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An Interview with Madellaine Paxson, Director, and Eddie Guzelian, Writer of Blood Punch

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2015

Films directed by Madellaine Paxson on (re)Search my Trash

Films written by Eddie Guzelian on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Blood Punch - in a few words, what is it about?


Blood Punch is about three very different characters who go to an isolated cabin to pull off a lucrative drug score. But once there, they discover that they are trapped in a supernatural cycle of blood and violence that seems to have no end... and no escape.


How did the project fall together in the first place?


This project has a whole story behind it that is so ridiculous, it’s hard to believe. Almost everyone involved in Blood Punch, including the director (Madellaine Paxson) and the writer (Eddie Guzelian), have a long history of working in children’s programming and animation for studios like Disney and Nickelodeon. We first met and worked with the three young actors who star in the movie when we cast them in a season of Power Rangers, which was owned by Disney at the time. We had all kept in touch, and decided to make a movie together.

It may seem like an incredibly unlikely group of people that came together to make this rather demented and twisted little movie—but if you had spent years writing Winnie The Pooh, I think you’d understand that it actually makes perfect sense. We clearly had a lot of pent-up aggression and other issues we needed to work out.


Eddie, what were your inspirations when writing Blood Punch?


I’ve always been a huge fan of film noir and I really wanted to take some of the very classic and traditional elements from that genre and then spin them off in a direction towards one of my other great love—low-budget horror movies. Within film noir, there exists a very prominent sub-genre that involves a dangerous love triangle that turns deadly, classic stuff like Double Indemnity, The Lady From Shanghai, The Postman Always Rings Twice—or more recently, Body Heat or Blood Simple.

The idea behind Blood Punch was to introduce one of these classic love triangles as the basis of the movie. It’s the ‘regular guy,’ the ‘femme fatale’, the ‘psycho boyfriend’—it’s a story that feels very familiar, you’ve seen it a million times and you think you know where it’s going. But then we wanted to take that set up and spin it off into something else—too take those classic and familiar characters and throw them into the middle of something that is so much more shocking and twisted than the simple murders and betrayals you were expecting (though plenty of those still happen).


Honestly how much fun was it to come up with quite that many ways to kill one and the same character?


It was challenging, because we didn’t want the deaths to become repetitive and boring. Every death had to be entertaining!  We shot even more deaths than are shown in the movie, and they didn’t get used for one reason or another… but they’re included on the DVD special features, and if you pre-order the movie on iTunes (or using an American iTunes account), we will send you these special features!


Madellaine, what can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


Keep it simple, classical, and invisible; I chose to let the actors carry the story, instead of distracting the audience with flashy directing tricks like shaky-cam, etc. Also, use as many practical effects as possible, as opposed to CGI, including muzzle flashes on the guns.


As far as I know, you two worked pretty closely together on Blood Punch, from conception to production, to a point where the line between writer and director became somewhat blurred - so what can you tell us about your collaboration on Blood Punch? And how did you two first meet even, what can you tell us about your past collaborations?


We met at Walt Disney TV Animation (WDTVA) as low-level assistants. We both became writers on the cartoons that WDTVA had in production. We have worked in both children’s cartoons and children’s live-action programming. When Eddie got a job producing Power Rangers RPM, Madellaine assisted in the casting and writing. When we decided to make Blood Punch, the very actors that were cast for Power Rangers RPM were the actors we most wanted to work with. That’s when our kids’ TV world collided with our horror movie world and created a bloody mess!


From what I know (and I might be wrong here), Blood Punch is the feature film debut for the both of you after doing tons of TV and animation - so why did you exactly choose this story, and how does making a feature compare to doing TV and animation?


We chose the actors before we came up with the story… but once we knew we had a trio, 2 men and 1 woman, that was instantly a love triangle. One of our favorite genres is film noir, which often features a deadly love triangle, so we went down that road, while adding elements from other genres we like, such as a supernatural element, a horror element, and dark comedy.


There are many differences between writing cartoons and making a feature, but honestly, at the end of the day they are both storytelling. A feature is just telling it in a longer form than a cartoon. The biggest difference between making Blood Punch and writing cartoons, for us personally, was that we had full control over the project; we didn’t have any studio executives telling us what to do. We were allowed to do anything we wanted, and were also responsible for everything. Which also means that anything that’s wrong with it is our fault.


You have worked with all three of your leads, Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet and Ari Boyland, previously on Power Rangers R.P.M. - so what made them the perfect cast for Blood Punch?


