S DAY” is a hilarious send up of low down & dirty Grindhouse epics of the 70′s, trust me when I say that you’ll never forget the insane ending! Steven’s latest film “MANBORG” has been playing the festival circuit for the last year & will be released to DVD/Bluray on April 30th. The story of a soldier killed in a war against a demonic army only to be resurrected as a cyborg, “MANBORG” is a raucous adventure that’s reminiscent of the ridiculously entertaining films that studios like EMPIRE PICTURES would release every other week back in the 80′s. He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the making of “MANBORG” and what he has planned for the future.

Horrornews: Congratulations on your success with “MANBORG”! I loved every second of it.

Steven Kostanski: Thanks so much! Glad you liked it.

HN: Before we talk about the movie could you tell me how did the ASTRON 6 group come together?

SK: We’re all from Winnipeg, Manitoba and there used to be an annual short horror film festival there every Halloween. Jeremy Gillespie (ASTRON 6 member) & his girlfriend would run what was basically an independent horror film festival where local film makers could submit their movies and then wait to see who would win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. I would submit movies & so would Matthew K. & Conor Sweeney (Stars of “MANBORG” & ASTRON 6 members) would as well. And one year we all had movies in competition at the same time and we realized that we all had similar sensibilities. We spent the next year helping each other out with our short films and we came up with the idea of coming up with a crummy video label called “ASTRON 6″ that would play before our movies. So the following year each of our films had that label on them. And that’s pretty much how it all started…

HN: Seeing “ASTRON 6″ on the screen before the movie starts is very reminiscent of VHS titles from the 80′s.

SK: It’s totally supposed to be like a VESTRON VIDEO type of thing.

HN: Exactly! Where did the idea for “MANBORG” come from?

SK: I was watching a movie called “ELIMINATORS”…

HN: (Laughing) That’s it!!

SK: It was an EMPIRE production from back in the 80′s. I was watching it with Jeremy (Gillespie. Another member of ASTRON 6) & he just turned to me and said “You should make a movie & call it MANBORG”.

HN: As soon as I saw the poster art for “MANBORG” I thought of “ELIMINATORS”. It wasn’t until I saw it that I knew I was right though.

SK: I got hooked on the idea afterwards. It seemed like the perfect outlet for all of my feverish sci-fi, action, fantasy cliches so I just combined them all together into one movie.

HN: When I first heard about it I immediately thought “ROBOCOP”. But when I saw the Kung Fu sidekick I knew you saw “ELIMINATORS” somewhere!

SK: (Laughing) You were right!

HN: I was just watching the “ELIMINATORS” trailer just before you called. I actually saw that when it was released way back in the day.

SK: Really? That is awesome! I am extremely jealous!

HN: I still think it’s a great movie…

SK: It’s a RIDICULOUS movie!

HN: True but it’s so much fun! I think the whole budget was spent on the cyborg’s tank.

SK: He only uses it twice in the whole movie. I think they only used it to go up & down the stairs.

HN: I’m amazed that he never toppled over when he was using the stairs.

SK: I know! The actor looks completely terrified whenever he’s using the tank.

HN: “MANBORG” is a perfect homage to that movie.

Note: For those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, “ELIMINATORS” (1986) is about a cyborg (Called MANDROID) that, upon finding out that he’s to be scrapped, escapes from the scientist that created him and gets help from a mercenary, a ninja & the original creator of his technology to stop his creator from taking over the world using a time machine(!) Directed by Peter Manoogian, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds but a whole lotta fun! Well worth a watch if you can find it.

Now back to the interview…

HN: How did you cast it?

SK: The main actors are all ASTRON 6 members. Adam Brooks played Dr. Scorpius/Draculon, Matthew Kennedy played Manborg, Conor Sweeney played Justice & Jeremy Gillespie played The Baron. The entire cast was pretty much comprised of ASTRON 6 members.

HN: And you, in addition to writing & directing, created all of the SFX/Makeup for MANBORG.

SK: Yeah, all of the prosthetics, stop motion, compositing, etc was handled by me. That’s why we were in post production for two years. There was so much involved in creating the final product.

HN: That’s incredible. I wanted to ask why IMDB has it listed as a 2011 release yet it seems like it’s only getting released now in 2013?

SK: It was finished in 2011 and it premiered at Fantastic Fest that October. It’s taken it this long to come out on DVD because it’s had a pretty respectable festival run. It’s actually still playing at some fests even though it’s available now so it seems like there are some people out there that really like it.

HN: Everyone that I know that’s seen it love it. You’ve made the perfect “Retro 80′s sci-fi” film. Even the length of it is perfect.

SK: That was sort of a homage to Charles Band Productions, they were always weirdly short. never much more than 70 minutes or so. Or they were all really padded out by playing the end credits reeeeally slooooow. I just figured I wouldn’t punish the audience with any of that and just made it a reasonable length!

