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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 02.05.18] Canada scifi action adventure

There's been a recent trend of stunt coordinators making the move from performers to directors and the results have been largely successful (ahem John Wick and Atomic Blonde) and the trend is also spreading through the indie world and most recently, turning James Mark.

A former martial arts performer-turned stunt man, Mark has been working in the stunt world for over a decade but with Kill Order, he's made the jump to the director's chair in his first feature film.

Clocking in at 80 minutes, the movie is an action packed story of a teenager, played by Mark's equally talented brother Chris Mark, who discovers he has some very dangerous abilities and is being hunted by an organization that wants to kill him.

Mark creates an interesting back story and the movie ends with an opening for follow-up projects in the universe, which he hopes will be forthcoming, but the major appeal of Kill Order is the action which starts almost immediately and continues through the movie's running time.

I had a chance to speak with James last week and we re-wound the clock a little to get some history on his career as a stunt performer before we digging into his feature film debut.

Kill Order is available on VOD, Digital HD and DVD on February 6.

I wanted to back track a little from your as a director and get a sense for how you came to work in the movie industry.

I'm a martial artist originally and I started working at as a martial arts stage performer with a group called Team Ryouko back in 2000/2001. I travelled around the world with them and we built a reputation for ourselves in martial arts. Eventually I got the opportunity as a stunt performer on a number of commercials. My biggest film that broke me into the stunt world was Jumper.

Did you always intend on making the transition into film or did you stumble into it?

I was just kind of happy exploring my craft. I've always loved performing and entertaining. But then one member of the team got into film and that started to become an interest. I was still very young at the time so I didn't actually have a career path and then I made the decision to work a film and build a career in film.

When did the directing bug bite?

Midway through my career I started a company called Team 2X, a stunt company of martial arts stunt performers. We started producing digital short videos, YouTube videos in our free time as a hobby because we just loved creating content. I started directing a few of them. They're not story driven, they're action driven, but I got a liking to it and found that when I was on set as a stunt performer, I'd often be watching the director and how they handle story and found myself more and more leaning to that position and thinking that I wanted to do that one day.

I got the opportunity to direct a web series called "Ultimate Fan Fights" for IGN I decided to take a stab at directing a film and I wanted to showcase the abilities of the guys I work with including my brother Chris who is a phenomenal martial artist.

Where did the concept for Kill Order come from?

I wrote the movie with my brother in mind and with the guys in mind. We kind of worked backwards. I created a much bigger story and world and mythology that I knew we wouldn't get a chance to explore. I started to think of a short 80 minute type film that showed off what we can do on the action side and touches on some of the characters that we hope to explore later.

I built the story about David's character and his inner struggle and how it fits into a bigger world.

I love that the movie is only 80 minutes long. It's really lean providing only the necessary back story for David's story to make sense without bogging down the movie with needless exposition and focusing instead on your star power which is the action.

In the process, you also introduce us to this really interesting world and the movie ends on this open ending that suggests more stories to come. Are you working on those stories now?

I have a follow-up story and I've had it from day one. It's a much bigger thing and we're hoping we'll have the opportunity to create it one day. It was always the plan to do more but we have to wait to see how this does first and if people respond ot it.

What skills that you picked up as an athlete and as a stunt performer fed into your role as director?

I was fortunate enough to work under some really strong stunt coordinators and second unit directors in my stunt career one of them being Brad Allen who is formerly one of the coordinators for Jackie Chan's stunt team. When working on his sets I got to watch and learn how he works and that's where I picked up a lot of tricks in action cinematography.

That would be the biggest skill going forward. How to frame and shoot action. I actually operated the camera myself in all the fight scenes but it just taught me lenses and framing.

Was it useful to be able to step in and be able to capture the action sequences yourself? One of the highlights of the movie is that the action sequences are clear and easy to follow.

We spent pretty much the majority of the time on the action and shooting the action. Each scene we would create in our gym and we would shoot it prior to going on set and we would already have every angle and each cut already mapped out. The entire fight would already be in video format from our gym so when we got to set we just copied it. With me behind the camera we just have this synergy since we've been working together and with limited time because it's a low budget production, we were able to move really fast through the shots. We could do 50 to 75 setups in a day as a result of planning.

What are you working on next?

I directed a film for a company in Germany called Reel Deal Action which is a German martial arts action outfit. I met the guys on a project and they asked me to direct their film. In terms of the next film for Chris and company... we're working on developing a project right now that we're hoping to shoot this year while still pursuing doing Kill Order 2 which is a dream project.

Kill Order is available on VOD, Digital HD and DVD on February 6.

Recommended Release: Kill Order

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