Interview with Kellie Madison

Not long ago, you may have seen us talking about an Indiegogo campaign bearing the foreboding name of “The Gate”, it’s something that martial arts fans will certainly want to keep their eye on!

Described as “Daredevil” meets “The Raid” meets “Kill Bill”, the upcoming short is intended to serve as the basis for a TV series and brings together such well-known names in the martial arts world as stunt woman Amy Johnston (who KFK previously had the great pleasure of interviewing), Malay Kim and Xin Wuku of the EMC Monkeys, and Cecep Arif Rahman of “The Raid 2” fame! You can read more about “The Gate” on the film’s Indiegogo page, including a quick teaser of the film, by clicking here.

Today, we have the great privilege of speaking with the woman behind “The Gate”, filmmaker Kellie Madison, who gives us a look behind the scenes of the film and a glimpse of what the series it will lead into will look like!

Hi Kellie, great to have you with us, we’d just like to say welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom and thanks for taking some time out to share with us! So, let’s start out with some basics…

Where were you born?

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Shy town baby!

Cool! How did you first get started as a filmmaker?

I started out as an actress. Then slowly gravitated toward being involved in more of the storytelling aspects of film. I started writing, producing and eventually evolved into directing.

Awesome! On that note, what advice would give to aspiring filmmakers?

My advice would be to move to Los Angeles as quickly as possible, start working in the business- networking and building contacts. I moved out to LA in my late 20’s. That’s very late. It takes decades to build a career in this business, so start as quickly as you can.

Great advice. So, what would you consider some of your personal favourite martial arts films?

“The Raid: Redemption” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. So beautiful, so amazing!

Totally agreed. Moving ahead, in addition to directing and producing, you’ve also acted as you previously mentioned and written screenplays. Which of these do you enjoy the most? Which do you find the most challenging?

I feel the most at home directing. It’s most rewarding and fulfilling to be able to communicate your vision to an entire cast and crew. I love working with the actors to build performance and create a powerful story that gives people an emotional experience.

As it should be, fantastic! OK, one of your most notable films is “Dear Mr. Gacy”, which you wrote and executive produced. What was it like making the film?

“Dear Mr. Gacy” was a huge challenge for me as well as a life-changing experience. It was on that set that I realized that I needed to be directing. Everything seemed so clear to me on the monitor and I was jumping out of my skin wanting to tell people how to create the vision that I had on the page. I am very grateful for that experience.

It sounds like it was a really seminal moment for you. Another project you’ve been developing is “Machine Man”, a movie that covers the topic of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Can you describe how the film came about?

Well, “Machine Man” is actually a narrative feature film. I had a friend that has severe OCD and when I pulled back the curtain on that world, I knew a film needed to be made about it. Just haven’t had any luck raising funding for it yet – so tragic.

Sorry to hear that, hopefully that’ll change in the near future. Looking ahead, another film you have coming up is the thriller “The Tank”, which you wrote and directed. How did it come about and what was the experience of making the film?

I read an article in “Psychology Today” about these Mars simulation tanks and how people have gone crazy in them and actually killed each other. It just screamed movie to me. So I created a short teaser, wrote the script and got it financed. We shot “The Tank” in Ohio, so that was hugely challenging. But I loved my cast, such strong actors. I’m hoping “The Tank” is going to be released in late spring.

Sounds like a great thriller, we look forward to seeing it! Your latest project is the short film, “The Gate”, which is reportedly intended as the pilot for a TV series that has been described as “Daredevil meets ‘The Raid’ meets ‘Kill Bill. The two leads of “The Gate” are Amy Johnston of the upcoming “Lady Bloodfight” and Cecep Arif Rahman of “The Raid 2”. Tell us more!

I set out to prove that women can direct action. That snowballed beautifully into the creation of a TV series. I was then introduced to Amy and when I saw her fight- I knew she was my girl. Then I had an amazing revelation- I loved the Raid movies so much…why not bring them over here and work with them. So that’s what I did! It was so amazing; everyone threw everything they had into the project. We worked our asses off. I learned so much about directing action. One of the best experiences of my life!

It definitely looks great! “The Gate” will also star Malay Kim and Xin Wuku of the EMC Monkeys…

Well, Amy introduced me to Malay and Xin. They’re so talented, so lovely, so professional. Just a joy to work with.

Superb. What are some of your memorable moments from the making of “The Gate”?

