After reviewing Father’s Day I had to track down the filmmakers, Astron-6, and talk with them about their first feature-length film.
WARNING: There be spoilers here.
Doktor: Can you give a little background on the group?
Adam Brooks: We were friends. We made a bunch of short films together. We have overlapping sensibilities regarding horror, comedy, nostalgia and absurdism.
Conor Sweeney: Matt and I have been making shorts together since high school, and the rest of us met through the Winnipeg Short Film Massacre, which Jer [Jeremy Gillespie] ran every Halloween.
Doktor: With Father’s Day you’ve made a Troma movie that’s cool much like Quentin Tarantino made exploitation films cool. What experience do you want to bring to your audience by using the Late, Late, Late movie genre of films, even going so far as to have commercials and station identification as part of your film?
Adam Brooks: We’re bringing our authentic childhood experiences to the viewer, and I’m sure many viewers can relate. I didn’t grow up watching exploitation films in grindhouse theaters, I grew up finding many of these movies on late night TV or renting them on Beta or VHS. We loved Tarantino/Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, but it would insincere for us to make a Grindhouse spinoff.
Conor Sweeney: We wanted to bring back and parody the warmth and weirdness of cable TV that doesn’t really exist anymore. When we were up late at night as kids watching cable access TV, it always felt like you stumbled on a channel nobody else knew about. You would see some weird movies, and the commercial breaks would be off putting and jarring. We wanted Father’s Day to feel like the kind of movie that you would see and then question whether or not it was a dream the next morning.
Doktor: As this was a group project, did each one of you writer/develop your own characters? What was the writing process like? Overall, would you say it’s easier or harder to write in a group?
Adam Brooks: Me and Matt wrote a loose draft, Conor and Jer changed it, added to it, removed bits, Steve wrote an ending, then we all passed it around and around, each editing it, and changing, and adding, until in the end it was one big mess of none sense.
Conor Sweeney: Not really. We all wrote each other pretty equally, but I know I would change stuff that someone else wrote for me that I hated and didn’t want to say. Writing as a group led to the chaos you see onscreen, which I say as a compliment to the movie, but I don’t think any of us want to work that way again. Whatever we do next will be far more regimented.
Doktor: Ahab is a very recognizable reference. What was your intention in naming your main character Ahab?
Adam Brooks: He’s called Ahab because he IS Ahab. He is a man overcome with revenge. Things don’t work out well for people like that.
Conor Sweeney: There’s so few people named Ahab in films. I could honestly count them on one hand. What we wanted to do was finally give voice to those who share his namesake.
Doktor: On the subject of Ahab, Ahab’s coat is a character in and of itself. How did this bit of anthropomorphication come about?
Adam Brooks: When we shot the scene in Twink’s apartment, I didn’t want to wear the coat because it was too hot. The coat is basically made of some kind of unbreathable plastic, and under those hot lights, with the fake blood, I was uncomfortable enough. I DID want to wear the coat later in the film though, and we discussed it late one night after one of our 20-hour shooting days. We were all punchy and goofy from exhaustion and the idea of the coat as a character made us all laugh. It is maybe the stupidest joke in the movie but I love it.
Conor Sweeney: Exhaustion. To shoot a crucial scene in the movie, we needed to be in one spot for hours and hours of shooting time, and Adam didn’t want to wear his coat because he was right beside a heater. He took it off knowing it would throw off the continuity because he’s wearing it in the next scene, so in our tired state we started throwing around ideas about how the jacket could return. When you’re exhausted, stupid and bizarre things become funny, so a talking coat is now in Father’s Day. I think it’s a great gag.
Doktor: I interviewed Lloyd Kaufman and he said he made suggestions about your script but you ignored them, ‘cos you were smart. What were some of the rejected suggestions?
Adam Brooks: They were all suggestions of a type of humor that clashed with what we were going for. References to Lance Bass, kicking and punching girls in the vagina, tampon jokes, etc.
