[Update] Casey has informed us that the film is premiering at the Frozen Film Festival, 1 – 4 February, 2017. Viral Beauty set to be screened on Friday, Feb. 3 @ 9pm- Weyerhaeuser Auditorium.
On December 20, the star of Viral Beauty; Casey Killoran took time out of her busy day to have a chat with Mike’s Film Talk about the film. We talked about altering your appearance for a role and the challenges of wearing two hats on a project; executive producer and actor.
Virtual Beauty follows Marsha Day, an average young woman who advertises for a date on the Internet and ends up getting millions of subscribers. We are privy to her ups and downs as fame comes courting and we learn that there is a price to be paid regardless of where fame comes from.
Ms Killoran gave us some background on the film. It was written by her one time flatmate Elizabeth Lam, who is the sister of the film’s director David Tyson Lam.
Mike’s Film Talk: Hello Casey! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I’ve got to say that I loved the film, its message,and what you brought to the role.
Casey: Thank you.
Mike’s Film Talk: No problem! Now right off the bat, I’ve got to ask you what, apart from aspect of producing and starring in the film, drew you to the project?
Casey: I think that the message and the story of the film is something that is so current and so “right now.” We were working on it over two years ago and even then it was something that was just starting. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. The emersion of the Internet and one person’s journey that was so personal. You get to really follow their journey and learn what happens to someone who stumbles onto fame versus actively searching for it.
We see what happens to them when they become famous and this is happening right now online. People promote themselves and do that sort of thing. Once they “hit” and their stuff goes viral, they are catapulted into this stardom and it is so different from what it used to be.
Mike’s Film Talk: Yes.
Casey: Stardom used to be a secondary thing. People who wanted to act or sing focused on their craft. They worked at being good at what they did. They practised to become proficient at their passion and the fame came later. Right now, fame has become warped. Which is what drew me to the film.
Mike’s Film Talk: I think the film shows that brilliantly. The film really shows that this is the “era of the Kardashian.” No talent needed, we’ll just make you famous to sell all these products. (Casey laughing.) So how did you prepare for the role of Marsha?
Casey: The film actually started life as a short. I started working on it three years ago and then the short was put on pause. I went away and started doing my own stuff. The writer then went away and was working on her own thing.
I actually lived with the writer for three months. She got to see me and how I navigated being an actor and producer in New York City. She picked up a lot because, while she is a writer, her expertise is in the tech field. She does tech security. She thought it was interesting seeing me navigate the entertainment industry and she (Elizabeth Lam) was inspired to “sort of” make Marsha based off me and my experiences.
I was much heavier then and when she left, I lost a bunch of weight. I lost a significant amount of weight and that was when we stepped away from the short. She then came back and was “I wrote this whole feature length film, do you want to do it?”
I read it and was, this is so good but I can’t play this role, I’m not overweight anymore! What am I going to do? So the director; David, approached me and asked, very kindly, “Would you gain weight?”
It was a real battle for me. I tried several approaches. “Can we re-write it? Can she have another problem besides the weight? Isn’t there something we can do?” And they were like, no. They did say that they were not asking me to gain all the weight back but, a significant amount had to be put back on.
The reason was they needed me to look overweight enough that people would notice. My character could not be “celebrity thin” she had to be a slightly overweight girl. Heavy enough that people would say, “Why the ‘F’ does she get to be so popular.”
So I said okay and gained so much weight in about two and a half months. I ate oreos and just really messed up my metabolism. My poor body was like, “What are you doing to me?” I had lost all that weight and then put it back on and now I’ve lost it again…
Physically the transformation was a huge part of it.
Mike’s Film Talk: Yes.
Casey: It was also interesting that as I was physically changing myself…I gained over 30 pounds, I noticed that I was being treated differently when I got so heavy over such as short period of time. I took all the pent up hostility and animosity that I was getting and brought it to the role.
Mike’s Film Talk: I was going to ask about the weight thing and about how hard it was to do it. You seem to have worked out a system…
Casey: It was still a lot of work and a lot of focus. Then everyone steps away from the production when it finished filming. And I was like, “Oh great. I now have about four months to lose all that weight again!” (Laughing.) Now I have to go to the gym everyday…
Mike’s Film Talk: Well you certainly couldn’t relax and take time off.
Casey: (Laughing) No I couldn’t.
Mike’s Film Talk: I was reading in the film’s notes that you ate real cat food…
Mike’s Film Talk: Was that a last minute request by David or did he give you some time to work up to it.
Casey: It was always a kind of joke that was thrown around. And I was like David… The thing is, it was only in one scene. We never really sat down and discussed it but I was invested so I thought, “If I going to do it, I’m doing it.”
It really did help the scene though.
Mike’s Film Talk: I agree!
Casey: It’s become a talking point. People ask, “What was it like?” I always answer, “what do you think?” So it was funny.
Mike’s Film Talk: I found myself wondering what brand of catfood it was under the “fake” label. I decided it was “Fancy Feast.”
