There’s few actors these days that I consider truly fantastic at the craft. Nick Damici is one of those that astounds me with every performance that he gives. Nick and Jim Mickle have made a mark in the film world with their collaborations and with the release of STAKE LAND 2 they continue to expand on the mythos of the vampire landscape that they have created. Nick was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about the film, what he’s learned from Larry Fessenden and the role that he one day hopes to portray in a film. As I’ve said numerous times before Nick Damici should have a role in every film because his presence alone makes it a better film.
Terror Time: Hi Nick, and congratulations on STAKE LAND 2. How hard was it to keep the film under wraps while you were shooting it considering how the original film has become such a fan favorite?
Nick Damici: To be honest with you when we were doing it I had no idea we were so under wraps. It came about fairly quickly once we started filming. I don’t think it was intentional to keep it under wraps, it just worked out that way that we were so involved in making it that no one thought about publicizing it at the time. We were just thinking let’s get this thing shot. And it turned out to be a really good thing for us in a way because when it came out everyone was like “Wait a minute we had no idea this was coming out.”
TT: That’s such a hard thing to do keeping a film a secret these days with all of the media access that is out there.
ND: I honestly don’t think it was intentional on anyone’s part. It just manifested very quickly once we had the script done and we shot in Saskatchewan so we were at the end of the world basically and once word did get out, it surprised everyone and it’s like “Whoa where did this come from?”
TT: This is the first role that you’ve reprised in a sequel. Were you excited to revisit the character of Mister?
ND: Yeah I’ve always had a saga in mind with STAKE LAND. A three story arc for those characters and it was interesting to go back to who this guy was and who he became. This was always my plan from the beginning. Eventually with the next film, we will see Mister as an old man and the character of Martin will become what the character of Mister represented in the first film. It was a lot of fun to go back and reprise the character again. That and I like to wear the cowboy outfit.
TT: Ha Ha. You and Jim Mickle started off very humbly in your careers and both of you have continued to grow throughout. What has surprised you the most over the years in regards to your career?
ND: I don’t know if it’s a surprise. I’m just a firm believer in put your nose to the wheel and keep going and don’t worry about it. Success is always a relative word. Everyone I talk to thinks I’m successful but I don’t think I’m successful I just do what I do. I enjoy writing, I enjoy acting so that’s what I try to do the most of in my life if I can. The surprise to me is that Hollywood isn’t knocking down Jim Mickle’s door and having him helm these big movies. But that’s good for me because that means I get to work with him.
TT: You’ve worked very closely with Larry Fessenden on multiple projects. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from working with him?
ND: Larry is the immortal idealist when it comes to making low budget films that you want to make. He’s the last bastion of that. He still lives by the principles of true independent film. The independent film boom that blossomed 30 years ago and got really huge seems to have been kidnapped by Hollywood. The prestige of Sundance is gone and it’s just another Hollywood offshoot now and we all know that. I mean hey I work for the Sundance Channel and I love it. I’m not knocking it but those are the realities. Everything that is successful becomes somewhat mainstream and there’s no avoiding it myself included. I always saw myself as an independent film guy but I’m not. I like it and I do it but it’s not all I do. In order to survive this world, you have to do what you have to do and that means work with all kinds of people and take the opportunities that come. Larry though he stands by that independent mark very strongly and I admire him for it.
TT: Absolutely. With Hap and Leonard and you being the writer on the series what has been the hardest part of adapting the work of Joe R. Lansdale?
ND: My main goal is to do Joe’s work justice. Being a writer myself I don’t put myself anywhere near Joe’s class. What Joe does is so different and with his particular brand he writes a lot in first person and puts you in the character’s head and it’s very hard to adapt to film. That’s probably the biggest thing, trying to capture the essence that he writes with. I really love Joe. Being as true to the books as you can be is the most important thing. With COLD IN JULY we probably put 70% of the book in the movie. There’s just no way to fit 100% in. We would’ve been making a 10-hour movie if we put all of it in. It really hurts when you have to lose stuff that you want to keep but in the end the film has to serve the story and that’s how it has to be. There’s no point in making a movie that no one is going to sit all the way thru and watch. It’s just the calls that you have to make and luckily Jim and I have been right most of the time.
TT: What inspired you to put it all on the line and become a screenwriter?
ND: I’m an actor first and have always loved acting but I just got tired of reading bad scripts and getting offers to act in bad films. As an actor it’s not satisfying to do really bad films. I saw independent film as a way to do what I love. I started taking a lot of work at NYU and that’s how I met Jim. There were film students who wanted to make films and I was an actor so I took parts in really interesting student films and it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Jim and I really hit it off and became friends and decided to start working on other projects together and that’s how MULBERRY STREET, STAKE LAND, and COLD IN JULY started and hopefully it just keeps going.
TT: Do you have any aspirations to ever direct a film?
ND: No. That’s never been my thing. I’m a guy who has no pictures. My phone has like four pictures on it and they are all of my dogs. I don’t see the world that way. I do things and I move forward. I don’t mind looking backwards. I don’t have copies of all the movies I’ve made. If I see STAKE LAND on the SYFY Channel, I’ll stop and watch and say “Wow that’s really cool.” and that’s it. I am contemplating if I do get the final installment of STAKE LAND going then I may direct that film.
TT: That would be awesome. At this point in your career what motivates you on a daily basis?
ND: That’s a great question. I’ve been very successful in the eyes of others but I just want that one movie that has no flaws. I want to do the best script I can, the best acting role I can. I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done. I’m not complaining about it but I don’t want to do the same thing again and again and again. If it is successful it doesn’t mean, it’s going to be good the next time.
TT: For someone starting out in the independent film world what is a piece of advice that you would give them to follow?
ND: Work. Work begets work. Most people go to colleges not to get a good education but to meet influential and like-minded people and those are the people that you’ll end up working with on projects. Also, holding on to that one passion project and spending ten years just trying to get that one film made will fail you. You’ve got to get other films made during that time frame to further the progress. We did STAKE LAND because Jim and I couldn’t get COLD IN JULY done. We wanted to but couldn’t. We decided that we had to make a movie and said “What can we do?” and that’s how we came up with STAKE LAND. It took a total of six years to get COLD IN JULY done but we both kept working at it. It all goes back to work begets work.
TT: That’s fantastic advice. If you could portray any character in a film who would it be?
ND: Sherlock Holmes. I’m a Sherlock Holmes nut. I’ve read everything that anyone has written in the Sherlock Holmes canon. I have a thousand Sherlock Holmes books in my library. It’s a fascinating character with fascinating relationships. I can’t stand how Guy Ritchie has turned Sherlock Holmes into an action star but that character can be reinterpreted and I would love to do that.
TT: Nick Damici as Sherlock Holmes would be amazing to see. I pray to the movie god’s that it happens. Thank you so much Nick for the time and conversation I truly appreciate it.
ND: Thank you I appreciate it Brad. Ciao ciao.
Be sure to checkout STAKE LAND 2 which is available now on all digital platforms and available on DVD and BLU RAY on 2/14/17