HOLLYWOOD —A new independent film that is being compared to “The Blair Witch Project,” is taking the Los Angeles region by storm. That film is “Dream Killer” a psychological thriller about two doctors, Dr. Nick Nemet (Dario Deak) and Dr. Marvin Stalberg (John Colton) who are working on a top secret project, the F.I.R.T. program, where test subjects are inoculated against their personal fears in an attempt to cure them, but the patients begin dying in ways that parallel their phobias. The film which cost a little over $23,000 to make hasn’t had any marketing and is generating massive interest and appeal to moviegoers. Recently Canyon News had the pleasure of speaking to the film’s writer and director, Catherine Pirotta, about the film.
Q: Where did the idea for this film come from?
A: “The theme of the film is fear, which was written by me and a late actor. Fear happens a lot in people. It limits us and stops us from doing things and fear kills our dreams. In the film, a group of patients with regular fears are being treated and their deaths begin to mirror what they fear. In life, if we don’t take control of our fears, it takes control of ourselves.”
Q: In your own words, what genre would you say the film falls into?
A: “Psychological thriller.”
Q: Why do you believe the film is peaking moviegoers’ interest?
A: “Fear is something everyone can relate to. I wanted to touch on fears that aren’t always talked about, like the fear of falling in love or rejection. We had no budget to advertise the film so we started advertising at film schools and invited people to a Q/A after the viewing. People talked about their fears and the buzz just began to spread.”
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
A: “I pretended to make my first film when I was 10 years old when I was growing up in Peru. I was always working on a script with friends in high school. I tried to make a different film each year. I knew I would do this someday.”
Q: What was it like working with the cast of the film?
A: “Great. I had worked with some of the cast on some short films before this, but a feature film is different. I had to cut out one whole storyline in the film for editing purposes. The lead actor in the film, co-wrote the film with me, but doesn’t take credit for it. We were like a family and we worked long work hours. The crew consisted of three to four people at a minimum.”
Q: Are there any plans to launch the film nationally in theaters across the U.S?
A: “That’s my dream, but we’ve been self-releasing the movie. Distribution is an investment and marketing is important. If people can’t see the film, they don’t know about it. We can individually take the film to one city at a time and we currently do have a billboard hanging in LA at the moment, but after three months of confirmation from audience reception there is a demand for the film. Last weekend after we had a viewing of the film, three women approached me and a few of my girlfriends and were talking about the production of the film and how it appeared reminiscent of ‘The Blair Witch Project.’ I could see their point and the relation to ‘The Blair Witch Project’ in a conventional way, but the film doesn’t look like ‘Blair Witch.’ By studio standards we’re viewed as a $2.5MM movie, even though we had a budget of $23,000. People like the movie so that’s why they keep coming back. We even had a big agent who wanted to turn the movie into a possible TV series, where each week a new fear would be highlighted.”
Q: Now the film has ties to WWII and the Holocaust, why do you believe that was such an important element in the film?
A: “During WWII horrific experiments were conducted by the Nazis and some of them were psychological, like horrific sounds on airplanes. A psychological weapon was created and the same experiment is being conducted by the two doctors in the film.”
Q: Where did the film’s title come from?
A: “Fear is a dream killer. It stops us from following our dreams. Fear is a killer because it’s actually killing the characters in the film. You can control people and nations with fear.”
Q: What current projects are you working on?
A: “Well we have a couple of projects in the works. There is a project based on a book that used to be a play and we optioned it and wrote a screenplay. It takes place during WWII where a man is rescued by a woman and they must walk 31 days through enemy territory and during this time they learn about love and war; hence, the film’s title ‘In Love and War.’ I’m also working on a fantasy quest about a special sword that can defeat a mysterious creature in a village. The sword is metaphorical in many ways.”
Q: What was the last thriller you saw that left you a little unnerved or scared?
A: “’Strange Days.’ I’m a big fan of Kathryn Bigelow, and I saw that film a long time ago. In the film mini-CD’s are used to record things that occur in the brain, allowing you to live someone else’s life.”
Q: Are there any filmmakers whose work you admire?
A: “I’m a fan of Kathryn Bigelow, as I mentioned, Guillermo Del Toro, I loved ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and Baz Luhrmann. I love musicals. It’s a dream of mine to make a musical like ‘Moulin Rouge,’ which is my favorite film.”
Q: What’s a phobia or fear that you have?
A: “I fear regret and not taking chances because you have nothing to do after time passes. We’re all afraid of something. People say they fear nothing, but everyone fears something.”
“Dream Killer” is currently in its 14th week of release in LA and is out grossing many big budgeted films. The film has already grossed more than $14 million in its limited release since February 2010 playing in 1 theater. The film is currently playing at the Beverly Center 13 Cinemas in Beverly Hills. The film also stars Penny Drake with special appearances by John Savage and Tyrone Power Jr. It’s a psychological thriller that will inevitably get you thinking about your own personal phobias and fears in life, and how they maybe hindering you from chasing after you dreams in life. What do you fear?