Man to ManBORG – an interview with Steve Kostanski

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A couple of weeks ago, Monster Man-About-Town Zak Hepburn sat down with writer/director Steve Kostanski to chat about his latest film MANBORG… Well, not literally with him, as Zak lives in Melbourne while Steve lives in Vancouver, but you know, each of them sat at a computer linked to the internet and subsequently to each other. At least I assume they sat. I guess they could have been standing. Or Zak could have been standing and Steve sitting, or vice-versa. And not at the same time, they didn’t Skype or anything; it was more of an email exchange… and a bit of Facebook. That is to say, Zak emailed Steve some questions and then Steve answered them and they may have also messaged each other on Facebook, I don’t really know, as I wasn’t there. It was all very civilized and polite. Probably. It’s hard to read tone in emails. It could have been snarky and sarcastic. Or ass-kissy and passive-aggressive. Or maybe even flirty and suggestive. I guess you’ll have to decide that part yourself when you read the interview. You will read it, won’t you? You’ve read this far, so I guess it’s only fair that you read the rest, am I right or am I right? I’m pretty sure I’m right. Stop talking now and get to the interview? Sure, you got it…

 

MANBORG appears as a love letter to VHS – What was the first VHS you can remember renting?

I have a vivid memory of my parents discussing renting Terminator 2 when I was 6, and going to the video store and looking at the box art. There was a T-800 on the back and I remember it freaked me out.

I also remember renting the 1990 Captain America movie off a free rental I got when I was 5, because I drew a picture of transformers and gave it to the store clerk as a gift. I remember holding the box and thinking: “I earned this.”

 

Can you tell us about the inventive low budget production methods behind MANBORG?

We filmed a lot of it in my parent’s garage, sometimes in the dead of winter with no heat. The costumes were made out of garbage. I always had a hot glue gun handy to stick props and stuff back together because they’d demolished during shooting.

All the sets were built out of scraps of wood I’d steal from the dumpsters by the university of Manitoba, which is down the street from my parents house.

Most of the costumes/props/miniatures would be filmed for their specific scenes and then broken down and re assembled into new things. I’m constantly cannibalizing my own stuff.

 

One of the main elements of Manborg is the distinct synth score? How important was it to nail the music in order to get the overall feel of the film across?

Music, to me, is 90% of any movie. It’s usually the deciding factor if it all ties together or not. Brian Wiacek approached me about doing music once he saw the teaser trailer. He was super keen to work on it, and the music he sent me as an example of what he could do was so spectacular I couldn’t say no. He really captured the flavor of 80s Low budget sci-fi epics. Music has to be a character on it’s own. Brian’s work definitely achieves that. It makes the movie a cohesive whole.

 

Why are Vampire Space Nazi Squads so great? 

The villains in Manborg didn’t come from space, but that’s a great direction to take the sequel! I think Nazis are an easy stock villain, because the imagery that comes with them (black outfits, red flags, etc) is so instantly recognizable, it saves you the trouble of actually having to explain why these guys are bad.

 

Astron-6 is forming quite the collective and the creative collaboration is evident in MANBORG and FATHER’S DAY – how important is it to find like minded folk to make crazy films with?

Making movies by your self sucks. You need other like-minded workaholic types willing to film 12 hours a day if you want to get anything done.

 

How does the creative process within Astron-6 work? Do you each have individual elements to work on? Or is is just a large filmic gumbo?

Everybody in the group kinda brings their own things to the table, but at the same time we operate independently of each other. There’s no real specific structure. We all like making movies, and we all have our own ideas.

 

How much Col. Klink from Hogan’s Heroes is in The Baron? What do you think the appeal is of a funny villain?

Jeremy [Gillespie] deserves all the credit for the Baron’s character. He added the whole romance sub-plot and made him the loveable goof that he is. I think it’s a fun juxtaposition to have an evil power hungry villain that is also flawed and insecure. It makes him more relatable.

MANBORG seems to be a very communal viewing experience – is the film designed to watch whilst inebriated? Any good MANBORG drinking game suggestions?

Drink anytime somebody is clearly standing in front of a green screen, and try not to die from alcohol poisoning.

 

 You’ve got some killer poster art for Manborg from artist Jason Edmiston and your Key Fathers Day art was supplied by Tom Hodge of The Dude Design fame – how important is it for Genre films to avoid the dreaded “Photoshop Floating Head” poster?

Very important. The irony being that some of the territories didn’t go with the painted art.

 

If MANBORG could fight anyone in history – who would it be?

I’d like it if he went back in time and terrorized Robert Englund sometime around Freddy’s Dead. The poster for that, where Freddy is reaching out with his glove hand, freaked me out when I was a kid. So Manborg should go back and beat up Englund, and then come to my house and tell me about it so I’ll sleep better.

 

We understand that you have your own personal project brewing – BIOCOP – Can you give us any early details on the project? 

Bio-Cop the short film is attached to the end of Manborg, after the credits. It plays like a trailer that’s at the end of a VHS tape.

As far as a feature length Bio-Cop goes…I’m not allowed to say at this time…

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Zak Hepburn

About the author: Zak Hepburn

Melbourne based writer and film programmer, Hepburn's work has appeared in The Age, Beat Magazine, Twitch.com and a host of other publications. His film programming work includes CULTASTROPHE, a curated genre cinema program at Melbourne's Cinema Nova which evolved from his previous long running programme CULT VAULT. He currently appears weekly on ABC Radio in the dead of the night talking film and trying to act out scenes from "Play Mistry for Me". He seeks to to find Naturalistic Minimalism - he doesn't know what that is but he read about and it once thought it sounded good.

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