Film - Kill Kane Interview

Adam Stephen Kelly

Susan Omand takes the opportunity to speak with a favourite film maker of ours, Adam Stephen Kelly, ahead of Kill Kane, his new film's DVD release...

Explosive crime thriller Kill Kane comes to DVD on January 18th, 2016 from 4Digital Media. The film stars Vinnie Jones (Snatch) as a family man whose world is torn apart when his wife and children are brutally murdered at the hands of a ruthless gang. Left for dead and with no one to turn to, he takes matters into his own hands and hits the streets in search of justice.


This is the first feature film directed by Adam Stephen Kelly, who was responsible for the sublime short, Done In, (read Steve Taylor-Bryant's review of that here), so it was a pleasure to catch up with him again for a short interview.

Hi Adam, and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Can you start by explaining a bit about what your new film is about for those of us that haven’t seen it yet and what, for you, makes it stand out from the crowd?

Kill Kane revolves around a PE teacher – Ray – who accidentally witnesses a gangland execution. To make matters worse, he’s spotted, but manages to escape. Naturally this crime firm isn’t particularly fond of loose ends so they pay him and his family a visit, and subject them to a terrifying ordeal that ends with their deaths. But Ray survives. Disregarding the police investigation and refusing all help, he takes the law into his own hands with only revenge on his mind.

There’s certainly no shortage of British crime movies, but they’re what our film industry is known for – along with kitchen sink dramas of course – so they ultimately should be celebrated. It’s fair to say that a lot of these smaller films don’t manage to assemble the strongest of casts, but I think that Kill Kane features some really strong performances.

Kill Kane

Vinnie Jones is well known from playing “hard man” roles now. Did you have particular actors in mind for any of the characters when you wrote the film and how much say did you have in the casting? 

With the exception of Vinnie, I had total freedom during the casting process. It was necessary to have a “name” in some capacity to make the film more appealing from a commercial standpoint. Originally Vinnie was going to play a bad guy who only appeared in three scenes, but he loved the script and really warmed to the family man character of Ray, so ended up in the lead role instead.

The script went through two different writers before I came on board the project and did a rewrite. I tried to flesh out the characters a little more, especially the villains, and really give them their own personalities so they each felt very different from each other, rather than Gangster A, Gangster B, etc. When it came to casting, I went through a lot of actors and a lot of auditions to find the right people, but when you see the right person you just know they’re perfect. The result is a really strong cast that’s a good mix of experienced actors such as Vinnie, Nicole Faraday and Sean Cronin, and newcomers like Benjamin Way, Conor Boru and Sarah Alexandra Marks, who I strongly believe all have extremely bright futures.

We were absolutely blown away by your short film, Done In, when we reviewed it a couple of years ago. How did you feel about the reception that it got at all the major film festivals and what impact did it have for you as a film-maker at the time?

It was overwhelming, and still is in all honesty. I couldn’t have wished for a better reception. Believe me, I’ve read every single response to the film there is online, from reviews to social media, and there hasn’t been anything negative whatsoever. The praise has been universal, which is just amazing to me because, even though I had great feedback on the script and my producer SJ Evans immediately wanted to make it, writing is such a horrible process in terms of self-doubt. One minute you think you’ve got gold on the page, and the next you question whether any of it makes sense or is anywhere near as effective as you thought. Everyone talks about the ending, but I was convinced it’d either fall flat or that most audiences would see it coming. That hasn’t been the case at all and some have hailed it as one of the best twists they have ever seen, which is the greatest of compliments. I wrote Done In in August 2012 and it was released online this past April, so it was a near three-year journey and I loved every minute of it. The impact on me was huge, and it’s fantastic just to know that people have watched it, let alone enjoyed it so much. 

Done In

Talking of Done In, how did it come about initially and where did you get the idea from? The casting of Guy Henry was inspired and the story itself was sublime.

At the time that I had Done In on the page I had been writing scripts for years but hadn’t really gotten anywhere. I attended FrightFest in London that same month and was really taken aback by the atmosphere and the incredible receptions that some of the films received. Axelle Carolyn, a very talented filmmaker, premiered her short film The Halloween Kid, which went down extremely well. I had contributed to the crowd-funding campaign and had closely followed its progress. Seeing the result of her hard work and passion after following the project since its infancy was seriously inspiring and was the kick I needed to make things happen for myself, so I decided to sit down and write something that I would also direct. With horror being my first love I was trying to force an idea for a short giallo that simply wasn’t working, so I quickly abandoned it. The next thing I knew the plot of Done In popped into my head even though it had absolutely no relevance to the previous idea.

I still don’t know where it came from, but I hadn’t seen it done before. Whether or not Done In is a horror film is subjective, which I like. It’s a hard film to pigeonhole, which I think is a good thing.

Having Guy in the film just turned it up to 11. He’s an excellent actor and delivers a really fantastic performance. Everyone loves him and for good reason. He really was a joy to work with, and I have plans to do so again. We keep in touch fairly regularly and he continues to be incredibly supportive of the film nearly two years after we shot it.

What prompted the move for you to a full length feature film from short films and the change of genre from subtle psychological horror to what looks (from the trailer at least) like a full on action movie?

I think it’s a natural progression, but I guess most filmmakers aren’t so fortunate to land a feature after having only done the one short. I’m thankful for the attention that Done In has brought me. Myself and a few other directors were sent the screenplay for Kill Kane, I read it right away, thought it was a strong read and shared my initial thoughts of how I would do it. A few days later I was offered the job. I accepted it on the condition that I could work on the script as I saw fit.

It’s pretty amazing just how different Kill Kane and Done In are. They bear absolutely no resemblance whatsoever. I think if you watched them both you’d notice stylistic hallmarks in terms of how both were shot, but they really are totally different movies.

How different is it writing and directing a full length feature film with all that that entails from working on a short film? What logistical challenges did you face?

Done In was an absolute blast to work on. It was shot over two days and the finished film runs seven minutes without credits. Most will assume that by contrast I’d have all the time in the world to shoot Kill Kane, but that wasn’t the case. I had 9 days. 9 days on the trot to get a film done that most filmmakers at this independent level would have three or four weeks to make. The schedule was pure insanity. I remember the first time I spoke to the cast on the phone and we were going through their days, and some of them were saying how they finished on day 9 and would ask how much longer we were shooting for after their departure, and I was like no, that’s it.

It was certainly a challenge because nothing ever goes as planned in production and you face constantly changing circumstances and obstacles seemingly appear out of the blue, but we soldiered through it and the result is a slick looking revenge film that looks like it cost a lot more than it did.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get a foot in the door of the film industry? Are short films like Done In a good way to get into other work?

There really isn’t a reliable formula. It’s a good mix of talent and luck, and of course who you know, so get networking. You never know who you might meet, and you never know who those people you meet might know. It’s such a small industry. While the Kill Kane crew work together regularly, myself and the cast were all outsiders, yet we were mostly all somehow connected. Making shorts are a necessity for honing your craft and learning how a set works, but I couldn’t say they’re vital to finding your way into the industry simply because there are no guarantees, but experience is important so it can never hurt.

What is next on the slate for Adam Stephen Kelly? Any plans for a move to Hollywood?

I’d say Hollywood is a little premature! With Kill Kane’s release on the horizon, let’s just see how that does. I’m currently working on another short film that’s somewhat of a spiritual brother to Done In. The script is done and I’m aiming to shoot it next year.

Thank you very much again for answering our questions and good luck with the film's DVD release.




Image - Casarotti Publicity/IMDb.