Interview with director James Mackenzie – A Draught of Vintage Artist Series

This is the 2nd post in the ADoV Artist Series.  I got a chance to talk to my good friend James Mackenzie about what he and his incredible wife are up to these days out there in Los Angeles. Check out James’ Vimeo for a taste of what he does, and always keep your ear to the ground for updates on American Zealot, which is currently in post-production.


Why do you make movies?

To cure a raging imbalance.

Describe the style of your films.

To be honest, I’m still learning my style. Visually, I like using natural light — American Zealot used 99% natural or available light, which was a challenge I’m proud of conquering with my director of photography. I like handheld camera. I despise actors wearing an unnatural amount of makeup, unless it’s a part of their character. So far, my films have featured innocent, teenage, red-haired female protagonists, and some of the most powerful imagery features deserted, mountainous locations, but those films just happened like that, I promise.

What are your major influences?

Ingmar Bergman, Joe Wright, Woody Allen, Max Reinhardt. Shakespeare.

mackenzie_IMG_7146_smallestWhat do you feel is missing in movies today?

I haven’t seen everything in the last ten years, so I’m scared to make a blanket statement, but I will say two important things:

First, there’s pressure as a filmmaker to make genre films. There’s a good deal of money to be found in an audience that’s already been created, so the underlying idea is to use the predefined mythology, iconography, and conventions to tell a similar story. But my favorite films don’t follow molds, they follow heart and character. They hold a mirror up to nature. If these are the guiding principles used to tell a story, even with glaring shortcomings, I want to see it! These two modes aren’t mutually exclusive, but when I see an interesting story covered with paint-by-numbers filmmaking, I cry inside.

Second, movies need active audiences that aren’t afraid to question society, tradition, and the bedrock of their lives. I’m eager to find moviegoers that want to leave a film full of questions because I’m not sure I have many answers to give.

What’s next for you?

I just finished writing a screenplay about a teenage alcoholic for a Lithuanian production company, but that’s for a friend to direct. I’m at-bat for a sci-fi romance (I can’t be more excited about this) and refuse to give many details away, but I think there will be a bizarre wedding scene — one unlike any other you’ve seen before.

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