Casey Killoran Talks Viral Beauty (Interview) [Update]

CaseyKilloranStill

[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.

The Interview:

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?”

(Casey laughing.)

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…

Casey Killoran as Marsha Day

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…

Casey: Yes.

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?

Casey: They can follow our Facebook page, we have an instagram account, a twitter account and we update the big news all the time.

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.

Viral Beauty (2016): A Sign of the Times (Review) [Update]

Casey Killoran as Marsha Day

[Update] We have been informed by the star, and executive producer, of Viral Beauty; Casey Killoran, that the film is premiering at the “Frozen Film Festival” February 1 – 4, 2017. Head on over to the site and to find out further information. For the actual screen time please see the end of this review.

Written by Elizabeth Lam and directed by David Tyson Lam, Viral Beauty stars Casey Killoran as Marsha Day, Mark Junek as Will Durham and features Perez Hilton and a slew of YouTube/social media personalities.

The film can be seen as a sign of the times, a cautionary tale that encompasses Internet trolls, marketing and YouTube as well as other world wide web platforms and their “stars.” 

Viral Beauty has one singular message to deliver; this is the age of Internet stardom and this medium will continue to give us the “next big thing” until something else comes along.  Not necessarily a new personality, as this happens on a regular basis anyway, but more like another alternative to the Internet with its daily doses of Vine (RIP), Instagram and YouTube.

There are other streaming services, for example, which have devoted fans. Twitch, Periscope and Snapchat are other mediums that allow the creative, weird and wonderful to air their wares, so to speak.

Viral Beauty tells us that this is the time of Internet personalities and stars that have nothing to do with the traditional mediums of television, film and/or stage.  There are YouTube and Vine “stars” who are working in television and film, much to the derision of two time Oscar winning Brit actress  Emma Thompson, and their actual worth as performers is debatable.

(Look at the dire Hulu thriller Freakish and the substandard acting by the “YouTubers and Viners.” There are other “millennial” aimed programs to chose from. Another example of execrable acting and abysmal writing can be found on the Netflix series Haters Back Off.)

Viral Beauty does not rely upon the acting talents of these personalities but rather uses their natural charisma and ease in front of the camera to prove its point.

What is the point, exactly? Well, the film tells us that the Internet is a minefield that not only urges its users to engage in unashamed amounts of narcissism, but it also raises each person’s expectations falsely.

Killoran’s character starts the film as an “average” overweight female who posts a dating advertisement. She asks for suitors who are, according to the world of the cyber bullies, out of her league. Perez Hilton airs her video and opens up a world of criticism and the haters latch onto Marsha.

This inadvertently launches her into a sort of Internet stardom that is capitalized on by Zara Zhang (Ruibo Qian) a type of talent manager who sees an opportunity to market Marsha’s newfound “popularity.” 

The film follows Day’s journey from infamy to fame and along the way we are privy to her ups and downs.  Viral Beauty works hard to give its audience a “fly on the wall” perspective. It feels almost like a web documentary or, at the very least, like an Internet version of The Hills or The City.

It is interesting to see that fame, no matter what flavor or color, affects everyone pretty much the same. There is the incredulous feeling at the start of  it all. The “star” is swept away by their incredible good luck. This then turns into the inevitable selling-out phase when that fame starts to fade.

Director Lam shows us what depths these new stars will go to and even shows, somewhat peripherally, how these famous personalities make their money and lose it.

The film is a comedy, but it does not deviate too far from its acerbic approach.  Day is almost a Cinderella type character whose escape from mediocrity is accidental.  We do feel for Marsha as she earns her lumps for that meteoric rise in popularity.

Viral Beauty is a 4.5 star film that comes very close to earning a full roster. It is clever in its criticism of Internet stardom, the monsters it creates and the lives it changes.  The brother sister team (David and Elizabeth) offer up this romantic comedy of errors with a dose of wry humor that makes the tale, and its message, very palatable.

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.

Viral Beauty Poster

Haters Back Off: Napoleon Dynamite in a Skirt? (Review)

Miranda Sings

Netflix have gone to the YouTube well and dredged up one Colleen Ballinger, aka Miranda from the YouTube channel Miranda Sings.  The new series Haters Back Off features Ballinger as the untalented performer from the channel. 

