With acclaim at multiple film festivals, The Astronot brings to fruition a vision that co-producer/actor/musician and writer Pennan Brae has had in mind for quite some time. In this chat with Matt D he reveals the reason The Astronot came to be, working with Steve Ferrone and Garry Gary Beers and his love for The Tragically Hip, John Mellencamp and more.
As we begin 2018 what were your highlights of 2017?
Pennan Brae – My highlights of 2017 was completing the album & film which I worked the past couple years on called ‘The Astronot’. Hearing the finished versions of the lead singles of the soundtrack ‘Walk With Me’ & ‘Crashland’ featuring drummer Steve Ferrone & bassist Garry Gary Beers, was definitely a highlight.
What are your goals for 2018?
PB – My goals for 2018 are just to keep working away & promoting the film & soundtrack/album release. I’d like to do some live shows also.
Which new bands/artists would you recommend in 2018?
PB – I don’t listen to much new music to tell you the truth, so I can’t be of much help there. Bands I do recommend listening to are ‘The Tragically Hip’ which is the finest band Canada has ever produced. It features the beautiful poetry & singing of lead singer Gord Downie, who we lost too soon last year, to brain cancer. Another wonderful Canadian band I recommend is Blue Rodeo; a sweet combination of rock, country, blues & folk.
What was the band or artist that got you into music or inspired you to be a musician?
PB – As a teenager, I really enjoyed listening to John Mellencamp, Bryan Adams & Steve Miller. Being a pianist, I also really enjoyed Bruce Hornsby & Elton John. In early adulthood it was probably the Rolling Stones & Muddy Waters who were the biggest influences. I enjoyed playing their music on guitar so much that it was motivating to learn more.
So you’ve decided to also add screenwriter to your accomplishments with The Astronot – what led to the decision to make the movie?
PB – I had done many music videos before filming The Astronot. I really enjoyed the writing process. But after doing 20 music videos, the 3-minute story scape felt too short & I wanted to tell a longer story. So, I began writing the film after doing a photoshoot for an unrelated project in which I was wearing an astronaut suit. The plan was to stand under the moon holding a wooden ladder. Then the thought crossed my mind of an individual who wants to go to space but is inhibited in some way. That was how the story of The Astronot began. It was very enjoyable to pursue.
How was it working with the likes of Steve Ferrone and Garry Gary Beers on the soundtrack?
PB – Working with Steve Ferrone & Garry Gary Beers was a whole new ballgame for me. That was one of the biggest stages of growth which occurred over the past year. All of a sudden I’m entering hallowed ground with these musicians who have storied careers & whom I’m a big fan of. It was a mind-blowing opportunity really.
For those that haven’t seen The Astronot – please feel free to describe the film.
PB – The film takes place between 1941-69. It follows the life of a boy into adulthood. Ever since this kid could remember, he was fascinated by space & loved stargazing with this father in rural Oregon. It was World War II though & the father was called to service & never returned. In turn, the son withdraws from the world & becomes a recluse going into adulthood in the 1960s. It was only the American & Soviet space race during that time which captured his imagination & shed some light in his life. It was also when he meets a woman who also reignites some hope in his life. Their connection brings the fellow out of his reclusiveness. He still harbours intense fears of loss with those close to him & he battles these insecurities as they experience the wonder of the first moon landing together.
What were your favourite films of 2017?
PB – I didn’t watch a film in 2017 which really knocked me out. I think the last one which did was ‘The Theory of Everything’ on the life of Stephen Hawking & that incredible performance by Eddie Redmayne. The soundtrack & cinematography for that film is wonderful.