Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
Senior Project submitted to The Division of Arts of Bard College.
Coin Stars is a film about users. It is about users of drugs, but more importantly it is about users of people. In all relationships, there is give and take, sacrifice and gain. People manipulate, deceive, and exploit those around them. Sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it is not. When love is involved, this idea only becomes more convoluted, more tangled in emotion.
The film follows Willy and Alice: two drug addicts from opposite ends of the social spectrum. United in the need to score and get high, their relationship begins to fracture over the course of 24 hours in New York City. Willy, played by Ben Irving, is a spoilt rich boy trying to rebel against his privileged upbringing. This manifests in Willy’s desire to burn out, to be just another sad case of addiction and self-loathing. Alice, played by Eloisa Santos, is a street tough girl trying to get out of old habits and better her situation. Alice is willing to make decisions that might make her question the reflection she sees in the mirror. She is a survivor for better or worse. Together, the two represent how the scourge of addiction can join even the most disparate of human beings, and how those human beings can abuse and cheat one another.
Drugs are omnipresent in today’s society and culture. Nearly everyone is getting high on one thing or another. Growing up in New York City, this is something I witnessed everyday. What starts out as innocent can end up being fatal. I have walked this line and have had friends who have crossed it. With the growth of the opioid crisis and the prevalence of fentanyl, one is truly playing with death when using hard drugs. It’s a game of Russian roulette at this point, but people are willing to play and always will be. People will always find ways to get high. To forget things or remember things, it does not matter. Addicts try to change the way the world feels around them by using chemicals. Drugs are escapism, and everyone is trying to escape something. But as Willy and Alice find out, escapism is just another trap.
In terms of actual production, it was important to me that Coin Stars was shot in the real streets of New York City. Willy and Alice make their way across some of the busiest sections of Manhattan. From Union Square to Port Authority, every person in every frame is a real New Yorker on their own life’s journey. Reality must seep into every shot. There should be no extras; streets should not be shut down for production. For it is in these streets that life occurs, that people brush shoulders with strangers, and the chaos of this world exists. Through this commotion, Willy and Alice traverse with time running out. For every addict endures a different sense of time than the rest of us. There is the high, but then there is all the rest. The hustling, the jostling, the pushing, and then the waiting, always waiting for the next fix.
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Standen, Damian James, "COIN STARS" (2019). Senior Projects Spring 2019. 272.
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