Kristjan Thor and Ashlin Halfnight, director and writer: ASTRAEA
1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of ASTRAEA, from concept to financing.
There were several inspiration points for ASTRAEA:
First, we both have a deep love of sci-fi and post-apocalyptic narratives, but were feeling that rich, humanistic, character-driven narratives (the kind we seek out as viewers) were underrepresented in those genres.
There was also a really strong passion for the conceptual blend of a teenage coming of age story, but set against the backdrop of the apocalypse. The film takes place in an empty world, where Astraea’s peer group is totally unique and very intimate, and she as a character is developing these odd, visionary abilities… you can also view it as something of a metaphor for the experience of being a teenager in general.
The myth was also a touchstone – Astraea is a Greek god who is the last to abandon the selfish, violent, human race before ascending to the heavens… but with a promise to return.
The group of us – Jessica, Scotty, Kris, Ashlin – had just come off working on the independent feature DIVING NORMAL in various capacities, and Ashlin pitched ASTRAEA as a very cinematic story that could be told without the encumbrances of shooting in New York City. Of course, shooting in the White Mountains in Maine brought its own challenges.
Not being film insiders with connections to studios or major financiers, we decided to finance the film with private equity, door to door, almost. It was a lot of work, but we have been lucky enough to find that investors are always excited by the story, and impressed with our film, and so we’ve managed to fully fund ASTRAEA in that manner.
2Q: Cinequest Film Festival is hosting the World Premiere of ASTRAEA. Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?
We couldn’t be more excited and honored. Cinequest is such an amazing festival, and the fact that they’re celebrating an anniversary this year is so cool. We’re all celebrating.
When ASTRAEA is projected on the screen at Cinequest, it will be the culmination of two years of work for the group of us, and we’re all going to be nervous and thrilled, and we’re going to have to remind ourselves to try to take at least one moment to just appreciate the journey.
The audiences will hopefully love it – they’ll have an energized, sci-fi ride with amped-up moments of danger and suspense, but also have quiet moments to connect to character and story, and ideally, they’ll also come away with something to think about.
3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making ASTRAEA?
Our best experience was surely the whole process – the collaborative efforts that everyone made to tell the story in the best possible way, and how the small towns in Maine where we live and filmed really got behind the film. The premiere and screenings at Cinequest will also top the list, we’re sure… but unlike Astraea, we can’t see the future.
4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?
People should see ASTRAEA because it’s a movie about a pissed off teenage girl with special powers growing up after the apocalypse! How cool is that?
Also, it’s a gorgeous film with incredible performances – every element is so strong – and it’s a wild ride with a lot of depth feeling.
5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for ASTRAEA. Give us your acceptance speech.
Thank you. Thank you to all the people who invested their time, blood, sweat, tears, and money into this project. It truly took a village to raise Astraea, both the girl and the film. We couldn’t be more grateful.
To the other movies in the category: you deserved this as much as we do – especially the awesome third version of Spiderman 2. That story just gets sweeter every time.
To the Academy, thank you for recognizing that Sci-Fi does deserve a place at the awards table, and thank you for honoring the spirit and storytelling of ASTRAEA: this film wasn’t born in a boardroom – it was born out of an honest and impassioned shared vision, and we couldn’t be more excited to have that way of working recognized and applauded.