Conor Sweeney: The suggested and ignored notes turned Twink into an extremely homophobic and unfunny caricature. Some ‘Scary Movie’ type jokes like Father John saying “nigga please” after his sermon, Sleazy Mary getting kicked in the crotch and then bleeding everywhere, fart and shit jokes, etc.
Doktor: What was it like working with Troma, i.e. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz?
Adam Brooks: Next question.
Conor Sweeney: Haha….uhh….
Doktor: God and the Devil are the same person, which is absolutely brilliant. Can you talk about how that idea came about?
Adam Brooks: Thanks for the SPOILER ALERT! Jeremy and I were talking it out on the phone during the script writing process and we came up with that.
Conor Sweeney: We wanted a part for Lloyd, and we knew where the movie was going so he was a good choice. I didn’t come up with it though, I’m not sure who did.
Doktor: Did you have Lloyd Kaufman in mind to play God/Devil from the beginning?
Adam Brooks: Yes. It’s a bit of a play on George Burns in Oh God You Devil where Burns played both God and The Devil. I loved that movie when I was a kid.
Doktor: On your site you’ve made a number of trailers for films. Did you consider any of the other films when you went to make a feature length film? Are you planning on developing any of them now?
Adam Brooks: We didn’t choose Father’s Day as the trailer we had always wanted to turn into a feature, Troma chose it. They were torn between Fireman and Father’s Day at first. If it were entirely our choice we would have gone with something totally original instead of expanding on one of our shorts. There are no plans to develop any of those shorts into features, though… maybe a Fireman movie someday… probably not.
Conor Sweeney: I would rather make something entirely new, although Matt and I have written a screenplay for a feature length version of H.I.Z.. Though I guess that’s not a trailer. We have a lot of ideas.
Doktor: Filmmaking is hell. It’s amazing that films with multiple millions of dollars get made, much less low-budget labors of love. What was the best part of making this film? What was the most heartbreaking? How did you overcome this to bring the film to fruition?
Adam Brooks: When you go through a shitty experience, a tragedy, or any suffering with somebody else you often look back with some sort of fondness. You laugh with each other and say – ‘Remember how awful that was? We almost died! Ahahaha!’ The further away I get from any of these painful productions the more fondly I look back on them. Having said that, Father’s Day is still pretty fresh in my memory. It was a lot of suffering, pain, anxiety, outrage, etc. The city tried to fuck us, locations people tried to fuck us, producers yelled at us, casting agencies wouldn’t help us, minor actors were constantly failing to show up. We made no money.
Conor Sweeney: Making this movie was a nightmare. We were physically injured, there were many arguments, much ego clashing, there was no co-operation from the City of Winnipeg, locations fell through regularly, we would shoot for 20 hours at a time and we haven’t made a dime. Having said that, I look back at a lot of it pretty fondly, and in twenty years I’m sure we will even more-so.
Doktor: Part of the beauty of this movie is the wildly inventive plot, especially considering that most films are either remakes, relying on name recognition, or have a “gritty reality” to en audiences. Can you speak about why you decided to take such a chance?
Adam Brooks: It was the only opportunity available to us at the time. I’m personally not very interested in remakes and/or sequels but that doesn’t mean I would turn down the opportunity to be paid to do one. If I was offered the chance to make Wrong Turn 5 or remake some dumb horror movie and get paid, I would take it. I believe it is possible to do it well. I think Wrong Turn 5 could be made into a good movie… 99.9% chance it WON’T be but it’s always possible.
Conor Sweeney: We knew that if we were to get any recognition for this cheap, cheap movie that we would need to do things that nobody else is doing. We threw every genre convention in and took the movie in every direction that it could logically go. Conceptually there was no conscious decision to take a chance or be edgy with the plot, it’s just the kind of movie we’ve always made, only longer.
Doktor: Because we’re a insatiably greedy I have to ask, what’s next for Astron-6?
Adam Brooks: We shot a short called Breaking Santa, which is the third and final act in our Santa trilogy.
Conor Sweeney: Somebody find us a producer.