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posted: 5/29/2014 5:00 AM

Reel life: Meet 'Animals' cast, crew at indie film fest

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'Animals' loose
• If you missed the Chicago-shot drama "Animals" -- winner of the Audience Award at this month's Chicago Critics Film Festival at the Music Box Theatre -- you can catch it at the Midwest Independent Film Festival, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, at the Century Centre, Chicago.

At 6:30 p.m. the cast and crew will participate in a Q&A session and discuss their experiences making this movie, about two junkies living out of a car in Lincoln Park. "Animals" received the Special Jury Prize for Courage in Storytelling at the 2014 South By Southwest Film Festival. Naperville native Rob Davis served as a sound mixer on the production. Go to midwestfilm.com.

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'Cold in July' director: Star chemistry is key
The last time I spoke with filmmaker Jim Mickle, we talked about his harrowing gothic drama "We Are What We Are," a really biting family horror tale.

Mickle has a new movie opening this weekend -- "Cold in July," based on Joe R. Lansdale's cult novel about a 1989 Texas-set crime drama in which a family man (Michael C. Hall) kills a lowlife burglar in his living room, only to have the dead man's dad (a scary Sam Shepard) seek revenge.

A lot has happened to Mickle since his first movie, the 2006 cannibal virus thriller "Mulberry Street" and his subsequent vampire tale "Stake Land" came out.

I caught up with Mickle by phone recently as he was driving through upstate New York. I asked how much his increased public profile has helped him launch new films.

"In some ways, it's gotten a little bit easier, but in some ways, not," he cryptically replied. "A production is like a house of cards. Financing is really complicated now. It's not really one person anymore. It's usually several companies. The details are more complicated."

Originally, Mickle planned to make "Cold in July" three years ago, using the classic American western as a template. He and composer Jeff Grace discussed giving the movie a western motif in the score. Since then, Mickle infused western elements in "Stake Land."

"All those ideas were a little dusty by the time we got around to making 'Cold in July,'" he said. Instead, he told Grace to create a score with "booming, staccato John Carpenter-style synthesizers" reminiscent of the 1980s decade.

I asked Mickle about his working relationship with Hall, alias Dexter Morgan in Showtime's "Dexter" and David Fisher in HBO's "Six Feet Under."

"He was so easy," Mickle said. "You feel like you're not doing your job as director. I think his extensive work in TV has given him an ability to direct himself. He's great. Even when he's doing something not planned, it's still great."

I asked Mickle to name his favorite aspect to directing "Cold in July."

"I think the chemistry between the three stars (Hall, Shepard and Don Johnson)," he said. "The movie doesn't work if you don't enjoy those three guys together. You can't put that (chemistry) into a script. Fortunately, it all works."

"Cold in July" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago.

• Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out! Follow him on Twitter at @DannGireDHFilm.

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