For the release of PSYCHOPATHS on VOD, Craig had the chance to speak with director Mickey Keating where they discussed everything from being an old soul to finding inspiration.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you for speaking with us today Mickey. To start things off, how did your time interning at Blumhouse influence the way you make your movies?
Mickey Keating: It was just a real incredible experience to watch somebody like Jason Blum work. I think the influence first and foremost is just sitting there in awe of somebody who can work on so many projects simultaneously and devote so much passion to each and every one of them. As I was sitting there, just kind of seeing how the machine works, it was really inspiring and made me think how I wanted that to look for my movies. I’m only making one at a time so I have to pour as much energy and passion into each movie that he pours into fifty movies. That was a really exciting thing that made me really motivated to want to always be energetic and always be determined to find ways to get the movies made; because that’s always the hardest part.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Given how many movies you put out at once, you obviously took some of that to heart.
MK: I try.
Nightmarish Conjurings: For PSYCHOPATHS in particular, how did you come up with your color palette and lighting or what served as your visual influence?
MK: Each movie I make is kind of different and they all have their own aesthetic or tone. For instance, my movie Darling (2015) is black and white while Carnage Park (2016) is very yellow and almost sepia toned at times. For PSYCHOPATHS I wanted just an explosion of color and something sensational so that even those freaked out by the characters or upset by the violence on the screen will have a hard time looking away because the way this looks just pulls your visual field right into it. I really wanted to make a movie that was akin to the real colorful films form the 1970s like Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979), Brian De Palma’s Body Double (1984) or Dressed to Kill (1980) or Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lola (1981); like just something that’s sensory overload to complement the horrific action.
Nightmarish Conjurings: When you were writing PSYCHOPATHS did you set out to make it exist in its own dream-world time period?
MK: Totally, yeah. I think my favorite movies are the movies that don’t necessarily date themselves. There’s nothing I hate more than when you’re watching the movie and they are like “Let me type something into my brand-new computer,” and then five years later that computer looks like a complete piece of junk. I really want to make this a free-flowing dreamtime, you know? Like how Blue Velvet (1986) is almost a 1950’s movie, but it exists in the 1980’s. I feel like in horror movies in general, any time you have to find a way to justify out the cell phone it’s just wasted time and something that people get so caught up in. With my writing process I don’t really outline, I just work scenes up. Since my mind looks at things from more of an aesthetic perspective I don’t really like scenes where people are sending text messages or driving modern cars. I’m an old soul at heart.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Speaking of your writing process do you write scripts with people in mind for the roles?
MK: I wrote the first draft of PSYCHOPATHS a year and a half or so before we actually ended up shooting it, so I had not worked with Ashley (Bell) or James Hebert at the time. My first draft of PSYCHOPATHS was different, but when the three of us worked together on Carnage Park I went back to my draft and was able to mold and sculpt the characters around these actors so that I would have the opportunity to work with them again. It is very freeing and exciting to have a stable of actors to draw from. I think the worst part of making any movie is the casting process because sometimes you’re waiting to hear back if people like the material and you never know if people are going to respond to your script. To be able to have actors that are really brilliant, actors that you know can take it to that next level, that’s the most exciting thing in the world.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Is that why you keep casting Larry Fessenden in your movies?
MK: Oh, absolutely, I beg Larry. Every single movie I write, I assume that there’s going to be a role that Larry is going to play and then I beg him to do it. Also, I think Larry is a very important mentor to me and is very responsible for my career. He gave me my first look into making actual movies when I was young, like 18 or 19 years old, so this is my way to pay tribute to him. He’s like the Godfather to me; I keep his spirit around my films.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What did you use as story influences for PSYCHOPATHS?
MK: I think this one was a little different. With my movies there are always the touch point films that are used as references, but this one was more about capturing structure than story. Robert Altman is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time and when I was finishing up Darling and going into Carnage Park I just started watching all his movies all over again. Because of this, his sensibilities really started to influence the second draft of PSYCHOPATHS. Whether it’s Nashville (1975) or A Wedding (1978) or one of these other kinds of films that he made, I was excited to have the opportunity to make something similar. Structurally, PSYCHOPATHS began as a more rigid idea, but then as I started sculpting it I realized I didn’t need to have as many rules. Once I had that kind of guiding light I was able to get more wacky and insane with my ideas.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Since you’ve only ever directed your own scripts, would you ever consider directing something you didn’t write?
MK: Sure, I think so; I never say never. Some of my favorite filmmakers, like Martin Scorsese as the first and foremost example, direct other people’s material. I think it has to be the right situation, but I’m always open to it; especially if there’s a good script or my sensibilities just happen to come together with the writer’s sensibilities. For me, writing is very fun and I love it. I know some people hate the process of writing or consider it the hardest part, but for me I really just enjoy it. Unless something crazy happens, like my brain shutting down, I plan to keep on writing my own material.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Do you tend to adjust your scripts while on set?
MK: I always like to have that adventurous spirit and allow the movie to tell me what it is becoming, but I also always write with a defense mechanism in mind. I want to write a script that is serviceable to the budget and not the other way around. If you write a script and only get half of the money you are gunning for and then still try to make the movie anyway, it’s typically a catastrophe. Film is a very organic and collaborative art form so I fell like every filmmaker should have a willingness to let the movie tell you what it’s going to be, as opposed to try and fit it into an ironclad structure.
Nightmarish Conjurings: With the release of PSYCHOPATHS well underway, are there any other projects you are currently working on?
MK: It’s funny because my movies seem to come out in a rapid succession, but they are always kind of a long-winded process. The exception is my second film Pod (2015) and then Darling (2015) which were very close together, but usually you wait until the arc is done and then you concentrate on the next thing. Right now we have four more episodes of my show “The Core” (2017) coming out which has been a fun experience and I’m also hoping to get another movie going as soon as possible; it’s just a matter of climbing the mountain again.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What inspired your show “The Core”?
MK: It just appealed to my adoration for filmmaking. They came to me with this idea of making a show that was really a celebration of the genre and making movies so that was what was really appealing to me. You know, it’s a way to pick the brains of artists that I really admire and approach it as a fan and not as a filmmaker as much. It’s also a really great way to find out what makes people like Mary Harron, Leigh Whannell, or Simon Barrett tick.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What lessons would you say you’ve taken from your show “The Core” that you hope to put into your next project?
MK: I think what I’ve taken from that, you know, is getting covered in fake blood sucks (laughs). I think the thing that’s so exciting is when you get to sit down with filmmakers you find out what inspires them or what movies are their references and what really lights that fire. It’s just a good way to think about other movies that I typically wouldn’t go to as, “Oh, I want to make a movie like this,” but now I’m inspired by a whole group of other people’s inspirations. It’s just really a way to keep that love of cinema flame lit.
PSYCHOPATHS is now available to watch on VOD.
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