Casey: (Laughing) I’ve actually forgotten what brand it was. We picked it up from our corner bodega so I can’t tell you. I don’t really want to know. Going into the store and seeing the stuff and thinking “I ate that.” (Laughing)
Mike’s Film Talk: So…How was it? Was it really horrific or was it not that bad?
Casey: It was like, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. It wasn’t like I would eat it again. (Laughing) It wasn’t completley gross, it was more the thought of eating catfood that actually made me gag. It just tasted like a really bad pâté or something which I don’t like anyway. So it was so gross. I’ve always had a cat so…
Mike’s Film Talk: Yes I’m a cat person as well. Fun facts aside, how much of the film was actually scripted? Was there a certain amount of improvisation going on?
Casey: Well, we had a pretty full script when we started. I came to set, off-book, everything memorized and was ready to go verbatim, word-for-word, but as we went on, we noticed somethings just cropped up. For me though, I pretty much delivered everything that the writer had down for my character.
There were things that were added on as time went on. On the days when I was not working in front of the camera, I was producing and, I have to say, I never tried to blend the two functions. I was never both.
What happened was the writer wrote everything for the other characters but on the day, David was like, “Okay not do it this way, or that way.” Which was good as you got to know the person almost automatically. They had a two second intro but you knew who they were immediately.
Mike’s Film Talk: I was also going to ask, I cannot find the original source, about filming the movie. I read somewhere that a variety of devices were used, like smartphones and laptops, to record the film.
Casey: It’s funny you should ask. We did do some practise runs where we recorded things with a laptop camera. But in the real takes, everything we used was film with our very nice cameras. Each shot was “downgraded” so it looked like an iPhone or a webcam.
Mike’s Film Talk: Oh brilliant!
Casey: Yes our DP Edna Luise Biesold who did an amazing job. She would come in before the script was done and say, “Okay we need to study the lens of the phone and the laptop, what are the dimensions and dynamics, lighting (is it more green) and all that.
I have to thank her for getting everything so right. Everything was downgraded to make it look just right. She gave each shot a little bit less quality, after shooting so well, to give us what we needed. She did a brilliant job making it all look so real.
Mike’s Film Talk: I agree. It all looked spot on. I remember the first scene where Perez Hilton shows up, his nose is red and he seemingly has no makeup on. It certainly felt like iPhone footage. The way the film ends…it seems to be hinting that there could be a part two?
Casey: Yes, it kind of has, but we’re not sure if we want to venture down that road just yet. The open ended place where we leave the characters i open for discussion. I mean the director is still coming up with ideas! David will say we can have them do this…He has about a thousand more ideas, he still says, “Oh we can have them do this.”
The writer is already working on other projects. One of which is another feature length film. We are looking at our next feature, which has nothing to do with “Viral” but there is always the possibility of going back.
It would be a different scenario. In this film we did not have a “blockbuster” budget and if we came back, the world would be that bigger so maybe we could increase our budget to match that. Of course that would all depend on how well Viral Beauty is recieved, and it actually is being received very well…
We have discussed it but there is no script as yet.
Mike’s Film Talk: If people want to see the film where can they find news about where it may be premiering?
Mike’s Film Talk: I just wanted to ask you, looking at your credits, this looks like the first time you’ve been in the role of executive producer. How did you like it?
Casey: Well, I’ve executive produced before, for shorts, but this was my first feature length film and I loved it. It is a lot of hard work but it is such a different quantity of work. A short is roughly over a couple of months, here and there, while a feature is over two years. It is a big chunk of your time and it is constant until someone buys it.
I’m really glad I liked the story so much. I did learn very quickly never to try doing the producer’s job while I was acting and vice versa. That was my number one rule and the other producers all agreed with it.
When we had business meeting it was the business side of things that were discussed and not the acting. I was part of a team and I really enjoyed the aspects of producing. I really like details and have no problem talking to people I don’t know.
David has other things that he does better than I do so I left those things to him.
Mike’s Film Talk: Looking at your other credits, you’ve got Gross People, a short, that is in post production. Have you got anything else coming up in the near future?
Casey: Hmm. In the near future. We have that, Gross People we are working on another project, minus Liz as an executive producer but we are adding on the DP on Viral Beauty and we are working on a new piece right now. We have been writing for close to three months now but it is still in “baby form” now.
Edna is taking a short sabbatical right now but the topics we’re turning to now are more about taboo subjects and bit more serious and darker. But, we will still have comedy in there because the three of us will naturally err on the side of levity. Although we’re also very intense (Laughing) so we don’t mind taking really dark subjects and shining a light on them.
The Wrap Up:
The interview ended with a look at that “lighter note” and we asked Casey which comic scene was her favorite in the film.
She responded that it was not the cat food scene and while she did like acting with her cat, her favorite bit was getting egg smashed in her face. Casey also like the “racist rant” which is, she says, so far from her. She also liked dancing with her cat.
We both agreed that not only was the Internet moving ahead at frantic speeds but that gaming and technology are also advancing at amazing rates. Virtual Reality was discussed and the idea that not only would robots become a daily thing but that the Star Trek Holo Deck was only one step away.
For those who have not seen the trailer, have a look now and see what we have been talking about.