Cinematters: The Perverts of Astron-6

By David Nowacki
Astron-6 are deviants. Astron-6 are pagan goat-worshippers. Astron-6 sacrifice small mammals for no reason but for their own fetishistic delights. Astron-6 are rotted barnacles on the hull of Hollywood. Astron-6 are sadomasochistic pain farmers. Astron-6 would cause the Marquis de Sade to dry heave. Astron-6 is like Chernobyl, if Chernobyl made films. Since 2007, Astron-6 has been spreading their vile trash through the Internet (a common home for most garbage). Ostensibly from Winnipeg, but more likely churned out from a vomitous carcass pit, Astron-6 consists of five filmmakers (Matthew Kennedy, Adam Brooks, Conor Sweeney, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski) who revel in the filth, surrealism and violence of ’80s genre flicks. They recently were noticed by the industry’s premier purveyor of pulp, Troma Entertainment, who opted to produce their first feature-length film, Father’s Day. I managed to lure Conor Sweeney, the pervert, into my interview dungeon, and here’s what he had to say for himself:

Stylus: What is it about this genre of film that attracts you?
Conor Sweeney:
They’re basically the movies you were MOST restricted from seeing as a kid. Sex comedies and Reagan Era action movies were as well, but exploitation movies had everything from all genres that were off-limits. And they had the coolest covers. That’s what drew us to them as kids. As filmmakers, it’s basically a genre that you can do anything in and get away with. You can be visually and thematically very surreal and still have a movie that people take seriously.
Stylus: What are your hopes for Astron-6, what is the group’s plan for the future?
Chronologically: Father’s Day gets released, it gets rave reviews, after opening overseas peace is realized in the Middle East, followup film offers roll in, Roger Ebert teaches himself how to speak without a lower jaw in order to rave about us, we’re able to support ourselves with our art, suicide pact comes to fruition, little boy in the future makes an Astron-6 tribute on Virtual-YouTube that gets a few hundred hits.
Stylus: Why the renewed attention and interest in grindhouse/exploitation pictures (i.e. Hobo With A Shotgun, Grindhouse, Machete, etc.)?
I think it’s really a nostalgia thing. It reminds a huge group of people of being young and thrilled by the taboo of the horror section at the VHS rental store, or sleazy grindhouse theatres that used to line 42nd street in Manhattan. Exploitation is like the middle sibling of the genre family, it’s the weirdo, and that’s exciting. Not to say middle children are exciting, they’re the worst, but I’m just trying to make the point that it’s a genre that excites people, and the fun aspect of it was abandoned for a long time. These movies bring that back. They don’t take themselves seriously, but they still have balls and that’s what pulls people in.
Stylus: Does Winnipeg have a movie scene that’s receptive to this genre?
Not at all, unfortunately. We’ve hit nothing but brick walls and animosity when we’ve tried to get any funding from within the city. We made movies here for years, and tried to get funding for years and were continually rejected. It’s fine if Winnipeg is trying to present itself a certain way, but the Canadian film industry is so at risk of becoming completely irrelevant for that reason: very few people give edgy or truly ambitious movies a chance. For all those reasons, we had to take our idea to the states, so Father’s Day is an American release. We tried very hard to get funding to make a Canadian feature over the years to no avail. Having said that, there are great people in Winnipeg that have helped us more than we can say. Guy Maddin was nothing but helpful to us completely out of goodwill. John Kozak was the same way. If it wasn’t for guys like that we wouldn’t have been able to make the movie at all.
Stylus: Does everybody get a chance to be responsible for different aspects of the film-making, or do you have set jobs?
Jer does the music and titles and some after-effects, Steve does miniature work and some After Effects, Matt and I write, direct and act, and Adam has had his hand in basically every pot for Father’s Day. When it comes to onset stuff we’re all doing the same thing together. The Communist Manifesto influenced us a lot. Steve is partial to Mein Kampf.
Stylus: Will Father’s Day be playing in any theatres in Winnipeg at any point?
Yes, but I can’t say where until Troma books the theatre. But I promise that there will be a premiere here. If it doesn’t happen I give you permission to personally take it up with them.
Stylus: How important has the Internet been to Astron-6?
It’s where we started, and we wouldn’t have half of the recognition we have now (which isn’t really anything) without it.
Stylus: For fans of your films, any recommended films/places to find similar films?
They Call Her One Eye, Evil Dead, Suspiria, Wet Hot American Summer, My Left Foot, Sophie’s Choice, Fast Five. Movie Village in Osborne is great for obscure and foreign movies with a pretty good variety of pornography.