That’s actually backwards, Blood Punch came after we decided to make a movie with these fantastic actors. Besides being incredibly talented, they are all very, very experienced, which made everything easier on us as first-time filmmakers. And instead of just being actors to order around on a set, they were true collaborators.


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


Adelaide Kane (currently the star of Reign), who plays Nabiki, was the villain on Power Rangers RPM, and she makes a great villain.

Cohen Holloway is a New Zealand actor (currently in What We Do in the Shadows) that we met through our mostly-Kiwi cast; he had starred in a fantastic independent Western called Good For Nothing, which we saw at a film festival in Santa Barbara. Cohen attended the festival, and when we met him, we knew we wanted to work with him.


Blood Punch was filmed primarily in and around a cabin in the woods - so what can you tell us about your actual location, and what was it like filming there?


We had shot test footage at a completely different cabin the year before, and had wanted to shoot there for principal photography as well, but at the very last minute the cabin became unavailable, and we had to scramble to find a new location! What we found is the cabin you see in the movie.

Idyllwild, the town in which we filmed, is a beautiful little mountain community, and we were told it rarely snows in November (when principal photography began). So of course we had a huge snowstorm on the first day of production, making our camera truck unable to drive up the winding mountain roads. But when the snow abated, the vistas were spectacular; we tried to capture that as much as possible, since the characters are supposed to be all alone in a very remote location.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


All production is difficult, and our shoot was no exception. We had one problem after another, from ice storms on the first day of production, to sand storms in the desert, to a bomb scare, to one of our actors ending up in the hospital for several days… it became a running joke: “Blood Punch, the movie God didn’t want to see get made.” But somehow, we made it anyway.


With the movie only about to be released onto the general public - what can you tell us about audience and critical reception of Blood Punch so far?


We have been surprised and humbled by the amazing audience response. There’s nothing like watching your movie in a theater with other people, and seeing them respond with so much enthusiasm. It’s one reason we did the festival circuit for a year, and went to as many of the screenings as we could possibly attend. It was incredibly satisfying.

Critical response has been overwhelmingly positive as well; we were worried that seeing it with an audience is a much more satisfying experience, and if reviewers watched it alone, they would think less of it. So far, that has been quite rare, and the reviews have been great!


Any future projects you'd like to share?


We’re trying to put together a horror TV series, a sort of Misfits meets John Dies at the End.


What got you into the filmworld into the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


MP: Having deeply loved movies since childhood, (basically, seeing Star Wars) I went to film school. Though I directed many shorts, I also studied writing, and chose to follow that path. Until Blood Punch that is.


EG: Growing up through high school and junior high, I worked as an usher in a movie theater. This gave me the opportunity to watch movies over and over and I became very interested in figuring out the specific things that made some movies work and others fail. I also had the opportunity to watch these movies with live audiences and learned a lot about how they would react and what it would take to really engage their interest and sweep them away. In college, I received a dual major in writing for television, radio, and film and literature.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Blood Punch?


MP: Other than short films I made for school, I have zero film work. Other than watching lots and lots of movies.


EG: I’ve done some work in animation and children’s entertainment, but have had a life-long love affair with low-budget genre filmmaking and really wanted to tap into that for my first real feature.


Writers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?


MP: Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, John Carpenter, Sidney Lumet, the Coen Brothers, Tarantino


EG: Bill Lancaster (screenwriter), John Carpenter, Sergio Leone, Park Chan-Wook, Joon-Ho Bong, David Lynch—and yeah, the Coen Brothers, for sure.


Your favourite movies?


MP: Robocop, Aliens, Empire Strikes Back.


EG: John Carpenter’s The Thing, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Videodrome, Straw Dogs, The Wicker Man (original), Unbreakable.


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


MP: Honestly, it’s hard for me to really hate movies, because you can learn a lot from even bad movies… but if I really had to choose films I truly hated, it would be mainly because of how they ruined movies that I loved. Final answer: all the Star Wars prequels.


EG: When I watch movies, I’m really pulling and rooting for them—it’s hard for me to hate on any movie. Mostly, I just feel bad and sorry for them.

But here’s a few that do spring to mind: Jack and Jill, Elysium, Die Hard 2 (which sucks even compared to the franchise’s other bad sequels).


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


Blood Punch star Milo Cawthorne is starring in another great indie horror movie made in New Zealand, Deathgasm, which will have a US theatrical release October 1st.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



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



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
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... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


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