If you don’t know who Mickey Keating is yet, you will. Soon. Independent horror fans have seen three of his films over the last year-and-a-half or so, and he’s already finished shooting another one primed for a 2016 festival premiere (maybe?). His latest film, Carnage Park, was my only Sundance 2016 review, but that didn’t stop me from properly catching it again during South By Southwest at Austin’s Alamo Ritz. C’mon, what goes better with a bloody, politically paranoid, Neo-Noir Western than a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Milkshake?!
Being a young critic at the age of 26 myself, our conversation was not solely about Carnage Park. As Keating was making his first film, Ritual, he participated in the same balancing act many writers now have to perfect between a salary job and nightly passions (oh, you think I can make a living doing this?). Cranking out movies isn’t exactly an achievement, but doing so with quality, and a specific voice requires something special. Determination and drive isn’t always a given.
Well, as you’ll gather from our interview, Mickey Keating’s fire is a 5-alarm inferno, and won’t be put out for quite some time. Read on to learn about Keating’s start in the business, how Carnage Park came to be, and what he hopes to achieve with his next film, Psychopaths.
We Got This Covered: Just so it’s on the record, can you state your age for the readers?
Mickey Keating: [laughs] I’m 25.
WGTC: So you’re a year younger than I am, and you’ve already got five films under your belt – four of which were/are going to be 2015/2016 releases. How did you get the courage and confidence to go out there and just start making your kind of movies?
Mickey Keating: I’ve always wanted to make movies, since I was nine or ten years old. I’ve always been making films. I interned in college with Larry Fessenden and watched how Glass Eye Pix made movies. I learned how low-budget isn’t a bad word, and that you could find artistic voice in movies that don’t cost a tremendous amount of money. Through that, it was really inspiring, so I graduated college and said, “I’m going to make a feature film.”
In my final semester, I did an “abroad” in LA and worked with Blumhouse Productions, right after Insidious really blew up, but before Sinsiter, when they really became the Blumhouse we know. Their whole thing was that they made Paranormal Activity for $15,000, and so I’m like, I’m doing this [laughs]. I graduated and made my first movie, Ritual, on weekends, and for $25,000. No one could afford to quit, we all had dayjobs. Over the course of six weekends, I’d work my dayjob, my girlfriend and I would edit at night, and then finally one day it sold. From there, we just kept moving forward, trying to go bigger, and be different each time. That’s how this all started.
WGTC: Was there a big difference between working at Glass Eye Pix and Blumhouse Productions? Or were they the same models.
Mickey Keating: It’s funny, because working for someone as fiercely independent as Larry Fessenden, and then working for someone who operates so heavily within the studio system as Blum, it was the same kind of mentalities, and the same “Good ideas are good ideas in any price range.” I feel like I benefitted from getting the full spectrum of trying to satisfy an artistic need, while being aware of other people who watch your movies. There’s an audience you can go out and really appeal to. It was a best of all things indie filmmaking.
WGTC: I can sympathize with you on working a dayjob and balancing your passion front – welcome to the last four years of my life – but I’ve found ways of preventing myself from burning out (for now). How did/do you manage the same feelings in your life?
Mickey Keating: It was the first movie we did, where you’re like, “Wow, we’re making a movie!” It was very exciting and exhilarating to watch the product evolve, and know at the end of the day, even though I had to go to my 8AM job, having that footage around, and available, was really satisfying. I mean, movies are all I really care about. I’d watch a whole bunch of different titles while we were shooting, which would keep the fire burning. Also, the inherent financial terror [laughs] – I borrowed money from my brother, so I knew if I lost his $3,000, he’d never let me live it down.
WGTC: What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring filmmakers coming fresh out of college? I went to a school with a brilliant film program, and know so many people who thought they’d be the next Tarantino – but, six years later, they don’t have a single credit to their name (production or creative), and time seems wasted. What would you say to someone with creative ambitions, to get them on their shit immediately?
Mickey Keating: Find a way to tell the story you want to tell. Ben Wheatley did it amazingly with Down Terrace. He was like, “We knew that we had these people, we knew that we had this house, we spent $8,000 on it, and made a movie that everyone was pretty happy with.” Jeremy Gardner too, he went to people for The Battery and said, “What would you feel comfortable losing in Atlantic City?” Make something within your means. Right out of the gate, it’s more important to have a story you’re burning to tell, as opposed to making a show-reel that might lead to a bigger gig.