Moving onwards and upwards is a key ingredient in achieving our highest potential, and oftentimes, is a vastly suitable method of transfiguration for any successful modern-day pioneer. After successfully channeling complex characters through the art of acting, the marvelous Niki Koss felt it to be only fitting that she expand the wealth of her talents, and knowledge, through similar industry outlets, leading her to unleash untapped capabilities. Now, Niki can be seen presenting her various talents through her latest projects, those of which include starring in the newly released thriller Dreamcatcher, while simultaneously directing the upcoming film, Night, Night. In this exclusive interview, Niki discusses where she draws inspiration from when directing, how her teenage-years impacted her infatuation with the arts, and advice she has for her younger self.
Megan Morgante: You’re a multi-talented actress, director, and filmmaker. Did anything/anyone, in particular, inspire you to enter the multifaceted world of entertainment?
Niki Koss: I've always been a really creative person and I go into these funks when I'm not able to unleash my creativity in some form or another. Naturally being an actor only means you're able to work/audition so much, so the next logical step felt like getting behind the camera. I started doing it just for fun, but I quickly fell madly in love with wearing every hat that I could fit on my head.
MM: Can you give an overview of your past in the entertainment industry and how it led you to where you are now?
NK: I started acting during my senior year of high school. About a year after that, my friend and I created a web series where I directed every episode. At the time, I directed it out of necessity because I was the only one with set experience, but, as I said, I fell hard and fast. Soon after, I began directing whatever I could get my hands on, accompanied by the occasional writing and producing roles. When I was filming Famous In Love, I learned about shadowing, which only expanded my knowledge and my passion that much more. I suppose, the rest was history.
MM: Your newly released film, Dreamcatcher, has officially premiered… congratulations! Can you give an overview of the film?
NK: Thank you! It's a really fun, sexy slasher thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. My character [Pierce] and her friends go to a rave one night, which quickly turns into an evening filled with violence and mayhem. I'm really excited for the world to see this film, it's a lot of fun.
MM: What was your experience like filming this project and working with the cast?
NK: This was an incredibly fun project to shoot. The cast got along in a way that really only happens every once in a blue moon. We all had this really amazing, special connection. It was tough at certain times, but it was mostly just a blast.
MM: You also directed the upcoming film Night, Night starring Brenna D'Amico. What drew you to pursue this project?
NK: A dear friend of mine, Robert Johnson, who is the chief-of-police of a small town in Texas, reached out to me with the script that he wrote. I was immediately drawn to the concept and was dying to work with Robert. It wasn't long before we were workshopping the script together and raising the funds to shoot. I also really loved the idea of the film centering around a very strong woman who is physically helpless in a really scary, dangerous situation. It's a feeling all women are all too familiar with, but, amplified uniquely and innovatively.
MM: Where did you draw inspiration from when directing this project?
NK: I watched a psychological thriller almost every day for the months leading up to shooting. Some standouts that I definitely drew inspiration from were Heathers and The Shining. Although Heathers isn't necessarily a psychological thriller, I loved the juxtaposition of such a rich, colorful aesthetic, coupled with an incredibly dark world and scenario.
MM: As a director, is there anything, in particular, you look for when reading new scripts?
NK: I really just want to get sucked into the story. And that has to happen within the first ten to fifteen pages max, or else, I lose interest.
MM: You were also recently named to Forbes 30 under 30 list… congratulations! How does it feel to be included in such a prestigious lineup of incredibly talented individuals?
NK: I'm honestly still so shook! I am so honored and blessed to be a part of such an incredible group. One thing I didn't realize when I applied for 30 Under 30 was how close-knit the listers get. It's become such a special, intimate community; we're like a little family!
MM: The roles of an actress and director are obviously very different. Which position do you feel you have more creative freedom in?
NK: Definitely directing. When working on a film, everyone is essentially tasked with bringing the director's vision to life; even the actors. I love both positions, but I am very drawn to the creative freedom aspect of directing. There's nothing more magical, in my opinion, than watching your vision come to life behind that monitor.
MM: Do you have any new or upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?
NK: Night Night and Dreamcatcher are both coming out this year, which I'm super excited about. I also recently produced a music video for Sasha Calle, which is going to be really special once it's released. Hopefully, that will be out in the next month or so. I'm currently working on developing a few really great projects through my production company, which I, unfortunately, can't say much about at the moment, other than how excited I am about them.
MM: Have you ever experienced any notable challenges throughout your career?
NK: This is a really tough business. I always tell people not to enter this industry unless they feel that there is literally no other option for them. Being an actor is particularly hard, because you have such little control over your career and your success. It's rewarding as hell, but the journey is no easy feat.
MM: What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
NK: I'd say directing my first feature by the time I turned twenty-five. I really wanted to get a feature under my belt on that timeline and worked my as* off to make it happen. I'm really proud of what we created with Night, Night.
MM: Do you have any hobbies you enjoy partaking in when you’re not working?
NK: I love eating and cooking. Food is definitely one of my greatest joys in life, hands down. I also love to travel, play tennis, go on walks, watch movies, and host parties (pre-Covid, of course).
MM: If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
NK: Balance is essential. Success is important, but not the end all be all. It's ok to take a break to take the pressure off.
MM: What would you say your personal style is like?
NK: I wear all black pretty much every day. It's kind of my uniform.
MM: Who is your ultimate style icon?
NK: Victoria Beckham.
Photography by Megan Morgante