The character comes across as a blend of Napoleon Dynamite in a skirt and a demented Pee Wee Herman.  While Ballinger is wildly popular on YouTube, her Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” pastiche has well over 54 million views, the series may prove to be less so.

A certain amount of fans may follow “Miranda” over from the Google owned video streaming  site.  She does have just over seven million subscribers after all.  However watching the videos, which are mostly under two minutes in duration and feature only Miranda, is a a completely different prospect from sitting through 32 minutes of so called entertainment.

Do not misunderstand, there are funny bits in the initial episode. However, anyone who is not a “Miranda Sings” fan will be hard pressed to really enjoy the performances.

The Netflix series gives faces, and voices, to Miranda’s family and provides some sort of plot rather than just  comedic videos of a performer who cannot sing, dance or, apparently, act.

Haters Back Off really does feel like an escapee from the Napoleon Dynamite universe. (“Your mom goes to college.”) But Napoleon for all his social ineptitude could dance and it made the character endearing.

Miranda, with her Mick Jagger lipstick style and screeching, overly loud speaking voice does feel more Pee Wee Herman than Napoleon.  The male teenaged protagonist was actually likable rather than mind mumblingly annoying like Miranda.

The YouTube videos are funny and popular, the smallest amount of views on any of Ballinger’s uploads are around the two million mark. They do not appeal to everyone, although many are very, very funny. Her appeal may be more with millennials rather than older YouTube users.

Haters Back Off shows the “rise” of Miranda’s YouTube career. The determined wannabe famous performer has her own cheering section. Her uncle and mother believe in their tone deaf relative while sister Emily is just embarrassed by the whole thing.

Miranda’s uncle Jim helps his niece to work on her YouTube career  and has her shoot a commercial at his place of work.  With all the hot lights and repeated takes, Jim kills every fish in the place with the exception of a bagged goldfish.

Jim is, unsurprisingly, fired. He declares that this will allow him to manage Miranda Sings’ career full-time.

The series is annoyingly simplistic in its delivery and the characters, with the exception of Emily, are all two dimensional and thick as two planks. Clearly the younger sister in the family was adopted.

Haters Back Off  has attempted take a minute and a half of YouTube comedy and stretch it by 30 minutes.  It needs work to bring it off successfully however. Having just watched the pilot episode mere minutes ago it is difficult to remember one single “gut busting” comedic moment.

Netflix launched the new series on 14 October. All eight  episodes are available to stream in one sitting, or two. The episodes may get better as the series progresses. Certainly Ballinger is funny on YouTube but the stretch to a half hour puts pressure on the comedy and her performance.

To see just how funny Colleen is away from Haters Back Off check out her Taylor Swift:

Cast:

Freakish: Brought to You by Vine and YouTube (Review)

Freakish Logo

Two time Oscar winner Emma Thompson will not like this one. Starring a number of Vine and YouTube “stars” Freakish has too many things wrong to make it right.  The premise is good; a Planet Terror sort of scenario where chemicals turn good kids bad, as in zombie bad. (On second thought that sounds more like a “Just Say No” campaign. Considering the show’s stars that may be more accurate as well.)

Freakish has a number of real actors in the cast. One of these was eaten by zombie teenagers in the first episode; the excellent  Chad L. Coleman.  This leaves a number of teen celebs who were cast because of Vine and YouTube followers.

To be fair, however, there are a quite a lot of younger actors in the cast. Leo Howard, Tyler Chase and Mary Mouser, for example, have an impressive number of credits under their belts.

Others, like Meghan Reinks were cast because of the amount of subscribers on their YouTube channel or Vine followers.  (Check out Meghan’s bio on IMDb, it states that she was “classically trained to be an actor.” Her performance is not that bad but it is not “classical.”)

The local chemical plant blows up and spreads zombie creating gas, helpfully colored brown so the kids can see it coming, traps a number of students in their high school.  A number of them chose to ignore the coach and leave the relative safety of the school after the plant explodes.

Ones that return have been infected by the gas and turn into zombies. The “smarter” students who opted to stay out of the gas worry about this development. The coach separates the sick kids from the rest of the group and becomes a midnight snack for his effort.

Initially this felt like it was going to be an annoying pale imitation of the superb 2009 Brit dramedy Misfits.  A small group of teens are in detention when the chemical plant blows. (In reality this felt more like The Breakfast Club on a meets any Roger Corman film.)