Working with my martial artists was just amazing. I learned so much. And by bringing Cecep into my life- opened up this world of Indonesian culture that I absolutely fell in love with. They are the most humble, gracious, loving human beings I’ve ever met. I feel so blessed.

Definitely. As the pilot awaits its release, what has the response to the film and its pitch as a TV series been so far?

Honestly, the response to the piece is explosive. I am so happy and proud, but I need to get more eyes on it. Trying to find the right people at studios to see it is proving quite challenging. But I will persevere!

We’re definitely looking forward to seeing how “The Gate” develops. What other projects are in the pipeline?

I just finished a page one rewrite on a horror script that I am as equally excited about called Hotel 33. It’s about a real hotel in 1953, Pennsylvania where, on opening night, everyone inside the hotel disappeared.

Wo. That does sound really creepy! On that note, since creating movies can be a most rewarding albeit time consuming experience, what’s the usual process; to write, sell or show it to a director/studio, then what?

When I crack the process, I promise I will let you know. I don’t have it worked out at all. I just try to create great material and utilize every single possible contact I have to get it into the right hands to be able to bring that material to an audience. Looking for miracles every day!

So, how good does a script have to be before you take it to market, does it have to be perfect? What do you think action studios are looking for nowadays compared to the action hey days of the 80’s?

There is no perfect script. Screenplay writing is one of the most difficult artforms on the planet. I honestly have no idea what studios are looking for. The problem is- neither do they! :0

Intriguing! How long does it take you to write a movie or how long typically did it take you before?

Typically 3 weeks to 2 months.

What else can you say about what makes a good script that would sell?

A good script is so damn subjective. That’s another reason why this business is so hard. And there are no formulas to success. A lot of it is luck and who you know. Sounds cheesy, I know. But true…

What makes a poor script then?

Aside from glaring problems and basic technique. All scripts are subjective.

So, what are Kellie Madison’s tips for script writing so far?

Be a minimalist. Leave a lot of white on the page. Keep scripts tight, short and sweet. Always raise the stakes and ramp up dramatic beats, but organically if possible. I try to make as many non-cliché choices as I can possibly make.

Makes sense. Moving ahead, for aspiring script writers who may be reading this, what’s one tip you use to overcome writer’s block: how do you keep the creative juices flowing? What other advice would you give?

I exercise a lot. Watch movies in the same genre- that really gives me a lot of great ideas. Run story points by friends and family.

Sounds good. So, what’s the most difficult, daring stunt or move you’d ever written into a script? How did it compare with being performed for the movie in real life, were you satisfied with it?

The big stunt where I flipped the tank in “The Tank” was fantastic. We put the entire set on a gymbol and rotated it. It came out really great!

Wow, that sounds like fun! Moving on to fun/leisure now, what’s one geeky thing that people don’t really know about you?

I’m a tragically flawed, a hopeless romantic!

If you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpower would you most like to possess?

Superman, so I could fly.

A popular choice! What other hobbies do you have?

I love my dog. She is my hobby.

What kind of music do you like?

Pretty much everything except country. :0

What are some of your favourite (non martial arts) movies?

“Leaving Las Vegas” is my favorite movie, most recently I’m obsessed with “The Revenant”. Holy shit! What an amazing film…

Indeed! Looking ahead, what in life do you really:

  1. a) like? Kindness
  2. b) dislike? Injustice

What would you say is your proudest accomplishment so far?

“The Gate”, hands down.

Can’t wait for it! So, what are you really keen to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I would like to be the second female director to win Best Director at the Oscars.

Great goal! So, what special message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom readers and your fans around the world?

Please keep supporting female directors. It is such an uphill battle for me and I need all of your help!

We definitely will! Well, as we prepare to sign off here, Kellie, where is the best place to go if people would like to find out more about you?

Twitter: @directormadison
Facebook: Kellie Madison

Thank you Kellie for your kind participation in this stimulating interview. We hope it gives our readers an interesting glimpse into your unique career and life. We wish you all the very best for your upcoming projects and do keep in touch!

Thank you so much!

From the earliest days of childhood, Brad Curran was utterly fascinated by martial arts, his passion only growing stronger after spending time living in the melting pot of Asian cultures that is Hawaii. His early exposure developed into a lifelong passion and fascination with all forms of martial arts and tremendous passion for action and martial arts films. He would go on to take a number of different martial arts forms, including Shaolin Ch'uan fa, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and remains a devoted student, avid and eager to continue his martial arts studies. Brad is also an aspiring writer and deeply desires to share his love for martial arts and martial arts movies with the world!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Kung-fu Kingdom