There is something fun and whimsical about kid adventure movies. We all have enjoyed them— fantasized about embarking on a new journey with the power of imagination. But few have thought about introducing gallons of blood to with that adventure. But this is just the creative concept Steven Kostanski brings us with Psycho Goreman.
Known for his work on films such as The Void and Man Borg, Kostanski decided to take the fun-loving concept seen in shows like The Power Rangers and mix it with the chaos of a B-Movie and the results are amazing. Offering a unique mix of blood, fun, and creature effects Psycho Goreman is a creative flick that few others could envision. Taking time to talk to CGMagazine as his film was ready to premiere, Steven Kostanski gives us a look at the process of making his idea a reality and the struggles he faced in the process. From a low budget to the trials of Canadian weather, we check out B-Movie filmmaking at its finest.
CGMagazine: I would love to start by discussing how a film this unique came together?
Steven Kostanski: Well, I had some images from the movie bouncing around in my head for a while. I thought of the image of a monster sitting at a drum set playing in a little band with kids—it’s a very early concept that I had. And one day like, two years ago now, I just finished work on Leprechaun Returns for the Sci-Fi channel, and I was relaxing and watching the movie Rawhead Rex. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that film, but it’s a small creature feature about a monster terrorizing a small town. So, as I was watching it getting bored, I was thinking up ideas about what would be my take on this. And so that I came with the idea of like, what would happen if there was like this evil ancient being resurrected on earth.
“…my earlier feature that I did when I still lived in Winnipeg—over 10 years ago—that was all just made out of garbage that I found…”
He’s a galactic menace, but somehow, he finds himself under the control of a little kid that in a lot of ways is equally as terrifying as him just by being a crazy kid. I had so much fun just bouncing that idea around in my head that I started writing and threw a treatment together. I was showing it to people and everybody I showed it to seemed to really love it. This is a very simple concept that handles all the stuff that I like. I wanted it to be basically ET crossed with Terminator 2. I like the idea of an alien being at the front of the stage and such a family movie concept, but then crossing it with more R-rated ideas like this creature is actually this ancient evil that’s hell-bent on murdering the galaxy. Putting kind of a fun twist on that idea and make a hard R kids movie.
CGMagazine: The effects were amazing. How did you do all that with what I was told was a relatively low budget?
Steven Kostanski: Oh yeah, this whole thing was super low budget. That’s like the only way that I know how to operate. It had a low budget and a lot of creature effects, I really had to call it a lot of favours and beg, borrow and steal to get stuff made. A lot of stuff I just ended up building myself. I mean, my earlier feature that I did when I still lived in Winnipeg—over 10 years ago—that was all just made out of garbage that I found, and I had self-taught them how to make and sculpt all these creature effects. And I just kind of applied that logic to this movie as well, just on a bigger scale. I have had 10 years of experience working in the film industry, working in creature effects and designing and building monsters while learning how to execute stuff without a lot of time. Meaning having to be creative about how to pull off really elaborate stuff. It was an amalgamation of all my experience up to this point.
CGMagazine: I want to quickly touch on the cast. You found people that seem to fit their roles perfectly, especially from meeting them and seeing the little bit that I did see on set, how did you find the cast?
Steven Kostanski: Well, as I was writing it, I like to build certain characters with people that I’ve already worked with. I’m part of the film collective Astron 6. The five filmmakers, who made Man Borg and Father’s Day and The Editor, we had a short In Sundance last year called Cowboys, so we all like to work together and fill different roles doing different things on our movies. One of those guys, Adam, right from the beginning, I had pictured him playing the dad in this movie. So, I wrote that part for him. And then beyond that, it was just a very extensive casting process. We did a lot of auditions, it was again, low budget, non-union. It was a real gamble. But we’ve lucked out. We found really awesome people.
“…everybody just kind of became a little family.”
Nita-Josee Hanna and Owen Myre who play Mia and Luke, the two main kids in the movie, really knocked it out of the park and they’re like the heart and soul of the movie. This was the biggest thing they’ve done up to this point, but everybody clicked really well and got along. I think I got into the fun low budget spirit of this movie. It meant getting it done with long days and even longer nights and a lot of horrible weather, but everybody just kind of became a little family. I know it’s a cliche thing to say but I feel like we really did on this movie, everyone supported each other, and got behind my totally absurd vision for this movie. So, I was very, very fortunate.
CGMagazine: Now, I want to talk about some of those creature designs you mentioned. How did you come up with those ideas?
Steven Kostanski: I mean, I always aim higher than what I’m able to achieve. The curse of my creative process is nothing I come up with is simple and small. If I had had another year to work on this movie, and another chunk of money, I would achieve probably twice as much stuff. But it still wouldn’t be exactly what I had going on in my head. I feel like I pulled off a lot for the budget that we had. My design process works a little backwards because I like to have a general idea of what I want the creature to be. And then I start building. And as I’m building, I figure things out as I go. So as opposed to having concept art and working off that—which isn’t to say, I didn’t do that for some of the creatures—sometimes I just have a vague idea. And then I’d find a material or a piece of another creature that I would repurpose into something.
It’s more of a discovery process with a lot of the creature designs where that necessity kind of dictates what the creature is. Because we obviously don’t have the time and the money to go from crazy concept art and then build whatever crazy, expensive animatronic thing would go with that. It’s more like I was repurposing stuff from my Leprechaun movie, like a table operated puppet that we turned into one of the creatures in this. I just kind of built it around that framework. A lot of the creature design I would start with a vague idea and build from there and see where it would go. And if it wasn’t going in a direction I liked, I would just tear it all apart and start again.
CGMagazine: I was going to ask if what you’ve done in previous films helped with this film, and you just answered that indirectly.
Steven Kostanski: Just purely on an experience level, every film I make has informed what comes after, simply due to the fact I’ve learned so much from each experience. No two movies are the same. And every experience has a new set of challenges. We found on the movie that weather was not our friend, which is something I’ve never really had to deal with to this extent.
“Maybe that makes me a bit of a hoarder, keeping all these boxes of creature effects in my apartments, but I knew they come in handy, and they did!”
We were really banking on the weather being a little nicer than it was, and it ended up very rainy all the time, which really slowed everybody down. Because you have 10 people that need to have rain gear, it just becomes uncomfortable and becomes a flood and the ground turns to mud. So doing stunts and such becomes problematic. But we just rolled with it, and that became part of the look of the movie. In the end, I’m really happy that we worked with it and didn’t try to like to shift our schedule around it. We just lived in the rainy muddy world, and I think it gives the movie a really interesting look.
Instead of the sunny ideal suburbia that I may have initially imagined from something like ET, it feels way more Canadian to me; your summer being more like a muddy, rainy, grey unappealing landscape. I think that really worked out for us. But to go back to how much past movies ever informed this one—especially just on the creature effects level—everything I build is a learning experience and everything I make comes off of what I did before. I was reusing materials that I still had left over from The Boys, which I made back in 2015. I still have stuff stored away from that. Maybe that makes me a bit of a hoarder, keeping all these boxes of creature effects in my apartments, but I knew they come in handy, and they did!
CGMagazine Now for people that might not know anything about this film, what should they expect? What are they walking into? When will they be surprised?
Steven Kostanski: Well, I don’t want to give them a heads up on what they’re going to see. Half the fun of the movie is how it starts as one thing and becomes something else. But I will say that it’s a really wild ride and it just gets crazier and crazier as it goes on. So, if you have any, any taste for kind of like 80s and 90s creature effects heavy movies, or even kids adventure movies, or even something in the vein of Power Rangers, I feel like this movie will be up your alley.
“I hope to take a bit of a break for a little while since Psycho Goreman has been nonstop for the past year and a half…”
CGMagazine: I have just one last question: What is next now that Psycho Goreman has wrapped up and is out in the wild. Do you have anything planned or are you going to play it by ear?
Steven Kostanski: I have a few things in the works, but I’m not at liberty to speak about them just yet. I will say that I hope to take a bit of a break for a little while since Psycho Goreman has been nonstop for the past year and a half, almost two years now. So yea, taking a break and maybe actually enjoying watching other people’s movies. Being out for a while would be a fun change of pace, I think that’s going to be my priority.