Pennan, your resume looks impressive, you are a singer-songwriter, now you have a movie adding to the list. Can you tell us more of what the movie is about?
Pennan Brae – ‘The Astronot’ is about a kid growing up in 1940s Oregon who loves astronomy and longs to be an astronaut. This was of course before there was such a thing, but he’s curious about the possibility of space travel. He’s close with his father, who’s a single parent, and together they enjoy going to their lookout together and picking out constellations. Personal tragedy leaves the son on his own during adolescence and he retreats into isolation. We catch up with him as an adult in the 1960s, when he’s enthralled by the space race to the moon. He’s still a recluse but someone enters his world that would impact his life. The man shares his love for astronomy with her and they connect, yet he still faces deep-seated insecurities over past loss. This is part of the challenge for ‘The Astronot’.
We find ‘The Astronot’ an interesting title, how did you come up with it?
PB – It was a play-on-words which seemed to fit. I was doing a photoshoot for an album cover and was wearing an astronaut suit. My idea was to stand longingly under a full moon. But then the photographer suggested I hold a rickety, old ladder. I liked that idea and thought of a person who longed to become an astronaut, but was unable to for some reason. ‘The Astronot’ title encapsulated all that.
You’ve also worked on the soundtrack for the movie, making your 4th album and working with talents such as Steve Ferrone, Garry Gary Beers, Eric Alexandrakis…How was it like to work with them?
PB – It was a dream come true. I watched Steve growing up when he played the Royal Albert Hall during Eric Clapton’s ‘21 Nights’ engagement. I was always fascinated with how he held his drumsticks; he looks and sounds like a consummate professional. With Garry, I was a huge fan of INXS; I’d listen to their album ‘Kick’ endlessly. And getting a chance to write with Eric with what he’s accomplished in his career topped it all off. It was a career highlight for sure.
In terms of writing, what is your creative process for writing music and is it similar to writing a script?
PB – With music I enjoy sitting with a guitar or piano and banging away and seeing what comes. Other times away from an instrument, a lyric or melody might come about which could be worth pursuing. I suppose it’s similar with writing a script because you begin with nothing; with music it’s silence and with a script it’s a blank page. But I suppose you have to put yourself in the position of trying to receive an idea or scrounge one up. The ideas which come might not all be useful, but some might and those are the ones worth pursuing.
What were the biggest challenges working on the project and what did you learn from them?
PB – The biggest challenge with the film was maintaining stamina during the project. Because we’re an indie film and self-funded, our budget was limited and we had a small crew. Thus we had to put in a lot of effort to set up everything for a scene and ensure all the details were in place. It was an exhilarating process but after 21 consecutive days of filming, including some 16-hour, back-to-back days, we collapsed and needed a break. The crew took 2 weeks off and returned to film the remaining scenes 9 days after. If I attempted a feature film of this length again, I’d like to try to budget for an extra pair of hands or two.
The Astronot movie and album are to be released in late 2018, can you tell us about other projects you have lining up?
PB – In 2017 and ‘18 I’ve been recording a lot and preparing a follow-up album to ‘The Astronot’ soundtrack. The songs are now completed and we are mixing the album now. I also have an idea for a short film I’d like to shoot this autumn. Whereas ‘The Astronot’ was 73 minutes, this project would be in the range of 15-25 minutes. I hope we can make it happen!