Experience the STARFISH Mixtape Monday Night at The Rotunda

A.T. White’s new film is touring the country and it’s coming to Philly Monday night. Grab your tickets at Brown Paper Tickets or at the door. Only $10 and it includes a Q&A from the director. In anticipation of this powerful, emotional film, we caught up with A.T. to chat.

Before we dive into your film and the upcoming event here in our fair city, let’s start with you. Who is A.T. White?

Ha. Are you asking for a dating app bio? I’m 6 foot 2. From Cambridge, England. I love open spaces, traveling, films, gaming and watermelon juice.

I’m in a band called Ghostlight. I run a production company called We Are Tessellate. And I also host a movie/gaming/horror podcast called We Are Geeks.

Your new film, Starfish, is getting quite the buzz. What’s it about?

It’s about a girl who breaks into her recently deceased best friend’s apartment and finds a mixtape labelled “This Mixtape Will Save the World”. The next morning she wakes to find the end of the world has seemingly started. And she has to decode a series of clues/mixtapes left by her friend to try to save it.

It’s based on a true story about my own experiences when my best friend passed away to cancer.

I don’t want to say too much about the film itself, so folks can experience it without any spoilers. But maybe we can discuss a bit about the cast, the experience, and your inspirations. Let’s start with the cast and, where better to start than Virginia Gardner? A lot of folks may know her as Vicky from 2018’s Halloween reboot. I particularly love her in Marvel’s The Runaways. How did you two get hooked up and what was it like to work with her?

I was very lucky. When we started casting with Sherrie Henderson, she asked me for a list of my ideal actors for the role. Virginia was on that list. She hadn’t done Runaways or Halloween at that point, so I mostly knew her from Project Almanac. She came in and auditioned and we all loved her. I then met her for a lunch and was really blown away by how connected she felt to the emotions the role required.

Since Aubrey is basically a version of myself, I let Virginia ask any questions she wanted, as personal as she wanted. And she then did an incredible job of taking my experiences and equating them to her own life. Honestly, working with her was a dream experience and I’m very grateful for how much she gave. It was a very demanding role and the physical environments were difficult too.

Your cast has some other great talent, tell us about a few of them and any interesting stories you may have about your experiences in casting and directing them.

Well there aren’t that many other roles in the film. The other crucial one was Grace (Aubrey’s deceased best friend). I’d wanted to work with Christina (Masterson) for a while and we actually called her in early for Aubrey, to see how she was. I really liked her performance but she wasn’t quite right for Aubrey.

And then it occurred to us that she’d be perfect for Grace. I was a little worried about how to approach this role for a while as it’s essentially my best friend who passed away. But Christina was wonderful and managed to create her own space with the character which I love.

And we’ve gone on to become close friends. She’s even been dragged into a lot of the horror podcast series I do, haha.

It sounds like you had a great experience working with the cast and crew. Was there anything you learned from making this film about what you may want to do differently or change with your next project?

Oh so many things. I mean, just the endurance on a feature is something that I wasn’t used to. Particularly, since we were shooting at 11,000 feet with thin air and down to -12 Fahrenheit cold.

But the main thing I think I learnt is to spend a bit more money up front to hire a few more key people to save money and time later. We were stupid and didn’t hire, for instance, a post-production coordinator. That was a terrible idea. We spent far more money on fixing that caused than it would have to hire one.

The film has strong use of music and soundtrack. Tell us a bit about the use of music in the film and the choices you made.

Well, I went to film school but I then moved into the music industry for many years. When I write a script, I create a playlist that the character would listen to and use it on a loop. With Starfish, those songs quite literally became an integral part of the story. But I do normally send producers my scripts with songs as well, in the hope they’ll listen to them in the right scenes.

The songs are just a collection of some of my favourite songs of all time, many were tracks that my friend and I would send to each other, and they all were carefully picked to balance the melancholic score, as well as to add the right lyrical clarity to certain moments (since the film is so quiet, it falls to the music to paint some of that landscape) as well as to act as a metaphor for the 7 stages of grief.

I wrote the score in 3 days, recorded in 3 days and then mixed in 2 days in a final rush to finish the film, because I’d been putting it off for so long.

Clearly music inspires you, as it does so many of us here at Rock on Philly. What else was an inspiration for Starfish?

Silent Hill 1 & 2 (the video games not the movies) were an inspiration for the creatures and the creatures relevance as metaphors for the main characters journey.

Lots of conscious and subconscious movies. I tend to nod to many, many things (even the characters names are nods), but I try not to be too influenced – on purpose, at least. As I only really want to make something if I feel it doesn’t already exist. If it’s already out there then I can just happily consume that instead of making it.

So, you’re coming to Philly this month. Have you ever been here before?

Weirdly, I have not! Well, I’ve passed through on a train. I’ve spent so much of the past 7 years just driving back and forth across America (I go from LA to NY about 3-5 times a year) and I love exploring all of the states, but I’ve never spent proper time in Philadelphia itself.

Any spots you’re planning to hit, besides the screening event that is?

Sadly, the Roadshow is keeping me exhausted and busy. So, I have a 6 hour drive from Boston to Philly and to do the screening that day and then I have an 8 hour drive the next morning. But, I’m really excited to get to hang out a bit with Justin and Liam. I think they’re arranging a bit of a hangout time as well. They’re both amazing guys and I love them.

The event is being put on Cinepunx and Horror Business. You were a guest on a recent episode of Horror Business with Justin and Liam. It seems you guys must have hit it off pretty well. What about those guys made you wanna work with them on this screening? How’d it all come about?

So, I met them both at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival last year when Starfish played. We hung out a little bit prior to the film and then afterwards – Justin was so kind about the film. We stayed in touch and chatted online.

Then they did a truly lovely feature on the film a couple of times on their podcast and we kept talking about getting me on as a guest. I love to chat movies with interesting, passionate people. So we did that episode and I didn’t even know they were trying to arrange this special screening with our sales agents Yellow Veil at the time!

So I was actually completely out of the loop. I was just told one day. And I’m so grateful to them for their support.

Awesome, so the screening is Monday night. Besides an awesome sci-fi/horror film with unique structure and an intimate feel, what should folks expect if they come out?

I think they should expect a really intimate Q&A, as I love to just talk honestly about things. And the weirder the questions, the better (I really want to talk more Endgame, so expect that being shoved into the conversation).

As for the movie, I don’t know. It’s a very personal movie for me. I didn’t expect to ever be lucky enough to actually film it and then to be doing this now, presenting it to the lovely public kind enough to come out and try it.

It’s certainly not a film that’s for everyone. But for me, they’re the kind of films I like. People have been really lovely so far, but I keep saying – if it doesn’t resonate with you then please don’t let that stop you from supporting indie films.

It’s so, so hard for indie films to get screenings. So when they do, it’s really important that you support that.

It doesn’t mean you’re going to love everything you see. But when you find something that resonates, it’ll hit you hard and it’ll only have been given that possibility because people like yourself kept coming to support indie cinema.

Sounds like it will be a great experience. Before we wrap up, tell the readers where they can find more about your film tour, the film, and what you’re up to in the future.

Please do follow the film on all social medias. You can link directly to everything at www.StarfishMixtape.com

And you can follow me and my personal journey with the film on Twitter and Instagram. I’m @MrAlWhite (and I’m also that on Xbox if you want to play some Friday the 13th or Apex with me).

Check out the full theatrical listing if you’re looking to catch this one from somewhere out of town and stay tuned to a wider home video and VOD release in the coming months.

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