Manborg interview

Director Steven Kostanski Talks Manborg, in theaters and on VOD and DVD today!

Manborg is blazing a trail across the Internet as it makes its theatrical, VOD, and DVD debut this week. Already an instant cult classic, we caught up with director Steven Kostanski to talk about the making of this Canadian sci-fi thriller that has wowed action fans across the globe. Here is our conversation about this awesome throwback to 80s VHS class warfare and a true throwforward to the future of digital independent cinema.

Can you give me some of the history on Manborg? What did it take to get this movie made?

Steven Kostanski: Obviously, a lot of it was done on the cheap. I used a lot of lights and camera equipment that I got from my old high school. The green screen we shot on in my parents' garage was sewn together by my mom. So, I had a lot of people pitching in for free. The movie ultimately cost $1000 to make. All of the costumes and stuff were made out of garbage that I dumpster dived for. And bits of junk that I had. I did pretty much everything myself. All of the animation, the costumes, and the prop. Any kind of effects. It was done on my own time.

How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?

Steven Kostanski: Right now, I am twenty-six. But when I started this...I think I was twenty-three...Or twenty-two...Technically, when I started writing it. I guess. It was a three-year process in getting it made. I filmed for about a year, and then it was two years of postproduction.

What compels a twenty-three year old to go back to high school and get film equipment. Did you steal it? Did you borrow it?

Steven Kostanski: Oh, no...I just borrowed it. I am good friends with my old film teacher. They weren't using it that much, so I borrowed it in-between projects. My old high school didn't even have a film program. But then me and a couple of other students started to make movies, and we actually put some effort into it. They got all of this equipment. And my old teacher was more than happy to let me take a camera for a weekend. I was working around their schedule. They didn't just give me the stuff for months on end. But yeah, that definitely helped.

I don't think I've heard of another filmmaker, whose movie has gotten this kind of attention, that filmed it from equipment borrowed from their old high school. Your story will be inspiring to others.

Steven Kostanski: Yeah, well, I don't know...I'm pretty good friends with my old high school teacher. And I was one of the only people to make a movie at the school. I think he just wanted me to produce stuff.

The other reason I ask you about your age is because this reminds me of something I might have seen on USA's Nigh Flight back in 1986. How did you become aware of the movies that you pay homage to in Manborg? Who helped you find those movies?

Steven Kostanski: When I was a kid, it wasn't the tail end of the VHS days. It was the early 90s. So, I spent a lot of time at the video store. I lived in the horror and sci fi sections. Anything that was there, I would rent. I ended up renting a lot of schlocky stuff. I ended up renting a lot of Full Moon productions and Troma movies. I'm a big fan of Arena. The movie Eliminators was a big inspiration for this movie. And the TV series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. I don't know if you've seen that. But it was on when I was a kid, and it was a big influence for me. It was very low budget, but it had a very grand scale to it. That's what I was trying to accomplish with Manborg.

The movie has a lot of humor. You obviously weren't taking the genre too seriously. Back in the day, when those cheap, crazy 80s movies were being made, they were doing it with a straight face...

Steven Kostanski: With my stuff, I always approach the work seriously. It's a lot of work to make a movie. You can't have a bunch of people joking around, you'll wind up with a bad product. You have to take the process seriously. There was a lot of joking around and making fun of stuff on set, and riffing on things. The actors definitely contributed to that too. They are good at improvising, so they were making up a lot of stuff while we were shooting. A lot of the best stuff in the movie is us laughing at the material itself.

What about the screenplay writing process. Did you find humor during that stage of production, or did most of the humor come out of being on set?

Steven Kostanski: With the screenplay, I kind of approached it, for the most part, kind of serious. But serious in the way you talk about those old movies. Those movies were probably something they took very seriously. But the movie itself has a lot of flaws to it. The humor wasn't on the surface. I wrote a pretty straightforward movie. The humor came out of us acting it out, and how absurd it was. Then we added to that. This was supposed to be me watching one of these movies, and making fun of it as I'm watching it. That's what the final product becomes.

