Exclusive Interview: Mickey Keating Talks Carnage Park, Finding Success And Psychopaths

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WGTC: You’re part of this indie collective coming up right now who seem to love playing by their own rules. You, Joe Begos, Josh Ethier, etc. Are you all in constant contact, keeping a brain trust of sorts fluidly churning?

Mickey Keating: Joe and I hit it off really well because he’s one of those guys, like Larry, who is fiercely trying to make his movies. He’s got his voice, and what’s so great, is that Joe and I love a lot of the same movies, but I’ll never make a Joe Begos movie, and he’ll never make a Mickey Keating movie. Josh Ethier is the same way. They live together, and have been childhood friend forever. It’s really cool to know people who talk that language of cinema, who you can bounce ideas off of. And weirdly, in my new movie Psychopaths, I end up killing all of them [laughs]. They all get wonderful deaths.

It’s inspirational in a way, because Joe, he made Almost Human for the same price I made my second movie. It’s so great, and so impressive. He keeps pushing himself to go bigger and bigger every time. It’s really exciting to watch someone do that, which is inspiring as well.

WGTC: When Darren Lynn Bousman, James Wan and all those guys came up, they were dubbed the “Splat Pack.” What would you call the collective you’re part of today?

Mickey Keating: [laughs] Oh man, I learned early on you get in trouble for branding things.

WGTC: I’m definitely not trying to dig up “Deathwave” again…

Mickey Keating: Watching the fallout from “Deathwave” – I don’t know, man. We’re just young bros making movies! [laughs] The Filmmaker Bros.

WGTC: You’ve been able to bring back some recurring actors who hop from project to project with you – Ashley Bell, Lauren Ashley Carter – does this help keep your momentum moving forward, where you’ve constantly got people on standby ready to jump into another film?

Mickey Keating: Totally. My favorite filmmakers always use the same actors. Altman always used the same troupe of people. I write pretty quickly, so it’s cool knowing Ashley Bell is going to be this star, so I can write according to how I know she’ll act, and what she’ll bring to the table. It’s always exciting to then try and see how far they can push on the next project. How can they be totally different. I really like that.

Ideally, I’ll make movies with the same people, and have audiences recognize, “Oh shit! It’s that person from that movie!” At the end of the day, it’s all about the actors. I want to be the director who gives them the springboard to have them try something crazy and different, still in a safe environment.

WGTC: You have two movies in 2015, Carnage Park is your first of 2016, and you’ve got Psychopaths for 2016 as well. Is this an output you see yourself sustaining throughout your career?

Mickey Keating: I feel really fortunate, because all these projects have been in the pipeline since my first movie. Weirdly, and fortunately, it seems like an eternity, but they all hit up together. I would love to continue this. I think I’m neurotic when I’m not making movies. I try to take a step back – the day that it becomes more about the output than making movies, then I’ll take a true step back. But I get a lot of satisfaction just being in the process of creating something, so until someone says “no more money,” I’ll keep making films [laughs].

WGTC: Half the battle is getting money, though, and you seem to be doing that pretty seamlessly. But you mentioned these projects have been around since your first film – do you just have a backlog of ideas, waiting to be made?

Mickey Keating: Carnage Park, for example, I wanted to make after my first film, but, I kept getting introduced to financiers who weren’t really into it for the movie. Everything always fell apart, and it was always frustrating. Instead of picking up the pieces and being really depressed, I went to making something I knew I had the means to do. We went and did POD with my other producer, at his family’s house. We destroyed his family’s beautiful summer home for four weeks.

If I had made Carnage Park right after my first film, I would have been doing it with a shady financier who wanted his wife in the movie, and out-of-work friends to produce it. I know people who would say that’s great, just to make a movie, but if you’re doing that, it’s totally for the wrong reasons. It was frustrating for a long time, so when the right financiers finally did come together, they were great, and got what I wanted to do. That was nice and rewarding, and produced the film you saw.

Psychopaths is the same way. I wrote it right after Darling. It was Thanksgiving, and I wrote the first draft from then until Christmas. It went to one group of financiers who said no, then it went to another group of guys who were on board and understood the project.

WGTC: So it seems like patience is a true virtue here…

Mickey Keating: A mind-numbing virtue [laughs]. You have to be zen about it. There are times I refer to as the doldrums where you’re like, “FUUUUCKKK.” Through that, there has to be a level of insecurity about financing when it comes, but it makes you hungry, and makes you want to put your best foot forward, because if you get into a business situation and you make them money, then they’re going to come back. That’s always been the conscious endeavor.

WGTC: All your films have their own signature look and feel. It seems like you get an influence for a film, and that’s what you stick to. Darling, Hitchcockian. Carnage Park, 70s Neo-Noir Western. But, here’s where I’m curious – what comes first, the influence, or the story?

Mickey Keating: I always have some kind of relative idea. A kernel. If it stays there, I’ll slowly, and subconsciously, think of the movies I want it to be like, and build from there. For Carnage Park specifically, I knew I wanted to make a movie like The Most Dangerous Game, and at the time, I was really obsessed with Peck. That world of 60s and 70s Americana. Crime movies. I was really into Altman – I still am, he’s my favorite director. Then, slowly but surely, if you’re going to do a The Most Dangerous Game type movie, all those influences start to gel in. First and foremost, it’s always, “These are the movies I love, how can I make a movie like that.” Then, it’s fitting that sensibility around your idea.

Darling started the same way. I knew when I was writing it that I was obsessed with haunting innocence – Repulsion and Diabolique. All these surreal, strange, black and white horror movies. From there, that’s what it became.

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