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An Interview with Bruce Blain, Writer, Director and Star of Mad Santa

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2019

Bruce Blain on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Mad Santa - in a few words, what is it about?


A Julliard-trained actor loses his shit after being passed over for a Mall Santa job.


From what I know, Mad Santa is your first film as a writer/director - so what made you choose exactly this topic to take position behind the camera? And what made you take that step to begin with?


First of all, Mad Santa was written, shot, scored and edited, all in 48 hours, for the Vancouver Blood'n'Guts 48 Hour Film Competition. I had participated the year before as an actor, thought it was fun, so thought no time like the present to do my own thing. I had an idea about an actor getting revenge on a casting director, but then they threw “must be holiday themed” at us as the surprise element. The rest just happened.


With Mad Santa being a Christmas-themed movie (duh!), your personal thoughts about the holiday, and some of your worst Christmas-experiences - and have any of it made it into the film?


Like I said, the holiday theme was thrust upon us, so no real axe to grind or anything. I like Christmas... it's nice to visit family when I can. It usually involves copious amounts of alcohol and bugging neighbours in a mob of drunken carolling idiots.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Mad Santa?


Finally, a chance to vent.


At least for me, Mad Santa is also darkly 

What can you tell us about Mad Santa's approach to the thriller genre?


I just wanted it super intense. Bonnie Hay (The Mall Manager) really needs to take credit for how the day played out. First of all... it's already a ridiculous thing to make a movie in 48 hours, so the underlying tension is already there. But we shot that “monologue” scene first, and Bonnie, off camera for 45 minutes, looked terrified, crying her eyes out... it REALLY raised the levels from the get-go. From there, there was nowhere else to go but up. In this case, my approach was to feed off Bonnie... and just let rip from there.


humourous - would you at all agree, and if so, could you talk about your movie's brand of comedy for a bit?


Agree 100%. Most people find my sense of humour a wee bit dark. I'm really not the sort to self-censor much either. A lot of the funnier lines were improvised... the exchange for example, with Carrie Anne Fleming (Mrs. Mad Santa) was completely improvised. Luckily, she's just as twisted as I am. The funny bits weren't done for you all, they were done because we found them funny. I don't know if that answers your question or not.


Do talk about your directorial approach to your story at hand!


Have people you trust taking care of their jobs, Jeffery Lando as DP, Valentine Moulias as 1st AD...let them do their jobs...the rest comes easy. But first and foremost, spend time being very clear and concise about the look and feel you are going for. I spent a few hours discussing with Jeffery, and he turned around and nailed it. What we ended up with was like a snapshot of mind.


You also play the titular lead in Mad Santa - so what did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and did you write him with yourself in mind from the get-go?


Definitely had me in mind. I think I answer most of this above... for me, just letting go of any worries or concerns about what it looked like to the other cast and crew and trusting that if I truly just let go, the camera will capture it. I think it worked.


What can you tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


Bonnie and Carrie Anne have been friends of mine for quite some time. David Bloom (The Husband) was a Facebook friend... and he seemed keen. Chloe Cruz (The Daughter) was actually supposed to just be a PA, but when we decided we need another actor, she stepped in, or sat down as it were. She was awesome. Ashley Fetters (The Secretary) is a young lady I met in an acting class some years ago. I asked her because very much admire her hard work and dedication to her craft. Why these people? You go through the list of people in your mind, and some people just stick. I asked, they said yes.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Again super intense, very fast paced. I knew half the team, met the other half for the first time that morning. The team were fantastic. I really didn't have to do much after giving initial instructions. They all just got to work. And... boy howdie it was fun. I think everyone knew were making a decent little film.


The $64 question of course, where can Mad Santa be seen?

I have a bunch of other stuff on there too.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Mad Santa?


Sitting and watching the film with an audience is great fun. Hearing them laugh uncomfortably at the “flashlight” scene is stupendous. I'm really pleased with how the film did outside Vancouver too... we won an award at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival, and had three writers write some pretty awesome reviews. Was it you that wrote “powerhouse performance”? That felt nice.


From what I've heard, you're about to shoot Mad Santa 2 - anything you can tell us about that one yet, and any other future projects you'd like to share?


Mad Santa and The Queen of the Zombies is now in the can. It was done for this year's 48 Hour Blood'n'Guts. Other projects: Things a little slow up here for my demographic these days. Hoping for return visit to Riverdale soon for my 5th episode.


What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?


Funny story. While living in Bangkok, a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to be an extra in a movie about the Thai Soccer team going to the World Cup. I did that, had fun. Did more, had more fun. Started auditioning for commercials, booked them, had fun, and then is 2010, I found myself opposite Eric Roberts for two days in The Mark (he's a really nice guy) and then 10 days later, down in Phuket, opposite Ewan McGregor in The Impossible! (he too, is a really nice guy). Soon after all that, 22 days in Malaysia as Bernard: Killer of Women and Children in Vikingdom sealed the deal. The rest, as they say, is history.


What can you tell us about your film and TV work prior to Mad Santa?


That's a long answer. Let me put it this way: When I arrived here from Bangkok, I had 8 credits on IMDb. I now have 68.


You seem to have done it all, mainstream and indie movies as well as your fair share of TV - so how do all these sets compare, and what do you enjoy the most, actually, and why?


I don't really have a preference. Getting the opportunity to “play” is all I care about really. Shoot my character Pyotr Roslov on Arrow was fun, because the director pretty much just let me do whatever I wanted. A very fun and relaxing day. And then last weekend, I worked on another short film (Dakota Vegh)... it was another entry in the same 48 Hour competition (yes, I did my movie, and then acted on his)... anyway, I basically sat there for 4 hours insulting the other characters. Very cathartic day.


How would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?


What's my first line? That's the question for me that decides everything else. Once I figure how and why I say my first line, I allow everything to flow out as organically as possible. I'm part character, part method actor. A lot of the roles actors like me book up here are largely expository, so not a lot of character development, but I still try and give everything I can, no matter how small the role.


Actors, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?


Honestly, Dave Bautista has me impressed these days. This big mountain of a WWE has obviously been doing a lot of work off camera on his acting. That thing they did, the short, about his character in Blade Runner 2049 was awesome. I'd pay good money to watch Denis Villeneuve shoot the phone book.


Your favourite movies?


Soooooo many. Too many.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


CGI superhero movies are really getting on my nerves. And I hated Black Panther... watched it twice to make sure.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I think covered pretty good ground there.

If you're a Riverdale fan, tweeting #MoreVicPlease at the Riverdale people would be fun :)

Oh, almost forgot... Mad Santa will screen at the on Oct 26th in Squamish BC. This will likely be the last public screening.


Thanks for the interview!


It's always a pleasure to spend time talking about my favourite subject.


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD