Interviews: James Mark - Stunt Coordinator and Director of Kill Order

Director James Mark talks to TMS about his latest film, Kill Order. 

TMS: You’ve done a lot of stunt work on tons films, including Pacific Rim, Kick Ass, and Repo Men. What’s it like for you transitioning from doing stunt work to directing?

JM: It’s definitely a big transition from being on camera to behind the camera, you know, it’s a completely different world and there’s a new learning curve. It’s a new endeavor. But I like constantly challenging myself and learning and evolving, I have a great interest in directing and building up myself as a film maker, so I’ve enjoyed everything so far. 

TMS: So, give me a little bit of history. How did you end up in the film industry, and how did you end up working on stunt coordination and what not?

JM: Originally I worked as a live stage performer for events, corporate events, we had a show doing martial arts and acrobatics. I belonged to a group at the time called Ryuko and I guess people had caught wind of our performances and the style of martial arts we were performing and we were asked to take part in various film productions as stunt performers. That’s when my career in stunts started. 

TMS: What kind of martial arts did you practice?

JM: For myself, personally, Tae Kwon Do and Karate. 

TMS: That’s awesome. I wish I had the patience and skill set for that. Someone I know owns their own Dojo and it takes such an amount of dedication to stick with that, so that’s pretty amazing. So, you wrote Kill Order yourself, correct?

JM: Yes.

TMS: Where did the idea for this movie come from?

JM: The idea of making a film originated from the notion of creating a feature length film that showcased Chris’ abilities, I think he’s an exceptional martial artist and I think he has a lot of potential as an actor, and also the abilities of our stunt team, so when coming up with the concept, that was kept in mind. We wanted to do something that was heavy on sci-fi and supernatural action, because I have a fascination with that and also Japanese Anime. So, I constructed a story and David is actually a very small part in it. And this film is supposed to act as an introduction to his character. We’re hoping we have the resources to create a larger film so we can explore the world and the characters and mythology even more. 

TMS: Do you have ideas for sequels for this?

JM: Yeah, the sequel was written, pretty much, around the same time as the prequel. The original film was a much bigger film, we just weren’t able to accomplish it with our limited budget, so we decided to just focus on David’s inner struggle and take a slightly unusual approach from a traditional narrative and leave it on a little bit of a cliffhanger in terms of the fact that you don’t know which way David will go, and explore the rest in the sequel. 

TMS: It’s pretty amazing because we have seen this thing lately where a lot of smaller Indie films are getting sequels, which is actually kind of cool. I’m a big proponent of indie films and we push a lot of indie stuff on our site. It’s nice to see those successes when they happen. What would you tell people about the story? What can you tell us about the movie without spoiling too much?

JM: It’s basically about a young boy who is in high school and he doesn’t have very much recollection of his past and one day, he has an outburst when he wakes up and that draws a group of SWAT professionals to track him down at his classroom and try to take him captive, and next thing you know, he has this sort of power take over him and he takes out the whole tactical team. The rest of the film is him trying to discover what happened to him in the past, and sort of come to terms with who he is and what’s inside of him. 

TMS: With your history, did you direct all the stunt sequences in this also?

JM: Yes, and during all the action sequences, I actually operated the cameras and did the camera work as well. 

TMS: That’s pretty awesome. Which would you say you enjoy more now? Directing or working on stunt sequences?

JM: I definitely enjoy directing and being involved in the creative for the stunt sequences. I want to develop my directing career and my directing abilities more so now, and I think that will be the path I’ll be taking from now on. 

TMS: It’s nice to expand and change and do different things.

JM: Yeah.

TMS: In a world that’s now centered on streaming movies and short content, YouTube, stuff like that, how hard was it for you to secure funding for this project? 

JM: It was extremely hard. It took many years. The entire film was funded through private equity investment, so finding someone that believes in you, or a group of people that believe in you and your vision when you’re a first time director with no cast is not an easy thing, but we managed to find them and we’re very fortunate that they believed in us and still believe in us to this day and we can continue working together in the future. 

TMS: Would you have any pointers for other people who are looking to do something like this? As far as producing an Indie feature and getting funding for something like that?

JM: I guess my biggest thing would be try and be realistic and work within your means, we were overly ambitious on this project and shot ourselves in the foot as a result, a number of times, even though the result is positive and the learning from those experiences was invaluable. But, I would say, being realistic is probably the best thing you can do. 

TMS: If you were to compare this movie to any other movie, which I know people don’t like to do that all the time, but if you could compare this to something else, what would you compare it to?

JM: I guess a mix between The Matrix and Bourne.

TMS: Two very good franchises, two of my favorites. 

JM: But not on that scale, obviously, in terms of production value, those are multi-million dollar pictures. 

TMS: Well, yeah. But,  I’m telling you, some of the smaller indie features, like I just watched Beyond Skyline, that had a lot of the guys from The Raid in it. I’m telling you what, they did that with such a limited budget and that movie looked awesome, and the stunts in that movie were awesome, too. Sometimes I think when you get a little more heart behind it, the stuff comes off better. I don’t think it’s always about budget. Being a child of the '80s myself, I kind of miss the old school Stallone, Schwarzenegger action flicks, the Charles Bronson stuff, you know, they were all about killing and guns. What were some of those old school movies that inspired you?

JM: I’ve always been a big Jackie Chan fan, I watch a lot of Jackie Chan films, and also maybe John Woo. I know it’s a different style of action, but those films always resonate with me. 

TMS: I’m a big Jackie Chan fan too, a bunch of our writers, actually, are into Jackie Chan hardcore. So, hard question, if you had a chance to remake an older action movie, what would it be?

JM: Oh, that’s a tough one. Dragon Ball.

TMS: Is there a reason for that?

JM: I’m a big Dragon Ball Z fan and I wasn’t happy with the film. I think there’s a lot of interesting components in Dragon Ball Z and I would remake that, if I could. 

TMS: I think they had Justin Chatwin play the main character and it was just weird. 

JM: Yeah, it was weird. I would select an Asian lead. 

TMS: How would you recast that role, if it were up to you?

JM: Who would I choose?

TMS: Yeah.

JM: An Asian actor, but, biasedly, I’d love to make that with Chris playing Gohan.

TMS: Being that you’re an independent director now, what do you think of the way we watch movies now, having the instant, On-Demand stuff versus always having to go to the theater? What are your thoughts on that?

JM: On-Demand is great, I’m still a big fan of going to the theater, though I don’t get as much opportunity to go as I’d like to. I think, certain films, you’ve got to watch them in the theater for the experience. There’s a lot that goes into filmmaking that gets lost when you watch On-Demand with regular computer stereo speakers. But, on the flipside, it’s presented younger filmmakers with means to create a voice for themselves to hopefully get to a bigger platform, like myself. If there wasn’t these kinds of platforms, Kill Order might never get seen. There’s good and bad with everything, and things are going to always evolve and change, so you’ve just got to embrace it. 

TMS: Last but not least, where will people be able to see Kill Order and when is the full release of the film?

JM: The release was February 6th, and it’s gonna be on VOD and DVD on Amazon and that kinda thing. 

TMS: Thanks, man, I appreciate it!