An Interview With Mickey Keating
The film industry is a tough industry to work in, and getting your feet wet is a lot harder than people think. However, sometimes you make the right connection and you set yourself up for a little bit of movie making magic. That seems to be what happened with Mickey Keating. After contacting Larry Fessenden from Glass Eye Pix begging to intern with him, Keating got his break. From then on, we’ve seen a variety of multiple films from the young horror auteur.
I had the pleasure to conduct my first interview ever and speak to Mickey Keating about Robert Altman, Criterion films, and most importantly his new film Psychopaths. Keating’s films have been more experimental as they go on, and this by far is his most ambitious one yet. It is complete eye candy and I ate up every second of it.
GG: First off, I want to say congratulations on Psychopaths, I had so much fun with this movie.
Keating: Cool, that’s great! It’s very interesting to see the reactions. People either adore it, or not so much. I feel like it’s a trend with my films.
GG: It seems as though your films get more experimental as they go along. What led you to do this style of a film?
Keating: Well, I think what was really exciting for me was what is always exciting for me as a filmmaker, and that is to go back and forth and think. I originally wanted to do this film after my film Darling, and I had written the first draft as soon as we wrapped pretty much. Then I went along and did a movie I was trying to get done for two years which was Carnage Park, and that was a real straight A to B narrative. You knew these two storylines were going to crash together, it was just a matter of when. So when I got the opportunity to bring Psychopaths to life, really the effort was “Ok, great. Now that I’ve done something with more structure, now we get to go back and really have fun and have a movie that’s really about the characters and have this be an experimental rollercoaster ride.” It’s an effort to cleanse the palate and do something more fun.
GG: Psychopaths is very beautiful in color. Where did it come from that you wanted to do these bright colors to aide to the all around aesthetic of this film?
Keating: I really wanted to do something that was completely different. In terms of color palate, my movie Darling is black and white, while Carnage Park is yellow and almost sepia. With this one I knew it was going to be very violent and I knew it was going to be a more abstract story so I wanted something wild. So hopefully, if you can watch it purely as a sensation and let the movie wash over you and grab your field of vision and not let go, I feel like that does a service to the movie and helps it along. So we really made an effort to have it where whenever you would freeze frame it, it would be something that was very explosive and grab you by the throat and never let go.
GG: I saw that there were some familiar faces in the movie. How was it to bring back some of your prior cast? How did it come to be that they all returned for Psychopaths?
Keating: It’s such an honor to have people like Ashley (Bell) back again. What’s exciting is that you meet people who are very interesting collaborators and you want to keep doing things with them that continuously inspire you and Ashley and James (Landry Hébert) are first and foremost in that regard in my mind. Larry (Fessenden) has been such a guiding force and really helped me out when I first knew I wanted to have this be my profession. I was in college and begged him to intern for Glass Eye Pix, and Larry gave me my first view into making professional film. Every movie I make, I beg him. I write a character and I have an inclination and I say “This is going to be Larry” and I beg him to do it, and fortunately he hasn’t turned that down and I hope he doesn’t for ten more movies.
GG: Speaking of writing, Psychopaths is more nonlinear than your other films. How did the writing process for this compare to the other films you’ve made?
Keating: It was interesting throughout the writing and the production because basically it was really fun to write a script and have a story be from A to B and then have another story A to B then cut them and assemble. Then when we shot the movie, we shot each character by week. So we shot a storyline for a week and then we’d say bye to the actor/actress and we’d keep going. It was like we were making a new movie each week, which is exciting but then you realize you have four weeks of day 1. It’s always this weird learning curve because you’re working with someone new each week and it’s exhausting but I think it’s very rewarding.
GG: Is that more so the biggest challenge when it comes to something like filming a different actor each week or is it easy to figure out and put those pieces together?
Keating: It’s not easy by any means. This movie actually took a long time. We edited for a year which is kind of bonkers. At some point in the editing process, I feel like the film tells you it’s done. With Psychopaths, we kept finding new things we wanted to accentuate and different little things we thought would be great to be brought forefront and send others back. It was a very weird experience having a movie find itself for that long. It’s very thrilling that it’s been in our lives forever.
GG: I’m sure the end result of getting everything finally done is rewarding for it being so intricate for so long.
Keating: Yes! I feel finally like now that the movie finally came out in theaters and it’s coming out on VOD, that I can push the baby out of the nest and hopefully it flies and takes wing. I feel very content with it being out in the world.
GG: I have to commend your films in general for always being so female dominant. I’ve always noticed that the woman is always the strongest one. Does this come naturally when writing or is it something you don’t catch yourself doing?
Keating: A lot of studios and a lot of mainstream big budget movies go into it with the intention of “This is going to be our female version of whatever.” I don’t really think about it that way. I just like writing these characters, and so many of my favorite films whether it be from Jean-Luc Godard, or Robert Altman especially, or Tarantino, they always have interesting characters across the board. Fortunately, I’ve been privileged to work with some really incredible actresses like Ashley Bell, Lauren Ashley Carter, and Angela Trimbur who kick down the door and take control of the stage and I’m just lucky enough to watch. So I just want to be able to keep doing that for them.
GG: You mentioned directors. For all of your films, do you have a certain director or films that you pull from? Were there older films that were inspiration?
Keating: I was obsessed with more colorful experimental art films from Kenneth Anger, or even Roger Corman’s The Trip, which is really interesting and bizarre. Going forward I think Brian De Palma, which it’s very clear my adoration for Brian De Palma with Body Double and Dressed to Kill. Also Robert Altman who I feel is the God of this movie. I was able to give homage to him with this movie. You can see where his inspiration lies with other directors like Paul Thomas Anderson. I wanted to do something like that because he’s one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
An anecdote: We discussed how I dove further into the works of Robert Altman with The Long Goodbye being the most recent Altman film I watched and how it quickly became one of my favorites. Mickey later stated how Short Cuts was also an inspiration for Psychopaths.
GG: My time is coming up, but I was curious as to what is next on your plate?
Keating: Well, we have a few more episodes of The Core that are rolling out so people will be stuck with me a little more longer there. Then every movie is like you start from the very bottom of a mountain. So I have a movie I’m hoping to do with Frank Langella in the new year, and so as long as the stars align, that’ll be the next one I think.
GG: This is my last question and it is completely out of the blue. But I know you’re an all around big film fan and I was curious if you were able to raid the Criterion closet, what would be your 5 picks?
Keating: Oh God! I watch those videos with so much envy and there’s so much in there that I would absolutely love.
(At this point, Mickey so graciously extended my interview to answer this question and bring up the Criterion website. Let’s be honest, Criterion films are pure gold and should be taken very seriously. What I would do to raid the Criterion closet…)
Let me bring up the website because this is no off the cuff thing. I would obviously get 12 Angry Men because I’ve become obsessed with Sidney Lumet recently. All That Heaven Allows is another one, and Alphaville I don’t own by Jean Luc Godard. I do not own Badlands at least I don’t think I do, but definitely that because Scorpion Joe in Carnage Park is an homage to Badlands. Oh, and no question about it...Beyond the Valley of the Dolls because that movie inspired the visual look of Psychopaths incredibly. I feel like if I actually did raid the Criterion closet that they would kick me out.
Keating was a pleasure to speak to and his range of film knowledge and interests are refreshing to see for someone of a younger age. With six directing credits, it seems like Mickey Keating is only just starting to give us a taste of what he is capable of. Whatever he creates in the future, I’m sure horror fans will eat up. Psychopaths was a wild ride and it kept delivering. It hit select theaters in December, but hits VOD January 2nd. Psychopaths was recently reviewed on Ghastly Grinning.