I had a chance to sit down and chat with Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy, the directing duo behind the new horror film The Editor which premiered at TIFF this year. Adam and Matt are two members of a collective of filmmakers known as Astron-6 which also includes Conor Sweeney, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski. These Winnipeg natives excel in low-budget horror with big imagination, and are responsible for the 2011 cult hits Father’s Day and Manborg, as well as a slew of fantastic short films (including this little gem).
The Editor is a parody and homage to the Italian giallo thrillers of the 70’s and 80’s by directors like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. For more information about the film itself, feel free check out my review right here.
MARK: How did the idea for The Editor come about? What made you decide on the giallo genre as your focus, and what do you love most about those films?
ADAM: I was editing Father’s Day, losing my mind, and I said to Matt: “How about a movie about an editor who loses his mind and maybe kills people?” And Matt said, “Ok great, and they could talk like this” and started improvising dialogue in the style of House By the Cemetery. And it hadn’t occurred to me that it would be a giallo, but I love giallo as well, so I ran with that too, and we just continued riffing and the idea evolved from there. We already loved giallo back when Astron-6 formed 7 years ago, we used to sit around on the couch together and watch these old movies like Deep Red and Tenebre, and New York Ripper…
MATT: And it obviously inspired the lighting style in Father’s Day – it’s very giallo-inspired for a lot of it.
ADAM: And yeah, we’re just big into the tropes of the genre, you know? We like the fetishized leather gloves, the straight-razors, the masked killer, the murder-mystery element, the touch of supernatural, as Matt mentioned, the super-saturated colourful lighting that Dario Argento threw into the whole mix, the zoom lenses, the aesthetic, you know. The genre is all about style as substance, and even the music is so memorable and strong and powerful. The music of those old movies would steamroll the scenes and force them to be whatever they wanted them to be. When the theme song kicks in in Tenebre, it’s a long crane shot up the side of a wall – the exterior of a house – and it’s the most boring scene, but the song is so intense that you get feelings of dread and excitement, and it’s beautiful. It’s very attractive to filmmakers like ourselves. And also, you get the dream-logic of it all, you can do anything. So many of those films had nonsensical absurdist endings, and that really appeals to us. The ending of Inferno and the ending of Tenebre are the ones that I note the most as being just nonsense – in a good way. Like the same way Samuel Beckett or Harold Pinter is nonsense. Anyway, hope that answers the question.
MARK: You mention the importance of music, and you guys actually managed to get Claudio Simonetti [of Goblin] for this film!
MATT: Yeah, big score!
MARK: So how did that happen?
MATT: Well, we have a connection to Monster Pictures out of Australia, they distributed our last two films. And the head distributor – I’m not sure of his exact title, he owns it I guess – he brought Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin to Australia for a concert and they formed a relationship. And he pestered him endlessly and his agent and eventually got us in touch with him, and once we were in touch with him he was right on board. He was like, “Yes. Yes, I do it”.
ADAM: And he’s still got it. He really did one song for us, but a few different versions of it. It’s the main theme, and it’s kind of a slow dread song. That guy is the master, in my opinion, of evil music. And he’s still got it, I’m happy to say.
MARK: I agree, I actually got a chance to see him perform with Goblin last fall in Toronto on their worldwide tour – the first time they had ever toured in North America – and you’re right they’ve definitely still got it. It was an amazing show.
MARK: I’d like to ask you about the experience of making [your previous feature] Father’s Day. I know it’s well recorded that you guys had a bit of controversy working with Troma Entertainment, and there’s a lot of beef there. I’m just wondering what you learned from that experience, and how it influenced your approach in making The Editor?
ADAM: I think we just learned not to bring anyone on, as far as financial ownership goes, in the early stages. And also to have a good lawyer. When we made any arrangements on our last film, at the beginning of production, we did not have a great lawyer. The point is, Telefilm has been the main source of our budget – a $120,000 micro budget grant that we got – and the rest of the money we raised on our own. And at this point in time, we are the only people who own The Editor. There’s no outside party, there’s no 3rd hand manipulating it. And we’re open to distribution right now, so it’s a great place to be. It’s the opposite of our last film.
MATT: And I mean, when we made Father’s Day, the good thing about Troma talking to us – I guess to their credit – is nobody was reaching out other than them at the time, which doesn’t really leave us room to negotiate deals or anything. It was like: “This is our chance!” and it paid off in that respect. I don’t think we even would have made Father’s Day if Troma hadn’t seen the trailer and wanted us to make it, so that was good. But financially, not good. So good to get us out there, but that’s the only benefit really.
