Starry Eyes may be the film from SXSW I want to revisit the most. There’s so much going on in it that I have a feeling it will have very high replay value. I already dig the film (as you can see by my review), and I’m certainly looking forward to looking at it from a different angle.
This is even more true after sitting down for a lengthy interview with the filmmakers. Present at the table were directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, actors Alexandra Essoe and Pat Healy and producer Travis Stevens. It was easily a half hour chat and there’s no way I can even begin to share the bulk of it with you guys until after you’ve had a chance to see the movie. It literally took me a longer time to remove spoilers from the transcript than it did to type it out.
So what I’m going to do is share a very light, surface-y interview which should hopefully entice you even more to see the film. Then maybe its release I can share a bit more. Cool? Thanks. Check it out below.
For a movie about the downside of ambition, it’s a very ambitious film.
Kolsch: We’ve always been influenced by films by early Cronenberg and Possession and things like that. Rosemary’s Baby, obviously. Genre-wise we wanted to do something in the same vein. We wanted to start with a character and let the horror come out of there. Working in an industry where your body is such a commodity and you’re racing against the clock, it’s probably the most suited character for a body horror film.
And Alex your performance has so much going on in it.
Essoe: The audition process for actors is kind of unholy and masochistic. You kind of have to steel yourself and be thick skinned for the business side of acting but then for the actual acting side of it you have to be vulnerable.
Healy: The skin of a rhinoceros and the heart of a baby.
Essoe: Exactly. And that’s what I love so much about this film, you have to jump back and forth between those two things. And Sarah of course does not have thick skin, which makes her easily exploitable. It pushes her to a very destructive place, she approaches it with such naiveté and innocence that it’s sort of heartbreaking.
Widmyer: Which extends beyond acting as well. Sometimes as a filmmaker you feel like if you’re not currently writing at that moment, not trying to pitch something or not trying to meet somebody – you’re wasting your life. I go to coffee shops and I’ll pass by 10 laptops with screenplays open on them and you realize everyone is going for it and you’re not getting any younger. You feel like it’s a race. But if you feel that way too much, you might leave yourself susceptible to a bad decision.
Pat, your character surprised me. I thought that he was going to be a total sleazeball.
Healy: That was a really interesting thing that these guys wanted. What he does may be a joke or silly, but he’s sincere about it and has worked hard for it and believes in it. And he believes in trying to protect her and have her do the right thing. I didn’t want to play it joke-y, I wanted it do be sincere even though I personally might find those things kind of silly. And her friends too, they’re actually trying to help her.
I want to talk about the universe of the film. It feels big, even though you had limited means you have these colliding universes.
Widmyer: I think it’s smart to make your film go places. Kevin and I have done things in the past for low budgets where you’re sort of trapped. And we wanted this one to move. We wanted to show parts of LA you don’t normally see on film. The downtown areas, the smoggy hills, the construction and the graffiti of it all.
Essoe: And I think the tone changes very organically throughout the film. Nothing is added for the sake of variety.
There’s also some brutal shit in this movie.
Kolsch: We were telling a very Hollywood tale and so many of the other things I find interesting in Hollywood lore is the Hollywood violence. Like the Manson killings, the Wonderland killings. It’s just another part of Hollywood and celebrity killings – this use of brutal force. We wanted to make sure the kills sat in that same world of what desperate celebrities would do. You hear different takes on the Manson thing, like he still thought it was the house of the producer who wouldn’t put his album out. Or John Holmes with the people at Wonderland.
Widmyer: It had to be organic too. We weren’t purposefully trying to make people go “ugh.” We wanted the ending to feel like something you would read in Hollywood Babylon.