What about your cast? Were these friends of yours? Did you hold a casting call? Did you go to the high school and recruit drama majors?

Steven Kostanski: Um...Well, I'm part of the film collection called Atsron-6, which also made the Troma movie Father's Day. We all work together to make our movies. Also, they were the main actors. Like Matthew Kennedy, who plays Manborg, he is an Atron-6 member. And an actor. I cast him because he was available and willing, and a good fit for the role. Adam Brooks and Conor Sweeney are also in the movie, and they are Astron-6 members. Jeremy Gillespie does our title cards, and he plays the Baron. That was the majority of the casting.

How did you get involved in this collective?

Steven Kostanski: We are all from Winnipeg, Manitoba. We all used to make movies on our own. Then, we would compete in this one short film festival that would happen annually around Halloween in Winnipeg. That is how we all met. We'd see each other's movies, and we thought we were all good. So we decided to team up and make movies together. That's how we started.

Canadian movies are always so charming. Everytime I see one, there just seems to be something a little off, a little different, and a little special about it. Why do you think Canadian movies are so slightly odd, and yet so fascinating?

Steven Kostanski: I don't know. I can speak on behalf of Astron-6, and say that we really pour our hearts into our movies. I think a lot of our personalities shine through. That's what I find charming about them. I find the stuff we've made entertaining, because when I watch it, I feel like its me hanging out with my friends. It's like joking around. Laughing at these movies. It feels relatable. We put an effort into making characters that are entertaining, and charming. We try to put some actual heart into the movies, instead of them being all spectacle.

When it comes to Canadian movies, there's not too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak...

Steven Kostanski: Yes. That's what Manborg was. There was no intentions of having it released on DVD. It just sort of happened. It was playing festivals, and now it's coming out. I made it only because I wanted to make a sci-fi movie for myself. I'd always wanted to do it. And I love doing special effects. I love making creature masks and things. Choreographing action scenes, and doing stuff like that. I just wanted to combine all of those things into one experience. That's how the movie came about. You have to go into the world of low budget filmmaking to get that personal element to it. As opposed to it being very producer driven.

The poster is awesome. It really reaches out and grabs you, and we don't get to see this kind of poster art anymore. How did you get such a great looking poster for the movie?

Steven Kostanski: The guy we hired, Jason Edmiston, he is a very genre based artist. All of his work is influenced by his childhood favorites, like G.I. Joe and stuff like that. You have to go to his website and check it out. You'll see a bunch of his work. Once he watched Manborg, he was all over it. He just ran with it. He came up with the poster design and everything. So, we gave him reference pictures, and he went ahead and did it. He did an amazing job. That's the best part of these 80s movies. They have these wicked posters and these wicked VHS covers. I wanted to capture that for Manborg especially.

You truly did. Now, is there going to be a Manborg 2? Or have you not thought that far ahead yet?

Steven Kostanski: (Laughs) This one took so long to make, its not something I want to do in the immediate future. But I would do it if someone gave me more than $1000 to make it. I would definitely make a second one.

Its crazy that you made it for $1000. I'm sure you've seen that the movie is blowing up all across the internet.

Steven Kostanski: Its ridiculous. If you told me three years ago that this was going to happen, I wouldn't have believed you. But, yeah, I guess its good. People seem to be latching onto it. They are finding something entertaining about it. It reminds me of when I would go and rent movies, and I would analyze them. These crappy 80s sci-fi movies. Hopefully I bring some of that vibe back to people. It seems to be missing from today's movies.

Are you currently working on a movie? Or do you have a day job?

Steven Kostanski: I'm working in effects. I'm working on this show called Saving Hope for MindWarp productions. It's a hospital drama. I can't go into any details about what I'm making. But I do work in special effects. That is my day job. (Laughs)

Are you going to make another movie soon?

Steven Kostanski: I'm working on it. I have a few things that are in the works. I can't reveal what. If you saw that trailer for Bio-Cop after the movie, it might possibly be that. We'll see!

B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange