What to do when you're an experienced stuntman and fight coordinator with a vision and a lot of friends who are talented stunt performers?
Why, make a movie, of course.
And that's exactly what writer/director James Mark (Pacific Rim, Jumper, Dark Matter) did, bringing in his brother, Chris Mark (Suicide Squad), as the lead, along with the best stunt performers he knows to star in his new sci-fi martial arts film, Kill Order, which was released today, Feb. 6, on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD.
The film follows a quiet teenager named David who suffers from unexplained memories of a horrifying past. One day a group of armed men break into a high school classroom and go after the troubled teen. However, David discovers he can tap into unknown superhuman abilities as he fights off his attackers and goes on the run. With his life and the lives of his loved ones in jeopardy, David must master the use of his new fighting skills to find the people responsible and get his revenge.
Mark chatted exclusively with SYFY WIRE about his stunt-filled film Kill Order, about working with his brother, and about embracing new roles as a writer, director, and actor.
How did Kill Order come about?
James Mark: After a long history of working stunts, I have a local team of performers here, and I wanted to make a film that showcased their abilities, and also the abilities of our lead performer and my brother, Chris Mark. So the concept and the narrative was fulfilled with that in mind.
You wrote what ends up being a sci-fi-oriented martial arts film. Where did the idea come from?
I had an interesting idea for a fight scene that ended up being our classroom fight, and that's what triggered the concept. So then it was who was this guy and where did he come from? Why does he have these abilities? I started building it from there. The world actually became quite large. The story became a bit too large than we were capable of doing, so we scaled back quite a bit and decided just to focus on what we're best at: the action, and follow David's character and make this more of an introduction to his character and hopefully be able to do a sequel that opens up the world.
What are some of the challenges you faced in making Kill Order?
The biggest challenge for me was wearing too many hats and a lot of them being first-time experiences. And trying to dedicate attention and focus to each of those departments, at the same time learning every one of those departments. So that was challenging.
Also we had logistical issues. We weren't able to shoot the whole film in one shooting block, back to back. So our shooting days were spread out over the course of about a year and a half. It was coming back to it, and then where are we, and what do we have to do here, and getting everyone motivated and back to the same head space. The entire project actually took about four years to finish.
It was a bit overwhelming. We had an actor drop out a one point. I had to do re-writes a night before we went back on set, and we needed a new actor and someone suggested, "Well, maybe you should do it." So I stepped in, so that was a challenge, too.
Considering how filled this is with action and your stunt background, did you get to design some unique stunt work?
Yeah, and that was the point. This was a passion project to the nth degree. And the ability to be able to conceptualize something and then shoot it exactly the way we want to shoot it and have it end up on screen the way we imagined it was really rewarding. I'm glad we were able to do that and finish it.
And you did.
And we did.
How do you feel? Your baby has finally been born after four years.
We're good. We've all kind of moved on from it already. We've been working on it for so long. We're just ready for the next thing. We've learned from this and that. We want to evolve and grow and improve. We're ready to try again.
You mentioned a sequel. This does just seems to be the beginning of David's story.
Yes. That was deliberate. We were hoping that in the event that people were receptive to this and got what it was that we could then make a film with a bit more resources so that we could explore the world [that these characters exist in].
What was the best, most surprising thing about making the movie?
I wasn't expecting to do all these press interviews (laughs). That's one thing. It's not a bad thing, but it never crossed my mind.
In terms of filming it, I guess I was mostly surprised at how well my my close friends who are in my martial arts teams were able to step up to the challenge of being onscreen and playing a character as opposed to stunt-doubling someone or [being] a stunt performer. I thought they did a great job, and they really committed to it despite how long it took to finish it. So that was surprising. And the same thing with my brother. I think he has a lot of potential as both an actor and an action actor. I thought he did a great job.
What was it like working with your brother?
I'm probably his biggest fanboy. Not 'cause he's my brother but 'cause of who he is. He's an overachiever, and when he sets his mind to something he always does it with great strides. So when he said he wanted to take a step toward acting I supported him a hundred percent and we endeavored to do this film.
When you have disagreements on set with somebody that you're working with in a normal relationship you deal with it in a certain way, and once you move the family element in, it can become a different thing and some past history might come up. But fortunately we have a close relationship and we want the same thing. It was, I'll just say, emotional.
Why should people check out Kill Order?
This film is made by a group of people who are extremely passionate about their craft. If you're a fan of genre and you're a fan of action and you understand what this film is and what it takes to do something like this and pursue your dream ... I like to watch films like this because I respect people who are true to their craft and are willing to dedicate a good chunk of their life to it.
And it's got some kickass action in it.
And it's got some kickass action. I don't want to toot my own horn.
Anything else you're working on?
I directed a film for a company in Germany … called Plan B, and there are incredible action actors. It's coming out later in 2018. And also I'm currently working on doing the next thing with Chris, hopefully this year.