Jim Mickle Interview

Jim Mickle is the writer / director of STAKE LAND, the fantastic vampire film that was so awesome they quote Gorepress on the DVD cover!

Mickle is also responsible for Zombie Virus on Mulberry Street – a lovingly created rat-zombie horror flick that was surprisingly original. Having kicked out an original take on zombies, STAKE LAND focuses on a vampiric apocalypse that sweeps through America, destroying everything in it’s path.

Boston Haverhill had a chance to ask Jim a few questions about his masterpiece, and he comes across as friendly, honest and very professional. See below as he talks about werewolves, budgets and Chinese hopping vampires…

GOREPRESS: Hi Jim, hope all is going ace. Absolutely loved Stake Land – a truly amazing piece of filmmaking.

JIM MICKLE: Thanks dude!

GP: Where did the idea for Stake Land come from?

JM: Nick Damici and I were trying to follow up our first film “Mulberry Street”. At some point we decided to go back to the do-it-yourself filmmaking model, so we set our sights on making a web series, something that could air episodically online. Nick started sending me short 10 page scripts and the first one became the opening 10 minutes of STAKE LAND. From there, we stretched it out to many, many chapters of the Martin and Mister story. Once the chance to make a feature version came about, Nick collapsed all the stories down to one throughline. So it kind of became a feature film by accident.

GP: You managed to pull together a superb cast for Stake Land – how did that come about?

JM: We had fantastic casting directors, Sig DeMiguel and Steve Vincent. They’re both big genre fans, and really understand the low budget, indie world, especially on the East Coast. A lot of it came from meeting with actors. Not auditioning, but sitting with great performers and talking about the characters and their lives. It was more about trying to form a ragtag team of actors who had the right energy and the right philosophy about making films and telling stories. Everyone brought something very specific and very personal to the story and then we tried to build a lot of their characters around the actors organically. I was very lucky to have such a great cast from top to bottom.

GP: The journey of Michael Cerveris’s character Jebedia suggests that the vampires could be part of a spiritual apocalypse, spawned by God – what was your take on this?

JM: I wanted to keep that idea in there always. We tried to show both sides of faith and religion- the compassionate, loving, accepting side (through Sister) and the powerful, narow-minded, morally righteous take (through the Brotherhood). I’m sort of fascinated by how religion can be interpreted, and how fully people subscribe to their beliefs, no matter how crazy they might sound. So yes, for me the journey of Jebedia’s character should work as a literal, faith-based take on an unexplained event, but also have a little of the fable, morality-tale quality, so it’s up to the characters and the audience on how it should all be interpreted.

GP: What was the hardest part of making Stake Land?

JM: There was a lot of coordination that went into it, because it was so ambitious and had a big, diverse cast. It was spread out over two separate shoots with 3 months off in between, yet still with a very small budget. And it’s not usually how films get made, so we were kind of making our own rules as we went along. It’s hard to say it was difficult, because it’s also invigorating and inspiring and the stress gets addictive and creates its own momentum, but when I look back on it and how many people worked their asses off to make it all happen so smoothly, it kind of blows my mind.

GP: If you’d had a bigger budget, was there anything you would’ve done differently?

JM: I’m sure I would, but I can’t necessarily say that any of it would have been better. A lot of my favorite things from the movie are the little tricks you have to come up with when you don’t have much of a budget or when you have to move very quickly. It gives it all a personal, rough around the edges quality that makes independent films special. So, yes it would probably be a different film with a bigger budget, but I’ll always love this version for what it became.

GP: Were there any other “types” of vampire you wanted to include, but had to reject (for whatever reason)?

JM: There were a few different kinds from the webisodes that just didn’t fit into the feature version. Or different ones got folded into the different kinds you see onscreen (the Scamp and the Berserkers). We had a Chinatown chapter with a hopping vampire that moved by leaping around in basements. There were a few other kinds that I quite liked, and maybe they’ll all make it into future stories depending on how things go. I know know Nick wants to do flying vampires next time.

GP: What inspires you as a writer / director?

JM: Trying to do things differently. Both Stake Land and Mulberry Street start off in familiar sub-genres, but I fall in love with them when I connect personally and find a different way to treat the story, usually in the tone and the music, and finding other genres to mix into the pot so the results are unexpected. My sister production designed DRIVE and I had a great chance to talk to Nicolas Winding Refn on set once. His first advice was to make movies your own and to listen to your instincts so they become your own story that no one else can tell. His movie is a perfect example of that.

GP: Stake Land is about vampires and your previous work was the underrated zombie film Mulberry Street. Any intention of making a werewolf movie?!

JM: I’d love to. Ginger Snaps is one of my favorite movies, and I’d love to do a real, latex and animatronic take on a werewolf story someday. We haven’t had a great one in a long time.

GP: What’s next for Jim Mickle? Any chance of a Stake Land sequel?

JM: Hoping to shoot our new one in the spring. COLD IN JULY- an adaptation of the Joe Lansdale, country-noir novel. We’ve been working on that one for a while now. Also working on a new script with Nick that would be very fun to do. No plans for a sequel at the moment. I’d like to take a few steps back and see what kind of a life the first one takes on. So many things change in the world while you tell stories, so I think it would be fun to come back in a few years when we’ve all had a chance to evolve and go through some more of life.

GP: And finally, what is your favourite horror film of all time?

JM: John Carpenter’s THE THING. I freaking love that movie.

STAKE LAND is released on DVD today – go and buy it!

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