I caught up with stuntman turned director James Mark for a chat about influences, film, the mind of a stuntman, and the challenges of his first film in the director's chair Kill Order, on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD today.

James has quite the stunt pedigree – having worked on big-budget blockbusters like Jumper, Pacific Rim, and Repo Men.

In Kill Order, a troubled high school student (Chris Mark) discovers the truth behind his hidden abilities. This is where the film gets into a martial arts superhero mythology in Chris Mark's character David with pretty intricate fight stunt work all along the way.

What really had my mind perked up there was the possibilities Kill Order leaves open in exploring the narrative that James Mark touches on and begins to elucidate in the film which ultimately acts as an entertaining introduction to the David Lee character.

I hope you enjoy this chat with James – it was a privilege getting to spend a little bit of time understanding the mind of a stunt man.

Hello James and welcome to The 405! I'd like to start – if I may – in asking about your background in stunt work (as I've never interviewed a stunt man): what was it like transitioning from that to directing?

The transition was interesting – it was a huge learning curve, being in the director's chair, obviously a completely different world.

I had been doing a bit of directing when it comes to digital videos, digital shorts with a full stunt team – but those are very action-oriented, not reliant on narrative or dialogue even. So, it was definitely a big transition but I hopefully brought a couple useful tools with me when stepping into that world.

Which answered the next question I had – how does your stunt work influence you as a director? So, moving on to favorite films and directors? Which have been pivotal on your development as an artist?

Some of my favorite films are Jackie Chan flms…

Indeed.

Ya'know I was a huge fan of Jackie Chan growing up.

In terms of directors, one of my favorite films to this day is Aliens, James Cameron – I don't know how much influence that had on this film, but it’s a film that I can constantly rewatch.

I'm a big fan of Hong Kong cinema and a lot of foreign films and Korean films.

I love how Korea does film noir – they have done a lot to make that aesthetic their own. What makes a great film?

What makes a great film?

Yeah.

I guess it depends on the purpose of the film but a great film would have a great story, great characters – it has great relationships between the characters and the story-lines themselves.

That would be a great film – in my mind – as a complete sort of picture.

Sometimes I like to just watch films that have great action, just for the purpose of being entertained…

Absolutely. Nothing wrong with that.

I don't really want much thought there – just to be entertained and to enjoy the experience watching what the characters are doing.

Still from KILL ORDER.

Certainly. Getting into Kill Order, I'm curious what the inspiration was for the project?

So, I had been doing stunts for a long time and I have a local team – Team 2X here in Toronto. I wanted to make a film that sort of showcased their abilities and the abilities of my brother Chris Mark who is an exceptional martial artist.

That is kind of what we hung everything on – the narrative and the story was built around that concept.

What were some of the challenges in working on it? The martial arts work was very intricate, and well done I thought.

Quite a lot [Laughs]

[Laughs]

A lot of challenges on this film. I was wearing way too many hats and a number of them were first-time experiences for me. So, I was honestly trying to learn, and sometimes my focus just needed to be somewhere else.

We weren't able to shoot the entire film in one block. So, we shot over the course of a year and a half whenever we had availability of certain things or even sometimes financing availability.

It was tough trying to get everybody geared back up – into the right mindset – and reminding them where exactly we are and what happens in the story.

Might’ve been done by then, but we had an actor drop out midway after we had shot some scenes with them that we had to just kind of lose. At that point, I had to step in as an actor because we just didn't have time to cast. That outcome as well… not everybody was happy about that… [Laughs]

[Laughs]

Still from a fight scene in KILL ORDER.

Initially. So, yeah, those were some of the big challenges in making it.

Are we going to see more in the Kill Order universe? It seems to me that the way the film ended especially leaves it open for further development of David's story.

So that was always the intention. The original script that was written was way too – with the city, and the world, and the mythology – was just way too much to produce within our means.

So, we decided to scale it back and focus on David's story – making the film just an introduction to his character really and a focus on our strength which was the action components of the film.

Absolutely.

So we vaguely touch on the universe and vaguely touch on some of the characters and some of the relationships there, for better or for worse – with the hope that we can make the film we want to make one day with that world and without as many restrictions.

I definitely think it would be exciting to see more out of that too if you ever get the chance. What is next for you?

We're currently working on a film that we want to do this year that's called MIA. Last year, I shot a film for a German group called Video Action, they do Hong Kong style action and they recently did a film in Germany called Plan B. I also have a movie called On the Ropes which is coming out later in 2018 I believe.

Chris Mark as David Lee in KILL ORDER..