King Knight – Interview with Filmmaker Richard Bates Jr.

Interview with King Knight writer/director Richard Bates Jr

Written and directed by Richard Bates Jr., King Knight is a comedy film that follows Thorn (Matthew Gray Gubler), The High Priest of a modern-day coven who ventures out on a journey of self-discovery.

Borrowing Tape scored a Q&A with the King Knight filmmaker Richard Bates Jr. (Excision, Suburban Gothic) — part of our Fantasia International Film Festival (2021) coverage.

King Knight premieres at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

What was the inspiration for King Knight?

Nickelodeon cartoons and the movie, Holy Mountain.

Comedy is famously difficult to write. How did you approach the writing process?

Mostly, I took the same approach I always do — all of my movies take place in a farcical, heightened version of reality. The only real difference is I made up my mind not to be cynical. Then I just wrote and wrote until I felt I had a movie worth making.

What was the casting process like King Knight?

Casting King Knight was a lot of fun. I helped produce the movie and negotiated contracts myself so I had complete control over the process — which means there’s not a person in the movie who I didn’t want to be in the movie. Casting all the right actors allows me to direct from a place of trust — eliminating the need to micromanage. My main rule was for everyone to take every situation and/or line of dialogue completely seriously (no matter how ridiculous) — as if we were remaking Amadeus or Sophie’s Choice.

What was it like collaborating with Cinematographer Shaheen Seth (Buster's Mal Heart) for the aesthetic of King Knight?

Working with Shaheen was a dream come true! I’d wanted to make a movie with him for years and things finally worked out. He’s brilliant, super-creative, and a great collaborator. He brought so much to the movie and I hope to work with him again someday. One bonus fact for ya – he’s an expert gardener too!

You’ve worked with Steve Damstra II on your films, Excision, and Trash Fire. What was it like working with him again for the score of King Knight?

The last time I truly worked with Steve in-depth was on Excision. He contributed some music to Trash Fire as well as Tone-Deaf but Michl Britsch was the main composer on those films. Both Steve and Michl are incredible musicians! It was fun to mix it up again — Steve scored King Knight and Michl contributed additional music as well. Working with Steve was just a blast — we’re great friends — and I’m a big fan of all his musical projects and compositions. He’s insanely versatile and has an encyclopedic knowledge of music – there’s nothing Steve can’t do!

Which scenes from King Knight were your favorite - from shooting and the final edit?

I love the performances in the couples therapy sessions! My favorite scene is probably when Willow confronts Thorn about his mysterious past — the morning after she sifts through his emails. I also like how the Ayahuasca trip turned out.

Which films/directors have influenced you as a filmmaker, including King Knight?

Filmmakers who influenced King Knight:

Terry Gilliam, David Wain, Miranda July and Alejandro Jodorowsky.


What are some of your favorite movies from the past decade?

I, Tonya, Coco, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tangerine, Chi-Raq, Synchronic, The Beach Bum

Which themes and subject matters interest you as a filmmaker?

Alienation, Mental Health, Self-Growth.