Interview : JT Petty

When Dimension decided they wanted to get a third in the popular “Mimic” series happening, they came to the inescapable conclusion that there was only one man for the job, rising genre filmmaker J.T Petty [“Soft for Digging”]. And as CLINT MORRIS discovers, Dimension made Petty a deal – they said he could both write and direct and for all intents and purposes start from scratch – he couldn’t refuse.

What attracted you to a Mimic 3?
Dimension exec Nick Phillips came to me with the idea of “Rear Window with giant cockroaches,” which struck me as a remarkably clever idea for how to present the Judas Breed. They are monsters that benefit from being distanced from the viewer, they’re creepier and more threatening when they can’t be seen clearly. Dimension was willing to let me both write and direct, and they said I didn’t need to maintain any continuity with the first two movies other than the mythology of the creatures. They were also looking for as visual a movie as possible, which appealed.

What came first? the offer to direct or the offer to write it?
We had the understanding that I would write and direct, but officially writing came first. (Which is kind of funny considering they gave me the job based on “Soft for Digging,” a basically silent movie.)

This is your first major movie. Did it all run smoothly?
Absolutely. I only ended up in the hospital once, and we were able to shoot everything that I planned and more. Gary Tunnicliffe (SFX) was a huge help. Whenever he wasn’t manning the giant roaches he was nearby directing second unit, grabbing additional shots. I didn’t really appreciate how useful that material would be until we were editing.

There seems to be quite a trend in doing direct to video sequels these days. What’s your work take on it?
Not sure I understand the question, so I’ll just ramble. I think a lot of the ingenuity in Asian horror we’ve been seeing in the past few years comes from the fact that a lot of interesting filmmakers got the chance to learn and experiment in direct-to-video titles. I’m guessing that the amount of confidence and control a director like Takashi Miike has must come from his experience in D2V titles.

Do you mix in circles with other horror directors?
I desperately wish I had a more interesting answer than “no.” But no. If you’re friendly with any horror directors, tell them to give me a call.

What kind of offers have you had since directing Mimic?
This is a slightly more depressing question. There are a couple of interesting things coming together now, but I’m not really comfortable naming things until they seem certain to go. It’s so easy to indefinitely develop projects without actually getting the movie made.

You write video game scripts?
Yep. I wrote “Splinter Cell” a few years ago, which is the most popular game I worked on. I just finished the sequel, “Pandora Tomorrow,” which will be out in March ‘04. It’s interesting work, creatively satisfying to tool around in an art form that’s still learning how to tell a story.

Would you be interested in making a video game turned film?
Sure. I think the strength of video game adaptation is the fact that good games necessarily create complete, coherent universes separate from our own. If the filmed adaptation can learn from that, they can present a really compelling world. That being said, I can’t think of a game-to-film adaptation that I’ve really liked.

I have to know..will we ever see a big budget "Soft for Digging"?
I wouldn’t be interested in telling the same story again, though I wouldn’t at all mind making another movie in that style. I’ve been desperately hoping that this whole Talky thing is a fad; there must be a future in silent horror films.

What’s next for you?
Dunno, lot’s of possibilities. Have to see what comes together first.

MIMIC 3: SENTINEL is now available on DVD and VHS

Read Moviehole’s review of “Mimic 3 : Sentinel” here