Starry Eyes Filmmakers on Alexandra Essoe “Hey, you’re gonna be naked in this scene,”
Dennis Widmeyer & Kevin Kolsch Talk Starry Eyes
Interview with directors Dennis Widmeyer and Kevin Kolsch about their great, grisly horror flick Starry Eyes.
Such is the premise for Starry Eyes, an indie horror film that has been widely vaunted by genre fans since it debuted at SWSX last March. Marked by sharp satirical fangs, an atmospheric score by Jonathan Snipes, and a truly tour-de-force performance by star Alexandra Essoe, it’s a gripping, often harrowing, experience that warrants a hearty “Hail Satan!”
This film seems particularly concerned with the experience of being a woman in Hollywood and all of the standards and expectations that come with that. Have you witnessed or heard any horror stories from actresses about the casting process or being offered the casting couch or being objectified? Anything that you could draw upon for this script?
Dennis: Oh yeah, it was completely an open conversation. You always have to have that conversation with the actors. If nudity is involved, there’s that scene with the old guy and the blow job, a lot of risqué things in the film. We didn’t want to get burned on set where suddenly she has cold feet and doesn’t understand what we’re trying to do. We always joke about this, it isn’t an exaggeration, but there was almost that notion of trying to talk her out of it in the film. “You’re going to be naked, you’re going to be covered in mud, you’re going to be under the ground, you’re going to be simulating oral sex with a seventy-five-year-old man. There are a lot of things that you’re gonna be doing that are really taxing. Four hours of makeup, emotionally you’re going to have to go from a one to a ten, you’re tearing your hair out. Are you really, really up for it?” It was really about making sure she was up to the challenge, but you don’t know until Day One when you’re on set if the actor is really gonna go there. Right from the first minute of shooting she was there. The first thing we shot was her standing in her underwear in a mirror crying. Because she doesn’t like herself, she’s insecure about her body. I remember Kevin and I were sitting behind the monitor and we looked at each other and kind of breathed a sigh of relief. We were like, “Okay, she’s good!”
Kevin: As far as making her feel safe, yeah, of course, anytime you’re dealing with sensitive subject matter you want to make sure that you have as few people on set as you need and that everyone is being professional. You don’t want extra crew members standing around gawking during a nude scene or a fellatio scene. So you need to make sure that the people who don’t need to be there aren’t and that the people who do need to be there are being sensitive and not being sort of blunt. And, you know, you need to make sure that she feels safe about what she’s doing.
But she says, “Nope, I wanna put the worm in my mouth.”
Kevin: Yeah, exactly! [laughs]
Dennis: That was her idea. We told her, “There are ways to edit around that,” but she wanted to really put one in her mouth.
You balance a lot of tones. One of the things the trailer doesn’t tell you is how funny this movie is. Was there ever any trepidation about pulling those multiple levels off?
Dennis: Yeah, there are scenes that we wrote and then excised from the script. There are scenes that we filmed that just tonally didn’t work. There are twelve deleted scenes on the DVD. For the most part the scenes are tonally of the same film, but there are some really good ones that we didn’t include because on the page they made sense but when you filmed them the tone was a little different. A lot of it was just talking to all of the actors on set, talking to all of the crew, and saying, “Here is the movie that we are trying to make. We know we’re dealing with the occult, we know we’re dealing with transformation, but we’re not trying to be campy. We’re trying to approach this as a very grounded thing. It’s a metaphor. The satire is not gonna be in your face but the metaphor is going to be loud and clear.” That was sort of how we approached it. We didn’t approach the ending like it was a slasher film, the whole thing was very guided by the consequences of the character and the decisions that she makes. She goes into that house and what’s going to happen? And it all plays out very organically. It almost plays out like a Manson murder gone wrong.
I read that you’re both working on your next project already?
Kevin: We’re working on a script but it’s not in development, yet. We don’t know if it’s going to be our next film or not. We’ve got a couple of scripts that we’re working on at different stages. Hopefully one of them will be the next project. One of them that you probably read about was Geminia, an erotic thriller. We also have a small thriller and a biiig sci-fi film which probably will not be our next project. It’s a huge jump from Starry Eyes but it’s definitely something that we hope to do one day.
Directors/Screenwriters: Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kolsch
Determined to make it as an actress in Hollywood, Sarah Walker spends her days working a dead-end job, enduring petty friendships and going on countless casting calls in hopes of catching her big break. After a series of strange auditions, Sarah lands the leading role in a new film from a mysterious production company. But with this opportunity comes bizarre ramifications that will transform her both mentally and physically into something beautiful… and all together terrifying.
From the producer of “Cheap Thrills” and “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch’s “Starry Eyes” is an occult tale of ambition, possession, and the true cost of fame.
Cast: Alexandra Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Fabianne Therese, Noah Segan, Shane Coffey (World Premiere)