Jim Mickle Interview
Jim Mickle Interview
Jim Mickle has spent many years working in the film industry behind the scenes in the camera and electrical departments. Having written and directed the short film The Underdogs back in 2002, he made a name for himself as one to watch with the zombie horror Mulberry Street in 2006. Back with a new take on the vampire flick, Jim Mickle spoke about his interest in the horror genre and his decisions to make much of Stake Land dialogue free.

Stake Land is your second collaboration with co-writer and actor Nick Damici, with whom you co-wrote the acclaimed rat-zombie film Mullberry Street. How and why did you and Nick ultimately decide to collaborate for the second time on Stake Land?

Jim Mickle

Nick and I have been friends for almost 10 years, and there's a certain creative energy that kicks in once we dig into an idea and get rolling. It's creates a synergy that really defines both films and their personalities. As a writer he has an amazing way with giving things a heavy, iconic feel, but always with a heart. The fact that we're from two different generations means there's decades of influences that get stirred into these stories. As an actor he's a lot of fun to work with because he gets so involved. For Stake Land he made his own costume, carved his own weapons, and slept in a tent for the whole shoot. A lot of creating the Mister character for me was just observing how he was off the set. It's a wonderful experience to make films with friends.
For Stake Land he made his own costume, carved his own weapons, and slept in a tent for the whole shoot...
Stake Land marks Kelly McGillis’ return to the big screen after almost a decade and also a significant feature film role for Connor Paolo. Can you talk a little bit about your decision to cast Kelly and Connor and their subsequent contributions to the film.

Jim Mickle

Kelly McGillis was great. We had limited time to cast that part, and I remember thinking she was too much of a longshot, and had no reason to return to the big screen on an independent horror film. Fortunately she follows her own beats and instincts and doesn't seem concerned with doing what others expect. Once she joined the film, we knew we were doing something special.

The casting director Sig de Miguel lobbied endlessly to make Connor Paolo "Martin." I was lucky to find out that the reality is Connor is one of the most gifted actors of his generation. On top of that he adds a focus and dedication that can be startling at times. Many of the best moments in the film came from his ideas and his insane knowledge of his own character arc, and when someone like that is the lead, it makes the director's job a lot easier. I wanted to follow these characters like we had stumbled across them in the wild and decided to do a travelogue with them, so through spending a lot of time together, Nick and Connor became Mister and Martin before we even shot.
The film obviously owes a lot to the vampire and zombie movie genres as well as apocalyptic movies but there are also a lot of similarities between Stake Land and classical westerns. Was it a conscious decision to make a film that looks and feels like a western?

Jim Mickle

Very much so. Nick and I adore the western genre, and part of Stake Land comes from the fact that it's difficult to pull off a pure western these days. We obviously are fans of apocalyptic stories, and found that the two genres fit and complement each other quite well. The idea was to play the future not as a high tech sci-fi vision, but as a look back to the depression and even to the pioneer days as the landscape gets bleaker and more unforgiving. From the cinematography and production design to the costumes, we tried to imagine the film as a depression era world.

Mulberry Street and Stake Land are both cautionary fables in their own ways, and the apocalyptic setting allows for social commentary without being too literal. With multiple wars, economic disasters, and environmental catastrophes happening all the time, it's hard to ignore it all when you tell a story these days.
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Content updated: 20/07/2019 09:10

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