Movies & TV / Columns

Dominik Starck Talks w/411 About His New Film The Hitman Agency

June 6, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Hitman Agency

The 411 Interview: Dominik Starck


Dominik Starck is an actor, writer, producer, and director from Germany who has been involved in the movie business since 2012. Starck’s latest movie is his directorial debut The Hitman Agency, which is currently available on Amazon (watch it here). In this interview, Starck talks with this writer about making The Hitman Agency, his career in the movie business, and more.



Bryan Kristopowitz: Why did you want The Hitman Agency your first effort as a director?

Dominik Starck: I was late to the party to make my first feature film as a writer/director, at least that’s what it felt like to me growing up with guys like Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith making their remarkable, showbiz changing debuts early in their twenties. When I eventually had the chance to put a foot in the door as a writer I really pushed myself to work towards my first directorial effort. After working for a month on the action movie Atomic Eden, where I learned a lot, I simply made the decision to go for it, even though I had no idea with what at that time. I had a lot of cool concepts in my drawer but faced with the reality of a low budget production in a small town in Germany I had to look for something that was doable. So medieval epics went back into that drawer and I started from scratch.

BK: How did you come up with the idea for The Hitman Agency?

DS: As an audience member I love character actors and I’m not happy that they mostly don’t get enough to do. They don’t carry the story but support the hero’s journey or stand in his or her way. I actually donated to a crowdfunding campaign for the mockumentary Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen starring character actor Tim Thomerson as character actor Tim who is grumpy about the fact that there’re few good roles for men his age- and those seem all to go to his buddy Lance Henriksen. Fast forward about one year and I was involved in a movie with Henriksen in a supporting role, followed by another Henriksen-feature that eventually fell apart. After that I put pen to paper searching for the answer on what would I love to see in a confrontation from experience versus youth. Two assassins, a chair and a room; that was my set-up. From there it was exploring the world of those characters that came to life during the process.

BK: Where was The Hitman Agency filmed? Is the basement set an actual basement?

DS: Yes, that was an actual basement in a house that we took over for about a week. The owners were about to redecorate the house and I begged them to wait a moment because it actually was way harder than I thought to find a basement room that would fit all the production needs. With a bit of set dressing and lighting we finally found our home for the first block of shooting days. I wanted to shoot as much as possible in and around the small town I live in but we ended up going to far more locations all over Hesse in the middle of Germany. For the intro sequence I was looking for a nice mansion and couldn’t find a good one. One day our fight choreographer Thomas Kock asked why I was making such a long face and I explained that I just checked another mansion that didn’t fit. It was too small. And he was like “How about a castle? Would that be big enough?” Needless to say, it ended up in the movie.

BK: How long did it take to make The Hitman Agency, from completing the script to finishing post-production?

DS: Post-production was a true killer due to many reasons. My editor was in LA, I was in Germany, different time zones, life kicked in, new jobs came along, so that took very long. The script was written comparatively fast and went into pre-production with my producing partner Jens Nier while it still was in translation. I came up with the concept in July and we started shooting in October. About 20 days of principal photography in three blocks so we were wrapped in the middle of December.

BK: Was the flashback structure of the story always something that you intended to do with the movie, or is it something you figured out was worth doing later on in the process?

DS: As soon as I knew the story would leave the basement and dive deeper in the old assassins past it was clear I’d do it in flashbacks woven into the dramaturgy of the movie. Every bit of flashback was supposed to give new hints and reveals or at least context on the lies and double-crosses in the present day story. I’m a big fan of the Highlander franchise so revealing the story with parallel storytelling in two different decades is something that’s injected in my DNA as a storyteller.

BK: Did you always intend to play the “Young Joseph” character? How did Erik Hansen, who plays the older Joseph, inform your performance?

DS: That decision was made very late in the casting process, while we were already shooting. I hoped to find another actor for the role and planned to play a minor part in the picture, but casting took very long, and I couldn’t find the right guy so at some point time was running out and I decided to play the role myself. Not because I was the best choice but I was the one actor that I could afford and exploit, that wouldn’t complain and would be available for additional scenes and stuff like that at any time. The romantic part of indie film!

Erik Hansen is a force of nature. He was cast only a few days before we started shooting because the actor that was supposed to play the older Joseph for a long time couldn’t make it at the eleventh hour. It was tempting to infuse young Joe with some Erik Hansen, but young Joe was almost a completely other person. Over 30 years and some horrible stuff happened between the scenes with me and the ones with Erik so I worked more on the emotional, unstable part than on the cool one. That said, we shot most of Erik’s scenes before mine. When I decided to do it and to find another angle that was a hard fight because I was watching Erik do his magic for days. It was mostly the writer-me reacting to Erik’s version of the role. He suggested the line “I’m just an old hippie.” I liked that a lot and incorporated that into the flashback sequence that we shot a month later when Joseph gets called a hippie by his significant one.

