Heading to the silver screen at this year’s Manhattan Film Festival will be Casey Killoran, a 2009 Hofstra graduate who produced and starred in “Viral Beauty,” a full-length movie about the digital age. The film focuses on a character named Marsha Day who uploads a dating ad online, only for it to go viral and become an overnight internet sensation for all the wrong reasons.
“You see her ascension into online fame and what happens to her,” said Killoran, who plays Day in addition to being an executive producer on the film. After Day’s video goes viral, the internet turns on her to make fun of her appearance and personality. “She’s very fish out of water, she’s placed into this world of entertainment and stardom,” Killoran said. “She talks when she’s not supposed to talk, she says things she’s not supposed to say, she keeps getting in trouble.”
Killoran’s production partner David Tyson Lam directed the movie with a script written by his sister Elizabeth Lam. It originally started out as a short film before turning into a feature. “When it was a short I was signed up [and] I was going to be the actor and produce. It was a short, it’s manageable,” Killoran said. “But when it turned into a feature I said, ‘why don’t we look around and see if we can cast out?’ And either I couldn’t find the right person or I was talked into doing the role. Whichever came first, so I ended up doing it.”
While related, producing a movie and acting in one are two very different things; however when the same person is doing both at once, it creates a different experience. “When you’re an executive producer on a film … you stay with it from the beginning to the end – especially in independent films where you don’t have a huge blockbuster budget. You get to see every single aspect; every single thing goes through you,” Killoran said. “I’ve been living with this film for two and a half years now.”
To make sure she could focus on each job she had to do, the production hired another producer to be on set while Killoran was on camera. That way when she was acting she was only acting, and when she was producing she was only producing. Since Killoran and Lam only had 19 days to shoot the entire film, most of the work was producing.
“There was a lot of prework with getting the character ready,” Killoran said. She had to gain 30 pounds to achieve the character look that was required. “It’s one of the main reasons of why she’s ridiculed for her dating and why people don’t understand why she’s getting so popular,” Killoran said. “I understood the shift in normal societal changes, like how they treat heavier people and the bias that goes on with that.”
A unique aspect of the film is the camera work and the incorporation of real online personalities in the cast. Half of the shots are traditional to a movie, but the other half were shot vlog-style to look like the audience is watching their own computer. “We got it edited all together and watched it through and we thought something was missing,” Killoran said. “There was just no authenticity of online.” This led to the addition of real-life internet stars like Perez Hilton, Michael Rizzi and Nicola Foti.
Also featured in the film is Bad Mary, a group of musicians from Hofstra. Drama professor David Henderson’s band consisting of himself, former students Amanda Mac and Mike Staub, and Mac’s father Bill Mac all make an appearance on the soundtrack.
Killoran learned how to pull double duty working on a production while at Hofstra. “The production side is completely different. It’s numbers and books and you’re making creative decisions. It’s just not where my brain falls naturally, so to do it forces me to learn,” she said. Killoran was able to begin learning in college, when she directed her own stage play. “It was learning how to get costumes and lighting and getting a composer, that’s all producing. I got my first real taste of that at Hofstra.”
“Viral Beauty” will be screening at the Manhattan Film Festival on April 30th at 8 PM at The Players Theatre.