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Fantastic Fest

Fantastic Fest: Starfish director A.T. White on how Silent Hill influenced his deeply personal monster movie

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Sep 29, 2018, 10:42 AM EDT

This week Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas hosted the world premiere of writer/director A.T. White's deeply personal Lovecraftian monster movie Starfish. Filmed in Leadville, Colorado, the town with the highest elevation in the U.S., Starfish follows Aubrey (Virginia Gardner), a young woman who's mourning the death of her best friend Grace (Christina Masterson). 

During a Q&A after the film's encore screening on Thursday, White said the idea came to him four years ago, whose best friend died of cancer while he was going through a divorce. 

"I wrote this film basically out of necessity," White told the crowd, which included SYFY WIRE. "I needed to deal with the grief." 

It was a long road before White's vision would be realized. "The first draft, [Aubrey] never even left the apartment. It was too depressing. It was unfilmable. My producers read it and said 'You can't make this f**king movie.' It took a year in the grief process to write something that's a little bit more interesting." 

It was during that time that White began to work in a supernatural horror element, with grotesque monsters beginning to run amok -- even heralding the end of the world. However, it was imperative to White that these monsters maintained a personal connection to the character of Aubrey. In order to do that, White took inspiration from an unlikely source. 

"I'm a big Silent Hill fan," said White. "Particularly those first two games where the demons were representing literal demons within the lead character. Later on, it got away from that and they just became monsters. I really wanted to get back to that, where the creatures mean something." 

In addition to both writing and directing Starfish, White also composed the film's score, which forced him to revisit his grief after the fact. 

"It was a hard film to go back to," said White, who only had eight days to write, record and mix the film's music. "It took a long time in post-production, and by the time I came to do the score I'd been putting it off. I wrote it in three days. I just surrounded myself in images of my friend, trying to get myself in that bad headspace. We recorded it in three days and mixed it in two. I will never do that again." 

Before you go, don't forget to check out all of SYFY WIRE's coverage of this year's Fantastic Fest