HN: A lot of the dialog in”MANBORG” feels improvised. How much, if any, of it was?

SK: The script was very rough. It was always the intention for the actors to “Fill in the blanks” as we went along. Adam, Conor & Jeremy really fleshed it out with the comedy as we went along. The script was the one aspect that I probably put the least effort into!

HN: Was the Australian accent that Justice had part of the script?

SK: I didn’t write it into the script but I always knew that I wanted the character to have that accent. During the first read through of the script I asked Conor to try it out and it went over really well so we kept it.

HN: How much did “MANBORG” cost when all was said & done?

SK: I didn’t really have a budget! I tell everybody that it cost about $1000 because when I tallied up my receipts at the end of it that was what they added up to, I didn’t really pay for much of anything. I filmed it in my parents garage & the basement of a local store. All of the actors did it for free and I borrowed the equipment from my old high school, I had a lot of freebies which I was very fortunate to get. All of the costumes, miniatures & props were made out of garbage & junk that I pretty much just found. I’d go to thrift stores, buy old hockey pads & paint them black. So we had to be really thrifty about a lot of things.

HN: And how long did it take to finish “MANBORG”?

SK: it was a year of on & off shooting and two years of postproduction. We started filming it in 2009.

HN: In addition to your work with ASTRON 6, you’ve worked on some very big movies!

SK: Since I’ve moved to Toronto I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the bigger shops here. There’s been a pretty good run of big films that I worked on.

HN: Especially “PACIFIC RIM”! That had to be incredible!

SK: That was great! They called me to come in and help after I finished working on the last “RESIDENT EVIL” film. I didn’t really do anything that glamorous on it but it was fun being involved with something that big. That’s gonna be pretty crazy when it comes out!

HN: You also wrote & directed “FATHER’S DAY” for ASTRON 6 as well.

SK: I only wrote a tiny bit of it. I basically helped with the effects and the big finale in the movie, that’s basically the part I directed.

HN: I gotta ask this. Who came up with the insane plot of that movie?

SK: (Laughing) Credit for that goes to Matt & Conor! They came up with the idea of a “Dad Rapist”! Originally it was just a faux trailer but Lloyd Kaufman got a look at it, thought it would make a good feature & contacted Matthew. That’s what got the ball rolling.

HN: The end of that movie is one of the most perfect endings to a movie that I’ve seen in years! I loved it. It was perfect.

SK: It was pretty hilarious that’s for sure. One of the first things we had to decide on when we started working on it was how it we wanted it to end.

HN: Back to MANBORG! All of the dialog that comes from the Asian character (#1 Man) sounds dubbed…

SK: Yeah it was dubbed! We hired Kyle Hebert who did voice over work for DRAGON BALL Z & one of the STREET FIGHTER games as well. He’s a pretty prolific anime voice over actor. I wanted it to have an “Old Kung Fu” movie vibe and he helped create that.

HN: “MANBORG” doesn’t really end does it? It’s left wide open for a sequel (Which I would LOVE to see). Are there plans to make “MANBORG 2″ in the future?

SK: I do have an idea for a sequel but like I tell everybody who asks, it would be nice to have some actual money to make it with some people helping me…

HN: Like a crew?

SK: Yeah! I really don’t want to have to make it alone. It would be nice to actually collaborate with a crew on the next one. I would really like to make another one if the option was there.

HN: What are you working on now?

SK: Other than working at the shop? I’m creating the effects for some other people’s movies. And I’m writing and trying to get some other projects off the ground. There’s nothing that I can definitively say is coming up but there are a few projects that I’d like to see come to fruition.

HN: ASTRON 6 projects?

SK: Some of them are, some of them aren’t. Adam & Conor have a movie called “THE EDITOR” that they’ll be shooting for ASTRON 6 later this year.

HN: Is the plan for the ASTRON 6 collective to continue making genre movies or do you think there might be something different coming in the future?

SK: I think that’s what we’re most passionate about. Nowadays in today’s culture with today’s equipment there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground between stuff people can shoot in their backyards for no money & something like “TRANSFORMERS”. The plan is to keep doing what we like doing and what we like to make are low budget genre movies.

HN: ASTRON 6 feels a lot like an EMPIRE PICTURES for this generation.

SK: That’s all I really want. Something that people can look forward to, a brand name they can trust. Delivering some solid entertainment that’s geared towards that audience.

Interview: Steven Kostanski – Director (Manborg)

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Those of you who don't know of The Black Saint & have yet to commit yourselves to him body, mind & soul will find yourselves in a most uncomfortable position when my army of acolytes is complete & ready to wreak havok upon this pitiful blue ball we live on. Oh, I really like horror movies as well & will take on all comers in a horror trivia contest. Bring it on!
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