Interview with Kill Order director
by Bobby Blakey
There is no doubt that some of the hardest working people in Hollywood are the stunt crews. Without them we would not get the high octane excitement on the big screen that we all love. Stunt performer and coordinator James Mark has worked on some of the biggest films and TV shows in Hollywood including Resident Evil, Pacific Rim, Marco Polo and more. Now he is stepping behind the camera for his first directing outing with the film Kill Order that stars his brother Chris Mark and the 2X stunt team. I had the chance to sit down and speak to James about bringing this martial arts sci-fi flick to life like only they can.
Bobby: Where did the idea for Kill Order come from?
James: It originated with wanting to showcase the abilities of my brother Chris Mark and our martial arts stunt team 2X that is local in Toronto. We had a concept for a fight scene which turned into the class room fight scene and I started to build the narrative around that.
Bobby: As someone who has the background in stunts and this team at your disposal, do you approach creating a script differently than just generically writing it?
James: Originally I wrote a script in the more traditional format, but unfortunately the world, characters and story were too big to explore within our means so we decided to just scale back and focus on what we were best at which was the action for our first film. This just follows the character of David and is more of an introduction to his character so we just took the best moments and pieces that we liked and I structured the script around that. With that being said, we had many challenges during filming and a lot of things had to change so the end result isn’t exactly what we set out for in the beginning, but we are happy with the end product regardless.
Bobby: So when you shift to write like you mentioned do you write out the fight ideas themselves or do you just write it and then go develop the fight separately?
James: Usually I have some sort of set outline, but it changes a million times going through the creative process once we get into the gym and start choreographing.
Bobby: As someone from the world of stunts and stepping into the director’s seat does your mentality have to change for your approach with all the acting and emotional elements you now have to deal with as well?
James: There is a big learning curve and I would listen to my stunt coordinating voice more at times, but from the get go we knew what we wanted it to be in the end. It was really never meant to be a directorial debut kind of thing, just something we wanted to do because we thought it would be a great experience.
Bobby: The fights are great here, how long does it take on an average to shoot these types of intricate fight sequences?
James: The more intricate ones up to four to four and half days for one fight. The only reason we can do it in that period of time is because we pre-vis every fight. Every fight has already been shot and edited before we even go to set in our gym. We have a lot of wire work rigs and camera to set up but the team and I have such great synergy we can get through like 50 set ups in a day.
Bobby: I know with a lot of the smaller films you don’t get as much time to prep, but as you’ve mentioned you guys are already training together. How long did you have to put those fights together before shooting?
James: Not as much time as we would have liked obviously, but we do spend so much time together and have a vault in our minds of concepts and choreography so it was kind of easy to put things together using stuff we had come up with in the past we didn’t use or something else we evolved to better serve this film. Of course we would have loved to have more time and resources, but that helped us a lot.
Bobby: Now that you have officially directed a film is this something you are wanting to pursue or was this just one of those projects you wanted to get out of your system and have fun with?
James: I have taken a real liking to it and want to spend the next little while trying to transition into this role and finding my voice as a director. There was so much learning during making this film and want to focus more on my narrative ability that I haven’t spent as much time with.
Bobby: Is there anything you really wanted to do in the film that you weren’t able to pull off?
James: Yeah, we would have loved to be able to show off more of the abilities outside of just a one on one or two on one fight scene. That is where we worked the fastest though and was the most cost effective. We would have love to put in some much larger stunts that require more preparation. We had the one where he jumped off the bridge, but that was about it. It would have made the world and action a lot more interesting.
Bobby: Are there plans to come back and explore more of this world if this film is successful?
James: When we hashed out the script it was to make this film kind of act as a prequel to a film that dives a lot deeper into the world and characters that we all think is quite interesting and unique. We tried to keep it as generic as possible to keep things moving for the first film, but yes we would like to do the second one.
Bobby: The fighting is awesome and you and the team do some amazing fight work. I wish you all the luck with the film and look forward to seeing what else you guys come up with.
James: Thanks I appreciate it.
Grab your copy of Kill Order VOD, Digital HD, and DVD on February 6th from RLJE Films.