BK: What was the most difficult part of making The Hitman Agency?

DS: Obviously the two arch nemesis of indie films, time and money, led to some problems along the way. Post-production took very long for that reason. I had to call in a ton of favors, my editor was working from LA and I from Germany, life and other jobs came in the way and to keep up the passion over a very long time is hard. Shooting the movie was challenging, too, working in another language, battling time and budget repeatedly. After the first day of shooting I wasn’t sure if I could return for a second day. What was I thinking? But, to be honest, probably the singular most difficult part personally was letting go, especially because it took a while to finish the movie. I realized at some point that I would continue to work on the movie for another year to optimize. At some point I was almost forced to finish and say, “It is what it is.” It felt like having a kid that moves out of the house. You know it’s right but somehow you can’t jump for joy because there’s so much more you could do.


BK: How did Don “The Dragon” Wilson get involved in the movie?

DS: I thought about shooting a special appearance with a known actor and specifically wrote a scene for that occasion. That one was never shot, though. Don came to Germany basically at exactly the right time and he kindly agreed to be in the movie. Due to the challenging circumstances of the shoot I basically came up with a new sequence in less than 48 hours and we just did it. Don was really a pleasure to work with. We only had a very small time window for this and when it seemed we couldn’t make our day Don made sure we still got everything we needed. Just a nice guy and I also think his performance turns out to be very entertaining.

BK: How did you get involved in the movie business?

DS: I always wanted to make movies but growing up in a small town in the middle of Germany making movies isn’t a career choice that is available to you, so I listened to my family and studied a “real job” but the movies never let me go. I wrote short stories, plays, movie exposés and became a film journalist as a hobby. Finally, I started to take that more serious and that decision led me to the set of that Lance Henriksen slasher. I met the producer, we got along well and when I got the opportunity to work on his next projects I took the chance to jump into the trenches.


BK: What was it like working with Lorenzo Lamas and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson on Atomic Eden?

DS: Very surreal at first. “The Hammer” is a legend and if you would’ve told me in the late 90’s while I was watching From Dusk Till Dawn that I would spend a few weeks with him on the set of an action movie I would have thought “You’re nuts.” But aside from that Fred really is this presence that you’d expect and I had great fun working with him. Lorenzo Lamas really took me by surprise. I was familiar with some of his work and even suggested him to the director but when we met him and he started to perform I was blown away. There was so much energy coming from him, everybody in the room felt it.

BK: Who are your movie making heroes?

DS: That’s as tough to tell your favorite movie! There’re so many and it’s an ever-growing list. The 90’s indie film game changers Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino for sure. I’m also a huge fan of Michael Mann, Ridley Scott, David Mamet and horror masters like John Carpenter. Among the ones that sadly are no longer with us there’re Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Peckinpah, John Frankenheimer and George A. Romero whom I had the chance to meet and spend some time with. In recent years of indie filmmaking I really enjoy the works of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, S. Craig Zahler, Joe Lynch and Adam Green. There’re so many great talents in the indie-world and it’s also fascinating to see how they’re able to shake things up given the opportunity to tackle a bigger project like Taika Waititi, Joss Whedon or James Gunn.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

DS: I can’t go into too much detail yet, but I’m working very hard on a new feature film that I’m really excited about. A female driven genre-mix and genre-bender that I’m sure will blow the audience away. I’ve been thinking about that project for a while and now seems to be the perfect time for an unlikely strong female character in the most bizarre situation. There will be action, there will be tension and there will be cool fun for sure. Aside from that, I just helped a bit with producing the new movie from German martial arts legend Mike Möller; Jack Walker. That action comedy will feature some new stunning fight choreography by Möller. Can’t wait to show you more. There’s also a unique horror movie that I’m involved in as a writer / producer that’s supposed to go into production early 2019.

BK: What would a The Hitman Agency 2 look like? Would Don “The Dragon” Wilson return?

DS: I’d love to work with Don again whether on The Hitman Agency 2 or on something completely new. I’d really love to push him a bit more outside the comfort zone and explore new facets of him. There are ideas of how to further explore the universe of The Hitman Agency. It’s not an unlikely scenario in the days of a constantly growing John Wick universe. We even shot an alternate ending that hinted at a sequel, but we cut that. One thing’s for sure; the sequel would look completely different. I’m a big fan of sequels that go another way like Aliens to Alien or The Devil’s Rejects to House of a Thousand Corpses. If there’s a big enough audience for my labor of love that’s made more with blood, sweat and tears than a budget, then the sky’s the limit. So, I hope people seek it out on and give it a shot.


A very special thanks to Dominik Starck for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for helping set it up.

Watch The Hitman Agency here.

Check out The Hitman Agency Facebook page here

Check out my review of The Hitman Agency here.

Check out Dominik Starck’s Facebook page here and Twitter page here

Atomic Eden image from All other images courtesy of Dominik Starck.