The Movie Waffler Interview - WE ALL THINK WE’RE SPECIAL Director Kirby Voss | The Movie Waffler

Interview - WE ALL THINK WE’RE SPECIAL Director Kirby Voss

We All think We're Special
Kirby Voss discusses his detox themed horror.

In We All think We're Special, a night of reckless drinking compels a car mechanic to forcibly detox his best friend -- whatever the cost. Director Kirby Voss explains how Bergman, alcoholism, and experienced addiction inspired the film.

We All think We're Special


Is this the type of film you enjoyed growing up? Was that part of the appeal in doing it?

Not at all! My favourite film is Dr. Strangelove, a brilliant comedy, and to this day I usually find myself drawn to lighter films. I make these films to purge my soul, but I have no need or real interest in watching the purgation of others' souls!


Where did the idea come from?

Each of my films has a “book counterpart,” or a book that inspired me to make the film. For my first film, The Pain of the People, I was inspired by 'A Language Older Than Words' by Derrick Jensen. Love Me True was inspired by 'The Brothers Karamazov', and this film was inspired by 'Infinite Jest' by David Foster Wallace.

I have no personal experience with alcoholism. But I understand insatiable craving on a fundamental level. A reckless compulsion to quit well-paying jobs and move to China, simply to continue making and teaching film. A complete and utter disregard for anything that doesn’t contribute to the creation of this core communal vision. I realised I was addicted to the process of creation, and this fascination with film had impacted every aspect of my life. As I taught cinematography at a university in China, far away from the people I love so that I could do what I love, the concept of the film was gestating.

And then I watched Bergman’s masterpiece Persona and I was struck by the realisation that filmmaking isn’t my only addiction; addiction can also be to a person.

I delved into research. Alcoholism had clear narrative potential. I read scores of books on the subject; I needed to understand. The Amazon algorithm has suggested just about every 12-step and recovery book in the world. I saw as many documentaries and narrative features as I could find. I read memoirs and blogs. I threw myself into the heart of addiction, and I saw myself staring back. The movie was born.

Stylistically, I feel that WATWS has a serious debt of inspiration to Requiem for a Dream, although I haven’t seen that film in over two years, as I didn’t want to copy from it deliberately. Stylistically, I feel that I owe much more to Danny Boyle, specifically what he did in 127 Hours. (FWIW, I think he’s the most visually interesting director working today.) Our colour choices were made in close collaboration with our brilliant colourist Bradley Greer, though we were fortified in our decisions watching Russian master Tarkovsky do similar things in most of his later works.

In terms of editing, I owe the largest debt of gratitude to Sergei Paradjanov, a Soviet Bloc director who has been mostly forgotten but who revolutionised film editing as much as Eisenstein or Godard. Of course, it helps that our editor, Eva Morgan, is a genius.


What gives the film its scares, do you think?

If you or a loved one has lived with or experienced addiction, then I think the terror comes from the realism of the film.


Do scares happen organically, on the set, or are they generally written into the script?

It’s gotta be both, almost always. Scares come from an emotional connection to the events and the characters, which is by definition created through both the scenario of the script and the ability of the production team and the actors to make that scenario come alive.


Sound, I’m guessing, is quite important to a film like this?

It’s the most important part of every independent film. We were big on capturing excessive diegetic sound on set, and we spent a long time in the mixing booth coming up with the right distortions for our montages and such.


I have to ask, was this one envisioned as a standalone or franchise starter. Guessing it could be both…?



Any advice for the budding filmmakers out there?

It’s trite and commonplace to say “Make your own films; the best way to learn is to do,” and this is correct. However, I’m also big on emphasising the other side of that coin: watch a lot of films. And not just American films or recent films. If you haven’t utilised Criterion Channel to give yourself a Master’s in world and classic cinema, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Watch every film in Roger Ebert’s “The Great Movies” book series (and read the essays!). Delve into Scorsese’s World Cinema Project. Find obscure cinema. I couldn’t be making the films I make without not only the “big ones” like Bergman and Kurosawa and Tarkovsky, but also directors like Paradjanov and RW Fassbinder and Mambéty and Ozu. Explore world cinema. 


And do you consider horror films, or genre film, a good entrance in?

Any film is a good entrance in if it’s well-made!


Are they easy to sell? Or easier…?

In general, yep!


Have you found more and more distributors are looking for content this year, considering there weren’t as many films in production last year?

Certainly more of them took my calls, but they also seem to be more picky. It’s always a mixed bag.


Do you suggest they attend markets and so on, to network?

Not really. It couldn’t hurt, but the money is better spent working on your own films. That’s the calling card you need. Network with your peers; don’t worry so much about networking up.


Have you another film in the works yet?

I do!


To learn more about the technical production of the film, please visit:


We All think We're Special is out now on Amazon Prime in the US. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.