After a few moments into Freakish it was obvious that a pale ripoff of Misfits would be been better than this offering. It is not that the new Hulu series is bad, it is just not that good.

Part of the problem with Freakish, apart from its using non-actors to make up the cast, is the writing.  The “dead mom” gag at the beginning of the first episode is a good example. Meant to be funny, it is instead trite and unbelievable.

The kid with the knife, who is obviously a lad who could care less about another boy’s mother being dead, backs right off when Grover states his mom is deceased.  The gag is then repeated, this time from the girl that Grover is pursuing.

Yawn.

This could develop into something entertaining. Two episodes into the new series has not shown too much promise though. Not wanting to sit through all 10 episodes, means having to go back and see where all this ends up.

We will return, but not quickly and with little enthusiasm.  It is doubtful that the survivors get out of the building, although there is an episode titled “Saved” so who knows.

After watching two episodes of Freakish it feels like an American version of the Canadian teen thriller “Between” without Jennette McCurdy and with zombies instead of a  killer virus. (The set is considerably smaller as well, at least in Between they had an entire town to survive in.)

Hulu have a good track record thus far, Freakish may yet turn out to be something special despite the gimmicky Vine and YouTube cast members.

The series is streaming right now on Hulu in its entirety, in other words, all 10 episodes are up and running. Stop by and see what you think.

XOXO (2016): Lost in the Music (Review)

Sarah Hyland in XOXO

In a perfect world the “rave” or more accurately the EDM fest, XOXO could really  be as depicted in this film.  A place where young people can get lost in the music and not worry about overdosing on ecstasy (E) or being mugged, shot, stabbed or attacked (or even dying).  A look at the EDC in Las Vegas with its yearly casualties is an excellent reminder that all is not youthful histrionics at these festivals.

Leaving reality aside, this is, after all, a film, XOXO is an ensemble piece that could be seen as a coming of age film.  There is a YouTube DJ who gets a spot at the festival, a young girl is meeting her soul mate, a couple on the cusp of breaking up, and a young manager who wants to live the dream.  There is also an older, 30 something, music lover, a former DJ who gets caught up in the action.

The film is not bad. It almost feels like a Disney rendition of the EDM scene though. There are no really bad people here and certainly no drug dealers, officer.  It is all about the music. Except for the “acid tongued” girl who doses up Tariq (Brett DelBuono) on his way in and “drug guy” the film is pretty much “G” rated. 

(In many ways, Drug Guy (Scotty Dickert) feels like a refugee from the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  The stoner in that film was played by a very young Sean Penn.)

Written and directed by Christopher Louie (his first film) and starring Sarah Hyland, Graham PhillipsChris D’EliaHayley Kiyoko and Colin Woodell, XOXO follows a small group of people whose paths converge at the festival. 

Out of the entire group the journey that Tariq takes pretty much  steals the thunder of the whole film.  After being kissed by LSD girl, the manager’s torturous path to find his best friend and client is truly hysterical.  Weird and quirky fun, the rest of the film is easily overshadowed by this character’s story.

In many ways the film  showcases EDM, where good DJs are demigods who have devout followings.  Although the fest is referred to as a rave in the film, this is far removed from the days of holding music festivals illegally in abandoned hangars and warehouses.  None of these participants would need to run from the cops mid “concert.”

Although this ensemble film follows the journeys of seven people at the festival it is the backdrop of the XOXO music fest that shares center stage with the actors.  The shots of the audience getting caught up in the sounds and being lifted by the music permeate nearly every scene.

While there is only two scenes that focus on drugs, or two characters; the “drug guy” and the blonde girl with the tab of acid on her tongue, it is clear that Molly, or Ecstasy is still part of the scene. The four guys who want their money back from Neil (D’Ella) or a pound of his flesh, all become calm and lovey later.

The film looks brilliant. The black light room, the VIP rooms and the set, which does look like a real music festival screams authenticity to a huge degree.

XOXO is a romantic drama located in the EDM world.  It may not come near reality, again think the Las Vegas EDC festival here, but it is a feel-good film that leaves the viewer smiling and nodding as the final credits roll.

This Netflix film is a 3.5 star film; losing one and a half stars because, in reality, apart from the EDM setting, there is nothing really new here.  It does entertain and Hyland is so cute she takes the breath away there is nothing  in XOXO to write home about.

The film is on Netflix at the moment and definitely worth a look. Check out the trailer below: