No 1.Hi mike,can you tell me about your new movies DUAL and Devil on the mountin?
Well, DUAL and Devil are two very different movies. In concept and execution.
I had the idea of Dual in my head for a few years. It was a very dark exploration into a man's mind set in the late 1800s. A psychological thriller. I almost just sold the script to a company in Europe to get it done. They were going to get this star name and add explosions and fights that were above the scope of the film and I ended up holding on to it. I thought it was one of those films that should almost be done as inexpensively as possible to keep the film focused on the simple things like the story and not caught up in the "flash". So, I actually raised the money myself and we went out to Arizona and shot it in less than two weeks. It has become one of the films I am most proud of.
DEVIL ON THE MOUNTAIN on the other hand was a "studio assignment" all the way. A company working with the Sci Fi channel wanted to do a follow up "Bigfoot" film to something they had done before but wanted a little more action in it. The came to me, knowing I was a writer as well, and asked me to put something together that I could star in with Lance Henriksen. I was open to it as long as I could make it as much about the characters as the monster. They agreed and so I signed on. It was a very different experience from DUAL in that it was a movie by committee once again where many people are involved in the creation of it. Three times the crew and cast of Dual. But it was a great cast that had Lance, Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever), Tim Thomerson, Craig Wasson, Karen Kim and Rance Howard. It should be out sometime mid 2006.
No 2.How did ghost rock do? and are you still going to make a sequel to it?
Ghost Rock was interesting. The script to the film was one of the most important and personal ones I had ever done. Ultimately the producers/distributors chopped the film up and what remained was only a portion of the story but it still was a big success for them. But I was not as happy with the final product. To sort of prove my point, I took a cut of the film that was 30 minutes longer, much closer to my script, that included much of the missing drama and story points (as well as all of Michiko Nishiwaki's scenes) and entered into The Fargo Film Festival and it won Best Independent film! So in the end I had some redemption.
But it's success did spawn an interest in a sequel and I have already written it and feel it tops the first in all ways. It's called The Cowboy Killers. Where the first dealt with the Chinese martial arts in the West, the sequel deals more with the Japanese arts, ALA the samurai, in a western setting. It has a lot of action and am negotiating the film now and if all goes well should have a very impressive cast.
No 3.I hear that you are planning to make a movie about boxing? what gave you this idea and who are you casting for it?Will it be like rocky?
This is something that we will probably start shooting early 2006. The film does have elements of Rocky and Million Dollar Baby in that boxing is the background of the story but it is mainly a drama. I am very happy with the script as it follows several characters connected to a boxing gym and what they have to go through to become "champions" in one way or another in their own lives. There will of course be some great boxing sequences.
No 4.Whats your view on idependent film making at the moment? is it doing well?
I have ventured more into this area in the past few years. Lately the freedom of stepping outside of the system has granted me opportunities as an artist I have not had before. I have turned away some nice lucrative offers to at times do projects that would barely cover my mortgage because I had more respect for the personal freedom of the smaller project. With the inclusion of high end video cameras becoming more affordable to filmmakers, we are getting a HUGE flow of new films. Of course, this will also probably have the opposite effect as since almost anyone with an idea can make a film, many "bad" films will spill into the market and the identification of "independent" and "amateur" may become it's own downfall. But, that may be the price to pay to get a hold of a few gems.
No 5.Alot of independent movies are better than A-movies, but they are just not getting the shown to the audiences, why is this happening?
This is true and mainly because most people making films for the first time don't realize that making the film is only half the fight. Finding someone to market it appropriately, or at all, is another battle. Lately, even the independent film's are now requiring "name" actors to get interest from a buyer. Many big stars are doing these small films more frequently and as a result, the kind of films that could have starred your older brother and the neighborhood butcher must also have a Streep or a Travolta to get seen. This is another trend we are starting to see.
No 6.Do you plan to work with isaac florentine again? as he's a cool director that knows how to shoot good action movies!
Isaac is a great friend. In fact, I just saw him the other night at the screening of Undisputed 2 starring another friend Michael White (the film is Isaac's best in my opinion and Michael does a fantastic job). He and I have discussed some things and I hope that within the year we can put something together. I have been thinking a lot about getting a group of guys like Michael, Bernhardt, Myself, etc., and doing a modern day Wild Bunch or Dirty Dozen. In fact, I have a script by someone that is being rewritten to follow that pattern and we'll see what happens.
No 7.With movie like tom yum goong, and sha po lang comming out of asai, do you think you could make a movie that could match these for action and fights?
Well, I think we always strive to not so much match fights or action sequences, but to do them one better and to make them more interesting. Not in a competitive sense, but in that when an audience sees something, you don't want to do less or even the same thing, but find another way to do it to make them go "hey, that was different".
Asia does have a head up in the action scenes in many ways as they tend to prioritize them. In America, many times you will get a day or two if your lucky to do your "epic" battle. Of course, on larger studio films you can get more, but there is nothing like the focus that gets placed on those sequences as in the East. I have yet to do a film where we have more than so many hours to do a great action sequence. US SEALS 2 was probably the most time I ever had to do a fight sequence and I think it shows. In Ghost Rock, Dan, Shane and I did our last fight scene in about 7 hours. Killing Cupid we had maybe 4! On Demon Hunter Mitch Gould and I had managed to get a little more time than usual to do the couple fight sequences in that, but usually America falls behind in terms of scheduling those things.
So, I do think as long as those involved want to make those sequences as impressive as possible, and we of course have the money to have that time, I am looking forward to doing a few films that can compete with those great films you mentioned. One of my goals is to step back in and do another full out action film this year. The last few films I have done were more drama or thriller oriented so am looking forward to getting a little crazy again.
No 8.Independent movies have come along way with good quality cameras and editing equipment like dv/hd what are the pros and cons working on such low budget movies? and can they be sucssful at the box office just like a movie made for say $50 million shot on 35mm film with lets say a good or bad cast???
Well, the truth is, a good film is a good film be it shot on film or video. Look at Collateral. Shot on HD and is a great movie. Pieces Of April, a well received drama, was shot on a digital camera, as was 28 Days Later. I think the mistake people make when they get a few dollars and a video camera for the week is that they don't have a good story. They may also lack in the technical skills to make the film look good. We shot DUAL on HD 24P and it is the best looking film I have ever done. But we had professionals behind the camera who knew what they were doing.
I was very apprehensive about the whole HD video thing until I did DUAL. Though I am a fan of film and will always shoot on it when it's appropriate, I now understand the advantage and beauty of HD and digital. They have just released the first consumer value HD cameras on the market under 100,000 so there are now more tools for the innovative filmmakers. So as long as you have a good project and capable actors and crew, it will not matter how the project was shot, video or film.
No 9.Mike, whats the key to a great fight? how do you shoot a fight thats intresting but diffrent, iv seen tony jaa and his team do it.
Like anything else in film, there are many ways to do it. I think if there is a key it's strive to be different. Be careful not to just repeat things you have seen. Think of the fight scenes that grabbed people's attention from Bruce Lee to Steven Seagal to Jackie Chan to Tony Jaa. They were all different. Bruce came on when the whole "swingy arm" basher type films were popular and blew everyone away. Seagal with his Aikido, same thing. Tony Jaa has his amazing gravity defying Muay Thai. So the most important thing is to treat your fights like you would your story. You wouldn't just go out and write a story that mimics another story you saw, would you? Same with fights. Look for something to surprise the audience.
As for shooting them, everyone has their own style. Isaac has his way and then Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy) has another. But both strive to find what enhances the impact of the sequence. The fight must be about the story and not just some compartmentalized sequence that seems like it's from some other film. And don't forget, fight scenes are not just a series of techniques strung together. There should be drama in the fight. An audience can bore quickly from just watching a martial arts demonstration. That is why the Rocky films were so memorable was because of the drama in the fight scene. I have a sort of Run Lola Run martial arts vehicle that I hope to make this year and is a lot of fight scenes that are all motivated by a strong story line.
No 10.You have made many independent films of late,whats your main goal with them? and what feed back have you had about them from viewers and companys?
As I said earlier, I have gotten more involved with the independent film for a couple reasons. One is the freedom from more "corporate" involvement and the other is it allows me to step out of just being the actor and to be more involved behind the camera. I took the job of Killing Cupid because it was an opportunity for me to direct something. It was the furthest from an ideal situation as there was no money and no time to do it. It wasn't a Reservoir Dogs situation where you have a couple million dollars and a few big stars. I had ten days to write it and 10 days to shoot it. But I was attracted to the freedom to fail and learn by stepping out of the box. And as a result, for all it's faults, I was nominated Best Director at the Action On Film Film Festival in 2005 and it has been an Official Selection at 5 film festivals.
Now, this is not just about getting accolades or pats on the back, but the festivals did help me return to the roots of why I am in this field. We all have done movies that just sort of unceremoniously show up on a video shelf and the distributors of Cupid were just as happy with that. But I felt I had taken a risk to play with "art of film" and wanted people to have an opportunity to see it, hate it or love it. It's like in martial arts, if you just keep sparring the same sparring partner over and over it gets easy and redundant. But then step in with some new guy, and no matter if you look bad or good against him, you are going to learn something. That is what I am trying to do with these smaller films. Learn to get better. And if I don't, maybe I will encourage someone else to. This is the road John Casavettes took back in the 60s and 70s and I hope to do it with a different generation and even in a different genre, like action films.
No 11.The early 90's was a great time for MA B-movies,will we see that again but with idependent films.As so many have been made in the past few years, good and bad.
Yes, I think so. This is in part to the influx of independent films but also the new interest in the B movies period. Partly due to Tarantino, no doubt. But even some of those MA B movies that could be pretty bad or formulaic at times, they were some that are really innovative but just never climbed out of the video hole. I think van Damme was probably the last guy to do a B movie and have it make it to the theaters. If he had hit the scene a year or two later, his films would have ended up only on the video shelves. But I think now, people are looking back a bit (as always happens) and we will probably see another surge of those type of action films. Acton will forever translate to every country.
No 12.You might be using bruce lee's brother in one of your movies? how did this idea come about? and what role will he be playing?
Well, I met Robert years ago and wanted to use him in Killing Cupid. But, that didn't work out so I have been toying around with the idea of using him in this other project I have coming up. I actually met with John Saxon not that long ago and thought how cool to get those guys in a movie together? Lee and Saxon together again!
No 13.Whats your opinion on wire work? is it harder to use in idependent movies? as with all the tech you can use some great CGI now very low budget.
Wire work is great. There are times where for my tastes it gets over used at times. It's all about where it's appropriate. If you are doing a fantasy film where wires help create the fantasy, that is great. But if you are trying to do a more realistic cop film or something, to have guys doing these over the top wire flips can sometimes take you out of the moment. I would prefer to use them ONLY when you cannot get the effect in real life.
On lower budgets it is harder as the expense and time of doing wire work does not always fit into those projects. But you are right with all the Final Cut Pro systems and programs like Shake and Maya being affordable to us mere mortal filmmakers, you can do some great stuff that only the studios could do before.
No 14.Is their any chance of seeing you hook up with gary daniels for a fight scene on your next movie?
Gary and I did a couple fights in my very first film, Final Impact. I really was not as put together as a film fighter back then so we didn't get much of a chance to do a really complex sequence. But I think Gary is a great guy and would love to work with him again. You never know, could happen soon.....
No 15.Iv seen a fantastic trailer for a independent german movie called KAMPFANSAGE.So it can be done with the right film makers, whats your view on this mike? does it take a team to really make a movie good on a very low budget?
You have to have a good team. It's hard enough to make a film as it is, but you really need a group of talented artists to make something special. Just don't forget STORY IS KEY. No matter how cool your shots are or how many neat tricks your new editing system can do, you need to get the audience involved in your film. That takes drama and conflict. Anyone who wants to make a movie I can't stress enough to learn the craft of writing. But, above all, go out and do it. Make some shorts. Shoot some scenes. Play around and learn your craft. Don't mortgage your house, but get out and do it. We tend to regret the things we didn't do more than the things we did, so don't let time slip by. If you want to make something, make it and learn. That is the way of the artist.
No 16.So have you got any more movies and scripts that you will be planning to make soon?
Well, I am finishing a script for Dolph Lundgren now. I am not sure if I will act in it or not, but he and I came up with a story that will probably be shot sometime in 2006. A return to the more simple action story line of the older Eastwood films. A straight ahead story where Dolph will not have to rely on wires or overly choreographed fights, but instead a really basic story about a man overcoming great odds in himself as well as around him. Dolph is like a modern day Eastwood who has that quiet energy about him. It's called Wanted Man and is set in Mexico.
I am also putting a final rewrite together for the boxing script and hope to have it done by this summer. Then as I mentioned I will be aiming towards doing another action oriented film that will just be there to entertain the hell out of people. In fact as I sit here thinking about it, makes me want to go out and punch my heavy bag!
Mike, thanks for talking with me again.All the best with the movies, and i hope to work with you soon.?
I hope so! About time we made a movie together, huh?