For their latest directorial collaboration, Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer explore the darker aspects of ambition and fame with their darkly satirical tale Starry Eyes. Daily Dead recently chatted with the filmmaking duo about their collaboration, how they infused the project with their own experiences in Hollywood and discussed how characters should always come first when making a great horror film.
Look for Starry Eyes in theaters and on VOD today, courtesy of MPI.
Fantastic job on the film, guys. It’s definitely one of my favorite films this year and it’s really stuck with me over the last few weeks and that hasn’t happened too often lately. I know both you guys have made your way through the independent scene as filmmakers for a while now- was that part of what inspired you to focus on the dangers of ambition in the entertainment industry for Starry Eyes?
Dennis Widmyer: It was ; Starry Eyes is our third feature so what we wanted to do was up our game for this and just go for broke. We knew we wanted to create a story about the transformative process but we didn’t want this to be a typical body horror movie either. It had to have both those mental and physical elements to it so we thought doing it as a metaphor for acting was a smart idea. Actors go through so much, especially when they’re just starting out, so we thought that would be the perfect vehicle for showing how ambition can manifest itself in monstrous ways.
Kevin Kolsch: It just made so much sense to focus on acting since so much of that world is dependent on image and we thought that it made the perfect playing field to make a satanic body horror movie.
I loved the fact that you guys spent a lot of time not only creating these characters but also let audiences spend some time with them too. Everyone feels so fully realized which I really appreciated. How conscientious were you guys that you needed to put so much focus on these characters and was that your way of counterbalancing Sarah’s horrific actions towards the end of the film (because it’s sure hard to sympathize with her by that point)?
Kevin Kolsch: Characters are always important to us- the best horror movies ever made are character-driven. It’s interesting; the first hour of Starry Eyes almost plays out like a drama and then things go very, very wrong from there. But we knew that in order for that third act to really have an impact on audiences, you needed to really know these characters and make them all people you could relate to. Especially Sarah.
Dennis Widmyer: We knew humanizing everyone in Starry Eyes was essential to the story; because some of the material almost plays as satirical, you needed that humanity to even things out or these characters would just feel like caricatures. You had Fabienne (Therese) whose character is bitchy and ultra-competitive with Sarah but in her more revealing moments, you see who she really is. We had Pat (Healy) come in to play Carl because everyone else would have done that character one way but Pat brought a true sense of integrity and sincerity to the role. Noah (Segan) is a guy who is usually known to play villain roles so we wanted to give him something totally different in Starry Eyes just because we thought that would be more interesting. The thing is, a horror movie can’t just be about bad things happening; you need to care about the characters or those bad things just aren’t nearly as effective.
Let’s talk about Alex (who plays Sarah) for a moment because she’s truly phenomenal; your whole cast from top to bottom was great, in fact, but you really put Alex through the paces here and she totally took it all like a champ.
Kevin Kolsch: Casting the role of Sarah was probably the biggest part of casting for this film. We knew we couldn’t just have someone who could come in and do a good reading; they had to be willing to go there and give everything they had- mentally and physically- to the role. We knew that Sarah was someone who was going to be in practically every scene so the actress who took the role on had to be willing to run the gamut. That was Alex. She understood the material perfectly and was on board for everything the role required. She got all of the references we were making immediately and we didn’t have to justify anything about Sarah to her either.
Before we wrap up, I just wanted to compliment the film’s score- it had this sort of early Brad Fiedel vibe to it which I completely dug. Is there a release planned for it anytime soon?
Dennis Widmyer: Thanks; that was all Jonathan Snipes, our composer. He really hit home run for the film and what’s really crazy is that he did everything in like a month. I think he spent the most time on Sarah’s song though- that took him probably around three weeks but it was worth it.
And Waxworks is going to be putting the score on vinyl too; I’m pretty sure it’ll be out around the same time as the DVD and Blu-ray.