MARK: And you know what, I haven’t heard of a Troma film that’s made it in to TIFF, so I feel like you guys are definitely headed in the right direction.
MATT: Absolutely, I agree.
MARK: Let’s talk a little bit about budgets. You guys are known to work with extremely small budgets, stretching them as far as they can possibly go (and then some). I have a feeling with this film premiering at TIFF in the Midnight Madness program, a lot of people are going to see it, and I’m really hoping that paves the way for your next film to be bigger and better. I’m just wondering what happens when you guys get a real budget? Do you have ideas that you’ve been holding onto for when that day comes?
ADAM: Yeah, the number one being: getting paid. We’ve yet to pay ourselves or get paid a dollar. But we’re ready. Let me tell you man, we’re ready.
MATT: We would like to make our first film after this where we don’t have a day job, where we shoot the movie in all our spare time and work a boring job in all of our 9-5 time.
ADAM: Hopefully there’s some sort of philanthropist or movie company out there, or a huge producer, who appreciates how far we can stretch a buck. Because I’m fine with stretching the hell out of a million dollars. We can definitely make a movie appear to be at least 10-times more than it is. And that’s not tooting our own horn too much I don’t think, because I’m not saying that our movie looks like Guardians of the Galaxy. But I’m saying, with far below $200,000, we can make a movie look like it costs well over a million. So I’m looking forward to that day. And the truth is, we’re done if we don’t ever get a bigger budget than The Editor, because it hurts too much.
MATT: Yeah, we killed ourselves.
ADAM: So that’s it, this might be the last one.
MARK: Well I certainly have my fingers crossed that it’s not.
MARK: Getting back to The Editor, this film also has a couple of bigger names in it, such as the great Udo Kier for example. Can you talk a bit about how they came on-board, and how it all came together?
ADAM: We got Udo Kier first, and then it was easier from there on in. And he is a magnificent human being, I cannot say enough good words about Udo Kier. I love the man, I hope he’s in everything we do from now on. And I don’t think we would have got the other names if it weren’t for him. He’s made over 215 movies, and now he chooses roles that just seem weird or interesting to him – something that’s unusual or different. And thrillingly, he felt that way about our script. I think the biggest mistake we made was not giving him a bigger role, because in hindsight, I think he should have played the editor. He’s way more interesting to watch than me, and he’s a joy to work with.
MATT: Yeah, and it just upped the confidence for us approaching everyone afterwards to say, “would you like to be in the film? Udo Kier is in it, by the way…” We also all along had sizzle reel footage to send these actors when we would approach them, and then after we shot with Udo and moved into the other blocks of shooting, we had the sizzle reel that was now shot on RED and had Udo in it. So it’s like, “here’s the sizzle reel” and people are like, “oh, yes!”
ADAM: Yeah, because when you come to people and you tell them the budget of your movie – which you need to tell them, because you have to explain why you’re offering so little money – they are going to disregard you and say, “well, why would we want to be in a movie that costs that little, that’s garbage! My client doesn’t want to be in a piece of shit!” So you have to bring them something to say, “look, it is a piece of shit, but come on, we can make it look nice, we can make it look better that what it is.” But yeah, working with Udo, a dream come true.
MATT: Very cool guy. Not only a dream come true to have him in the movie, but just a fucking great dude to work with. Very easy-going.
MARK: And he’s not really a vampire in real life?
ADAM: Uh no, but you know, I was afraid of him. We were both scared – and I don’t mean after I met him because I don’t want him to think that – but we were terrified upon meeting him. He does have piercing blue eyes, and I think if he wants to intimidate you, he sure probably could. He didn’t, he’s just a very lovely man, but when you see him turn it on, on camera I mean, the man has total control over his voice and his eyes, it’s amazing to see…
MATT: His instrument.
ADAM: Yes, his instrument. I wish his role was bigger, like I said. I apologize for the shortness of his part.
MARK: Well, you’ll just have to bring him back next time.
ADAM: Yeah, we will.
MARK: Speaking of which, what’s next for Astron-6? Do the other guys have things in the works right now?
ADAM: They do! The ABCs of Death 2 has a great piece by Steve and Jer of Astron-6, so look forward to that.
MATT: Yeah, and they’re working on a feature that they’re trying to get off the ground right now – it’s sort of a Carpenter-esque supernatural piece. And then we have a bunch of scripts just waiting for whatever the next opportunity is. So we’ll see.
Since its worldwide premiere at TIFF, The Editor has been working its way through the festival circuit. Further updates about the film and about Astron-6 can be found through their official website as well as their official Twitter page.