From pro stuntman to pro filmmaker, Mike Mayhall temporarily trades in his medical kit for a Nikon as the director of the very tense new indie thriller Jake's Road. The film, now available on VOD and DVD, has been lauded for it's suspenseful chronicle, performances and predominantly, Mayhall's skillful direction.
We caught up with the always-busy Mayhall to talk about a home video gem that deserves to be seen.
In a few words Mike, whatÃ¢ÂÂs JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road about?
Hey Guys Ã¢ÂÂ¦ love your web page.
Ok Ã¢ÂÂ¦ in one long sentence Ã¢ÂÂ¦ JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road is a psychological thriller/Action/Horror that tells the tale of a man suffering from amnesia who is unable to recall the person responsible for murders that happened while he was on a vacation with friends. He can recall fleeting images from the trip, and tries to piece together the truth.
How was that? Honestly, I am really not good at describing movies. I want to tell everyone the whole story. I get to excited to sum things up. I say watch it. Let yourself get wrapped up in the characters and follow their journey.
What were your inspirations for the movie?
I started to focus on JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road when I moved from Los Angeles back to New Orleans. I wanted to do a thriller and horror movie, because I just love the genre. But, I wanted it to be intelligent and suspenseful, rather than hack and slash. Go for the slow burn, then let it kicks to high gear! I also wanted it to have personal meaning beyond the story.
I spent many of my younger days at my stepfatherÃ¢ÂÂs hunting cabin out in the backwoods of Folsom, LA. A place simply called, Ã¢ÂÂThe CampÃ¢ÂÂ. It sits on 250 acres of land next to a small stream and is ideal for a horror movie. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a place where your imagination can run wild. It was the site of some epic parties. It was an escape from the everyday and was filled with so many wild tales of the unexplainable that they bordered on supernatural.
It was also the birthplace of an old campfire story about a hired hand, named Jake, who went crazy one night and took revenge on the former owners of The Camp. So, I guess you could say JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road is one half my twisted imagination and one half stories and events from my youth.
But, the story of JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road is so much more than that. All that is just the back drop. ItÃ¢ÂÂs got some great acting, some fun action and twists that are just soul crushing.
Are any of the events or characters in the film based on people you know?
Yes. Totally. There a point where the name JAKE is mentioned for the first time. And everything that happens in the next scene is based on what really happened - more or less. The inside jokes and memories the characters share all pretty much happened to me or my friends.In one way all of the characters are a bit of me. But, if I had to pick one. IÃ¢ÂÂd say Sam. The other are a mix of my buddies who grew up going out the real Camp with me. There was a real Heath and George and Joanie. Now, is there a real Jake? Well, youÃ¢ÂÂll have to watch and decide for yourself. And I am happy to say we are out on iTunes and Amazon.
What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
In terms of what influenced me to write JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road it was the desire to bring to life all the crazy events that happened at the The Camp and then throw in the one thing were all scared of when we were actually out there camping. Ã¢ÂÂWhat if a crazy guy showed up and starting killing?Ã¢ÂÂ As a kid camping in the woods who grew up watching Freddy and Jason films Ã¢ÂÂ¦ it was a real (if unrealistic) fear.
As far as the direction of the film Ã¢ÂÂ¦ I just wanted to tell a good story with likable characters that people could relate to and feel for when the shit hit the fan. I think we did that.
Great cast. What was it that attracted you to Eric Roberts?
He was great. Totally brought his Ã¢ÂÂAÃ¢ÂÂ game for JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road. One of our producers had worked with him and got my script into his hands. He loved it and the next thing you know I am working with him. It was awesome!!
What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
I know it sounds cheesy. But we all because a family. We all still stay in touch. We all hang out and support each other. I made some life long friends from JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road.
Here is a story for you about post production. Everything was on track, and then two weeks before we started shooting JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road, A hurricane rolled in and kicked the crap out of South Louisiana. We were without power for 10 days. The Camp - our filming location - flooded. You could only get to it by boat. The other section of woods, at my motherÃ¢ÂÂs house, was under two feet of water. I didnÃ¢ÂÂt know what to do. I had to push the start date back two weeks. Any more and we would lose more than 50 percent of our cast and crew. Any less and the ground would still be a muddy wet mess.
Then we lost our costumer, our caterer and our DP, Nate Tape (who was awesome). The universe was testing me. It was the complete opposite scenario I was expecting. How often do you hear about a fully funded film that canÃ¢ÂÂt go to camera because it has lost all its key players, food and locations in a matter of 24 hours? Normally, you have everyone waiting around because you canÃ¢ÂÂt get the money raised.
What could I do? Scrap the project when I was so close? Or do what I always do when confronted with the near impossible: Get stubborn and keep going. I just said, Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs going to happen. Just watch, itÃ¢ÂÂs gonna happen.Ã¢ÂÂ
I think I actually willed this film into existence because suddenly, in the same amount of time we lost everyone, we found more people. We got a great local caterer. A costumer just suddenly appeared. And our DP found out his other show got pushed. The filming areas more or less dried out and our last location that had yet to be filled came through. I couldnÃ¢ÂÂt believe it. Just like that, JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road was back!
Where can the general public get the movie?
I think the best way is to rent it on iTunes or Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Jakes-Road-Eric-Roberts/dp/B00L1WJEQM). If you like DVDÃ¢ÂÂs you can buy them pretty much anywhere online. Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy.
How have people reacted to the movie? What kind of responses have you gotten?
All in all people have really enjoyed it. They seem to get that I am taking a genre that can be very formulaic and giving it a little twist. They seem to like that I let you take the time to get to know the characters Ã¢ÂÂ¦ I think maybe because it pays off in the end. If you like someone then you are invested. Then you donÃ¢ÂÂt want anything bad to happen Ã¢ÂÂ¦ but, of course, it does.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Sure. I am producing and directing two films. On is a family film about a struggling music and the other is a zombie comedy. Both good character driven stories.
YouÃ¢ÂÂve done some huge movies - - as a stuntman, are you able to ever pick whatÃ¢ÂÂs going to be a hit and what wonÃ¢ÂÂt work? For instance, doing Green Lantern did you ever envision it would turn out to be the flop it was?
Most of the time I can tell if itÃ¢ÂÂs gonna be good or bad. But, in the case of GL. I didnÃ¢ÂÂt see that coming. But, the film was so so so big and I was just a small cog in that wheel I really couldnÃ¢ÂÂt get a good grasp. I can tell you this. Most of the time when a huge production suddenly has a major studio throwing money at it for no really reason. The movie usually tanks. People want story and character over anything. I mean look at the original star war vs. the ones that came out a few years ago. Special effects do not make up for lack of character. Even the great actors on those films couldnÃ¢ÂÂt save it.
I can say this about JakeÃ¢ÂÂs Road. It has story and character and heart. A lightsaber would have been nice, but we filmed it here, not in a galaxy far far away.