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An Interview with Scott Dunn, Director and Star of Mandao Returns

by Mike Haberfelner

January 2021

Scott Mandao on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Mandao Returns - in a few words, what is it about?


Mandao Returns is about a lovable group of outcasts who use astral projection to travel through time and hopefully save the day. Itís the second film in the series.


Before we talk about the film, you have used the title character earlier in the movie Mandao of the Dead - could you talk about that movie for a bit, and how closely are the two films linked, actually?


Mandao of the Dead is the movie that kicks off the adventures of Jay Mandao and his friends. It takes place on Halloween and involves time traveling to save a newly deceased ghost.


Other sources of inspiration when writing Mandao Returns?


Iím a 90ís kid. Born in 87. I have such a sweet spot for movies from both decades. Some specific inspirations are Poltergeist, Back to the Future, and Twister believe it or not. Twister has really influenced my desire to make ensemble movies with characters that are loveable and colorful.


What can you tell us about Mandao Returns' approach to horror?


I liken the horror of Mandao Returns to the frosting on a sci-fi cake. Itís there to kind of give an extra oompf. As Sean Liang, who plays cousin Andy in both movies, has said: ďItís like Goosebumps for adults.Ē


Mandao Returns is of course also wickedly funny - so do talk about your movie's brand of comedy for a bit!


The movie's brand of comedy comes from how the characters relate and react with each other and the circumstances they are dealing with. Itís kind of like a horror, sci-fi Napoleon Dynamite.


A few words about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


I wrote both Mandao of the Dead and Mandao Returns. When Iím in the writing stage, I donít stop doing drafts until I feel like the movie is in good shape on the page and in my head. Then I make sure I communicate with my director of photography, rehearse with the actors, and then weíre off to the races. I try to make our sets a fun and creative place to have fun.


You also play the title character in Mandao Returns - so do talk about Mandao, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and did you create him at all with yourself in mind back when?


Jay Mandao was a slacker with no direction who discovered heís a natural astral projector. Over the course of two movies, heís really started to open up to the friends he finds himself surrounded by.  Iíve really enjoyed seeing him grow into someone who actually cares about the people around him. Heís an unlikely hero and I love that.


When I created the character of Jay back in high school, I was trying to see what it would be like to make a character different from my personality. The original Jay Mandao was based on the Richard Dreyfuss character in What About Bob mixed with Tobias from the show Arrested Development. However, over the course of making the actual movies, Jay has changed into something more fitting to me.


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


The cast is mostly made of people I know and have worked with before. Jenny Lorenzo, who plays Aura Garcia in Mandao Returns, was someone I hadnít worked with before. Her husband, David Gallegos, played Darth in the first movie. She was a fantastic addition to the Mandao-universe.


Do talk about the shoot as such, and he on-set atmosphere!


The on-set atmosphere is one of the reasons these movies are so fun to shoot. Itís like friends getting together and having a party. We all know each other and can play off one another really well at this point.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Mandao Returns?


Audience reception has been very positive. Weíve made a lot of new fans this time around and weíre excited to make some new Mandao content in the near future.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Besides the Mandao series, Iím also writing and developing some brand new stuff that is wholly original. Iím just in the writing phase right now.


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


Iíve been making movies since I was a kid. Itís always been a love of mine. I have no formal education in filmmaking. Iíve learned everything Iíve learned from just doing it.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Mandao Returns?


Besides Mandao of the Dead, my first feature film was Schlep. Itís a coming of age comedy about reconnecting with your past. We shot that in Joshua Tree. It was my ďcollegeĒ education and it taught me SO much.


You usually work both in front of and behind the camera - why is that, and what do you enjoy more, actually?


I love both. Itís a question I get a lot. I started making movies because I wanted to be able to make a vehicle to act in. Auditioning hasnít ever been my strong-suit. My acting career really started with Disney. I was on a show called Kickiní It. I learned that I wanted more control from that experience and thatís why Iím where I am today. I love acting and hope to continue to grow in that field.


How would you describe yourself as a director and how as an actor?


As a director I would describe myself as someone who values actor chemistry a great deal.

As an actor Iíd describe myself as naturalistic.


Filmmakers, actors, whoever else who inspire you?


Feeling lucky ?
Want to
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Find Scott Dunn
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Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)

Germany (East AND West)

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Your shop for all things Thai

Iím inspired by Robert Zemeckis, Felicia Day, the Duplass bros, John Hughes, and anyone who pursues their art fully.


Your favourite movies?


The two movies I had on repeat when making Mandao Returns were Back to the Future and Twister.


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


Not a movie, but I really deplore those things they play before, during, and after Youtube videos - commercials.


Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?


Follow me on:

Twitter @Scottydunnit

Instagram @Scottydunndidit


The Mandao series: @MandaoMovie on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Thanks for the interview!


© 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