Shock Interview: Starry Eyes Directors Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kolsch


starry-eyes-posterStarry Eyes is this year’s must see Hollywood horror thriller. A film that takes you on a journey though the mind and soul of an artist that only wants to be a star and is willing to do anything to achieve that transformation.

The film lingers long after the credits end leaving the viewer with their own thoughts on just how to move on after what they have experienced. Shock had a chance to sit down with Starry Eyes Directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch and pick their brains on this world of actors with hearts of glass and producers with souls of Satan…

Shock Till You Drop: First off, a lot of young writers write about the business and breaking in but it’s rarely good. How did you two come up with Starry Eyes?

Kevin Kolsch: I like that you’re referring to us as young writers. (Laughs)

Dennis Widmyer: I think when you hear “Hollywood and horror” they’re usually working on a haunted movie. Typically they get into the film making process. I have not seen enough of the “grounded” approach. What happens when you go home? What happens when you go to your shitty job? What happens when your friends that you hang out with are all making catty comments and stuff? A lot of what Hollywood is for the most part, is just going to parties and hanging out with people. That where deals get made, that’s where people birth ideas and stuff. So that was more our experience. So, we wanted to do the whole Hollywood horror in a more grounded level. As far as the inspiration, we wanted to tell a trans formative story. On the one hand, a physical body horror story, something like Cronenberg would do. On the other hand, a mental transformation like you might see in Black Swan or even Boogie Nights. So we knew that we wanted to tell a story like that and we wanted to do something a little more unique with it. So if we were going to do something where someone becomes a monster, figuratively or literally, an interesting idea for a monster might be ambition manifested as a monster. The idea that to get what you want, how far will you go? What will you do and what would that do to you mentally and physically?

Shock: I saw a lot of influence from the “Satanic ’70s.” Are you guys’ fans of that stuff?

Kevin Kolsch: We are definitely fans of the ’70s Satanic stuff but it was coming at it from the grounded reality approach like Dennis was talking about. We had to decide just how much we were gonna do. There were times when we were gonna go even further with the Satanic stuff but we wanted to keep it where she was meeting with the production company that just seemed kind of left of center but then you find out why. You know? You just get little hints that make you say, “Oh! Maybe they’re a cult.” Because we still wanted it to be coming from the reality angle. So when we actually did get to out one big cult scene, we were a little worried going in. We didn’t want it to veer off too far from the reality that we had set up. So yes. We do love those seventies movies and I would even love to one day make a full on Brotherhood of Satan type of movie, but we were being careful on how much we wanted to go there. This was a movie that we wanted to keep grounded.

Shock: What was the hardest thing to pull off?

Dennis Widmyer: The whole thing with the ceremony was very difficult because it was an over-nighter, she had to be naked. You want to respect the actor, make sure it’s an intimate set. But that was tough because we had film insurance people there that day, we actually had to shoot that whole sequence backwards. So we started above ground and then went underground because the sun was going down so quickly. We had to hurry, we literally had one or two takes to do that, so that was difficult.

Kevin Kolsch: And the worm scene was tough. It was the one scene that Alex (Essoe) had a little trouble with. She was willing to do it. She likes this kind of stuff. It’s not like one of those actors that takes a role for the sake of taking the role and then gets to set and says; “Wait! You want me to do what?!” She’s into these kinds of movies so she was on board doing all this kind of stuff. But then the idea of physically putting worms in her mouth was just…

Dennis Widmyer: And it was her idea! In the script there is no worm in her mouth. She is awesome. She was sitting in that tub with all those worms.

Kevin Kolsch: It was a tough shoot. There were things that were technically hard, there were things that were emotionally hard. We destroyed a camera in the underwater scene.

Dennis Widmyer: We lost a RED camera in the pool. The underwater container opened up and it flooded. It was rough man. We didn’t have a lot of money, ya know. It was ambitious. Probably too ambitious for the money that we had. You do what you gotta do.

Shock: How long was the shoot?

Kevin Kolsch: We shot for 18 days.

Dennis Widmyer: And three days of re-shoots so 21 days total.


Kevin Kolsch: It’s tough. I mean, as Dennis says, it was ambitious for the budget but I think part of that is why we’re even sitting here discussing this. We kind of wrote a movie above what people would normally do at this budget level. It’s part of the success of this film. It really goes into a lot of areas and it moves from beginning to end, into areas that a movie of our budget level wouldn’t do.

Dennis Widmyer: There is a much smaller version of this tale that we told. That probably could have been done for the same amount of money, in one house. We wanted to show L.A., we wanted really good special effects make up, we wanted an ensemble cast of around seven people. We wanted some really memorable violence. Any of those bits on their own could have been enough to break the bank and we got all of them.
Shock: Let’s talk about setting up the kills…

Kevin Kolsch: It was tough because, when we were thinking about this, it’s funny, people are into the kills. “Oh the kill when he did the thing with the cell phone…!” You know. So you are always into these different kills and horror fans love them. But the thing is, this is a grounded story, it’s supposed to be realistic, we wanted it to feel gritty, like a Manson murder, cause that’s a big part of Hollywood. There are so many violent stories in L.A. that are tied in the entertainment industry, from Manson to Wonderland to Black Dahlia and failed attempts at success. It was important to not make them go through all these different modes of kills just for the sake of it. But at the same time, when I bring up things like the Manson Murders, one had a bag, one had a cord, one was stabbed.

Dennis Widmyer: There are variations…

Kevin Kolsch: We felt we could do it within a realistic approach to show varying ways of murder without it feeling like it was just about THE KILL!

Dennis Widmyer: You don’t have to redesign the wheel. Just getting stabbed, if it’s done right, the acting’s right, the sound design is right, it can be perfect.

Shock: Is this a world that you could explore more?

Kevin Kolsch: Is there gonna be a Big Taters movie is what he’s asking. (Laughs)

Shock: I did feel bad for poor Carl [played by Pat Healy]…

Dennis Widmyer: We love that grounded sort of humor that says “Life sucks!” A lot of our work typically have characters like that. They’re sincere people and they mean well. They don’t know that they’re in a movie. He thinks he’s the hero of his own movie. To him, Big Taters is the most important thing, to her, it’s getting this role. So he’s the hero of his own movie just like she is. From her perspective, this guy is a jerk and he’s making her work this shitty job and preaching to her. From his perspective, she’s a terrible employee. She slapped him, of course she deserves to be fired. Everybody has their own perspective in the film. But as far as that sort of world, yeah, we’d like to do something. Maybe not specifically Big Taters. But I think my dream with this film would be Big Taters Halloween outfits. Just to be on Hollywood Blvd. next year and see a girl wearing that outfit.

Kevin Kolsch: Is it your dream…or your fantasy? (Laughs). Let me tell you. My dreams and fantasies are more in line with the murders…Oh! We better stop there…