BY: THE PLAID ZEBRA
Being heavily deprived of sleep while filmmaking is a lot like being drunk—everything becomes inexplicably hilarious, and you end waking up confused and naked miles away from where you started.
Enter directing/acting duo Matthew Kennedy and Adam Brooks, whose latest collaboration, The Editor, makes its debut during the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness. The two are partners in the film company Astron 6, known for forcefully marrying comedy and horror to create absurdly entertaining films that are equal parts funny and completely fucked.
The duo’s first feature film, Father’s Day, was made for just $10,000, and, since, the duo have turned DIY filmmaking into an art form worthy of cult status.
For The Editor, Astron 6 raised just over $18,000 in their crowdfunding campaign, which is about the same as Michael Moore’s estimated personal bill for on-set pizza delivery.
Working on shoestring budgets, Brooks and Kennedy cut costs by directing and acting simultaneously. They are also the producers, cinematographers, editors, and writers of their newest film.
The behind-the-scenes documentary No Sleep, No Surrender shows why Astron 6 is a self-proclaimed “theatre of the absurd.”
The Editor combines dramatic zooms with off-kilter dubbing and swollen sexuality in a cinematic orgy that is part parody and part tribute to the distinct genre of giallo films made popular during the early ’80s.
In The Editor, Rey Ciso, (played by Brooks) slaves in cinematic the sweatshops of 1970s Italy, while actors from the films he is editing fall victim to murder. Rey becomes the number one suspect in the investigation and, with a detective (played by Kennedy) on his trail, must prove his innocence.
Here’s what Brooks and Kennedy have to say about the making of The Editor.
How do you mesh with other members of the cast to tell the story?
Brooks: I act with and direct them. Matt and I tend to have a very specific vision and we never disagree. Sometimes communicating that vision can be difficult, but we each excel where the other does not, so I guess I’m saying together we make a real human being.
Kennedy: I don’t know that Adam and I could handle the process alone because it’s true, we aren’t a complete human on our own. It’s also very much a collective when we’re working on set. We have a clear vision, but when we’re working on a scene it’s always in collaboration with most of our cast. We’ve worked with a lot of the same actors on all of our films and we’ve formed a friendship with them. It all comes pretty naturally when you’re working with your friends.
In the dual role as the actor/director, what is involved in interpreting a story for the audience?
K: We always try to whittle a scene down together before we shoot it to tighten it up and lose anything that doesn’t serve the story. That said, as the hours drag on and hysteria sets in, we tend to add in so many absurd tangents that we think are funny due to sleep deprivation.
Does the process of bringing a story to life differ for an actor versus a director? When does the actor take over from the director and vice versa?
B: I spent a lot of time thinking about my character and practicing his voice before we shot, but when the time came to perform there was far too much work to do as a director to just be in-the-moment as an actor. The actor was on autopilot, while the director was trying to solve whatever the new problem-of-the-hour was.
K: I am still waiting to really get to dig into a part as an actor. As Adam said, we were always doing too many other things to concentrate on acting. I do think it’s always more up to the director than anyone to effectively bring the story to life and steer the ship. One day, I really would like to have the opportunity to only worry about how I, as an actor, am going to bring a story/character to life. Maybe just having a crew that’s more than three people would also help.
Do the actor’s point of view and director’s point of view ever get in the way of each other?
B: The actor just has to think about themselves and whoever else is in the scene, while the director has to think about those people and the crew and the budget and how best to tell a story.
K: The actor needs to be one character and the director needs to be every character and every crew member all at the same time. The director has to pay attention to every single detail. In an ideal world, the actor and director will be on the same page and have the same point of view when they’re working on the scene together, but this isn’t always the case.
What advantages/disadvantages exist from acting in a film that you have directed?
B: I would love to be able to focus on one thing, whether it’s acting or directing. I don’t know if that’s possible—within our budget range so far, it has never been possible. The advantage to directing yourself is you know exactly the kind of performance you want, usually.
What are you most proud about with regards to bringing your film to the screen for TIFF audiences?
B: I’m proud of how much we accomplished with so little. Movies of our budget are usually shot on DSLRs with an entirely no-name cast and no-name score, and they don’t typically have set pieces involving gruesome practical effects, cool posters, car stunts, and body burns. Our movie cost less than one-fifth of Wolf Cop, and that’s a low-budget movie.
K: I feel like TIFF is the ceiling for how high I would want to go as a filmmaker. I am trying to just sit back and relax and enjoy the fact that I’m going to premiere such a DIY film at TIFF, but I’ve been so busy preparing for TIFF and the festival tour to follow that I haven’t had a moment to be excited. It is definitely an accomplishment that I’m proud of and hope at some point to reflect on with a more relaxed state of mind.
The Editor screens Thursday, Sept. 11, at 11:59 p.m. at Ryerson Theatre, and
Friday, Sept. 12, at 9:15 a.m. and Saturday, Sept. 13, at 6:15 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre.