Your new movie The
Blood Hunter - in a few words, what is it about?
is about family relationships and broken characters. Nearly
every character has flaws and are often denied the chance to redeem
themselves. The story in a nutshell, is about a broken man named Deckard,
who has lost nearly everything in his life. When a group of vampires
inject themselves into his life, he finds his lost faith, a new family,
and his true calling in life. Killing vampires.
The Blood Hunter
being a vampire movie, is that a genre especially dear to you, and some of
your genre favourites? And what do you think makes your movie stick out of
don’t know if it is dear to me per se, but it is to my best friends,
Chris Candelaria and Jason Milburn. Chris has worked on every film project
I have ever done, and we’ve been best buds since 5th grade,
so I wanted to do a project that would mean something to both of them.
That being said, The Lost Boys and Underworld
are two of my favorite
flicks ever. I think this one will definitely stick out, because it is
very different. It is more of a character drama than a vampire flick.
Vampires just so happen to be one of the problems, but not the main
thematic element of the story.
far as genre favorites—I truly love all genres. I can watch dramas,
comedies, horrors, suspense, romance. I love them all. I simply love
movies. I started making horror movies because there is so much ART that
goes into them - makeup, effects, etc. I absolutely love practical special
effects, and horror allowed me to be able to dabble in effects
To what extent could you actually identify
with The Blood Hunter's
unlikely hero Deckard, and is he in any way based on yourself?
think Deckard is an easy character to relate to for a lot of us. Here’s
a guy that just clearly cannot win. My mom once told me life is about
hills and valleys, and sometimes those valleys seem to never end for some
of us. Deckard is one of those characters; if he didn’t have bad
luck, he would have no luck at all. I think every story I write presents a
piece of myself in it to a certain extent. I hope I am a bit more put
together than Deckard… but there are definitely times I feel his aura
more than others!
sources of inspiration when writing The
than the obvious Near Dark, or John Carpenter’s Vampires, or
The Lost Boys, I really gravitated towards a Netfilx series called
loved the cinematography, and loved all of the very broken family drama
that was going on between this highly dysfunctional family.
What can you tell us about The
Blood Hunter's approach to horror?
does not utilize the typical soundscapes and lighting schemes
that are present in horror films. Instead, most scenes are perfectly lit
so you can see all of the action, and tell a different style of story
altogether. By choosing to light scenes and set static shots rather
than rely on motion and mood lighting, it allowed us to tell a slower
paced family drama. I wanted it to feel as if this could be going on next
door to you during the middle of the afternoon on a typical sunny day. We
chose to use blood and gore almost as if it was a dark comedy - to use a
ridiculous amount of blood and add levity to the scenes, much like a
graphic novel, or a Tarantino style flick. The approach was not exactly
traditional, but we did use some of the typical iconography and
nomenclature present in horror films. I like to think of our film as a
cross between a family melodrama and a ridiculous gory horror film.
Blood Hunter does have its fair share of bloody bits - so what can
you tell us about the gore scenes in your movie, and how were they
Lots and lots of blood. The UPS guy quickly got to know us as the people
that ordered vats of fake blood. We were fortunate enough to have
one of our producers, Trevor Sherner, on our team that built sets, and
built the most ridiculous blood cannons I have ever witnessed. Basically,
he made these 12 foot PVC cannons that could blast gallons of blood and
chunks about 100 feet. It was pretty insane what he was able to build from
the hardware stores! The chainsaw zombie was an old fake floor trick—the
tricky part was getting the fake floor to appear like concrete, plus hold
the weight of the actors and a table. We were missing one of the key
actors in that shoot due to having an art show, so the scene never had
some of the shots I wanted, but, you make do with what you have. We had
our FX team of Jamie Candelaria, Jessica Miller and Michael Peterson do a
couple silicone head molds, as well as Moxie’s fake stomach , which was
a silicone piece strapped with blood tubing. The head explosion (à la Scanners) was a bit tricky, and required some rotoscoping, a shotgun, and
some artistic layering. My most favorite moment may have been when we
blasted 10 pounds of bloody hamburger “brains” and it decimated our
line producer, Lauri Patterson, who was holding a protective sheet of
glass in front of the camera.
Blood Hunter is a quite action-heavy movie - so do talk about the
fight and stunt sequences in your film for a bit!
a budget like ours, most filmmakers do not attempt action-heavy gore
pieces. But, being my 3rd action packed feature, I already had
a pretty good base knowledge as far as what I knew we could achieve. The
Blood Hunter, oddly enough, has the least action of the 3 films, as I
wanted to focus on the character drama a bit more. I had the scenes pretty
much visualized in prepro… but as is often the case with Indie films, we
could not get on set until the day of. Well---the locations were far
different than anticipated, so we literally blocked out fight sequences
just before shooting, and just rolled with it. The actors had little to no
practice before shooting these sequences. Amy Truax, the limber beauty who
plays Moxie, is extremely athletic, and willing to try anything, so she
was a pure joy to work with, as was the gorgeous co-director’s wife,
Cortney Llewellyn. Cortney had the difficult task of being covered in
blood, and submerged in a bathtub full of blood, and then having to fight
Amy without slipping all over the linoleum flooring. She had to endure 16
hours plastered in sticky blood, and being practically nude through that
process. I have no idea how she managed that one without killing Chas or
myself. Top marks for those two girls who did some incredible stunts and
endured horrible shooting conditions. I designed my own gunshot squibs
years ago, and created a very fast way to do them safely and practical, so
that saved a ton of time as well. Tom and Chas were very physical actors
willing to be tossed, punched, and thrown all over the place. Poor Tom was
thrown through a barn twice, a table, a wall clock, had glass bottle
broken over his head, a baseball bat, and also took several punches, and
got tackled many times. A very physical role that he took on like a
champ!!! I give all the actors so many props for all the physical beatings
words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
was a very, very different process than the usual one I take. It was my
first time “co”-directing, and I gotta tell ya’---I LOVED it. Our
crew was quite minimal on the project-often only having half a dozen
people working as crew on a single day, so I knew I would need a ton of
help directing the actors. Chas had taken it upon himself to meet and prep
the actors during preproduction, and worked through the scenes so
amazingly well, that it was an easy decision to ask him to co-direct
during production. Since I was the cinematographer, this allowed me to
focus more on the blocking and the shots, and allowed Chas to focus on
directing the actors. Chas pulled double duty as a producer/director and
also played the main bad guy, Caleb. Chas is an exceptional talent. So we
split duties - Chas worked with the character
emotions/inflections/moods/motivations, and I worked with their blocking,
movements, stunts, and camera work.
can you tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
Paxinos played John Deckard. Tom is a chameleon of sorts-he can play sexy
hero, or bumbling idiot, or tough guy, or deranged lunatic. He has a ton
of range and the thing I loved about him, is he really plays Deckard as a
guy you can totally see hanging out with and having beers with. He’s the
guy you find it easy to root for - you really want to see him overcome his
challenges. Tom has an extremely loveable quality about him in real life,
and he brings that to the screen as well.
Moxie was played by Amy Truax
- and honestly she was my muse on the project. Amy is an amazing
person that loves the same type of movies and isn’t afraid to get her
hands dirty (she even got married in a cave). I began writing the script
based off of seeing a single picture of her doing aerial acrobatics. Take
her flexibility, athleticism, her beauty and her personality, and I just
knew she would become a fan fave that people loved to watch, and sure
enough she is definitely a hit with people!
Robert Bradley was my first
choice as Poker…but funny enough he wasn’t initially cast as Poker.
The stars all aligned in the end, and he ended up in the spot he was meant
to be, and he is definitely a fan favorite, with people often chewing me
out because I didn’t use him more. Robert was picked because not only
did he fit the look of Poker, but he was able to pull off that
“Tombstone vibe” with his acting.
Aaron Malek played the self
destructive character of Mack. Mack was a ticking time bomb, and I needed
an actor that could bring layers of pain and Aaron was just perfect. Mack
is this character that you HATE, and yet… you kind of feel bad for him,
and he’s obviously struggling with so much pain, and Aaron really made
you feel all of these confused emotions.
Timothy Patrick Quill (Spider
Man, Oz, Army of
Darkness) played the leader of the Blood Hunters, Vinnie.
I had worked with Tim on my previous zombie flick and had a blast doing
so, and I wrote this role specifically with Tim in mind. Tim had to make
some sacrifices to play the part, and we are thankful he did, as I think
this is one of his best acting jobs!
Cortney Llewellyn played the unstable
vampire named Amber. Everyone agrees that Amber steals the show in so many
scenes. Cortney had never acted before, and Chas talked her into coming to
our cold read auditions. Cort stole the show. She killed it. She was the
best actor that entire weekend, and honestly she never stopped throughout
production. She’s this super funny gal that has zero idea how funny or
beautiful she is. Zero clue. Everyone loves Cort.
The leader of the vamps
was my co-director Chas Llewellyn. I had worked with Chas as an actor a
few other times, so I knew what he could do… but I really wanted to
challenge him, and give him an atypical role-that of the bad guy. Chas has
this method acting technique, so when he’s in the “mode” and has to
act that day, you just give him his distance, haha! What I love about Chas
as a partner, is his ability to be very accepting and calm. He knows how
to listen, and he knows how to not take anything personally, and has this
ability to communicate things very well.
Gary Busby played the psycho
vamp, Eli. I kept pushing Gary to take things up a notch. To be even
dirtier, more disgusting, more atrocious. I also worked with Gary on other
projects and he has become one of my loyal go-to guys. I trust Gary and I
know he will give me his all.
Iryna Rodionova played Caleb’s love, named
Star (Lost Boys reference of course). She is a Ukrainian model from Miami
that just so happens to also have a law degree, and a love for acting.
Iryna is one of the sweetest people you will meet with a naturally playful
exhibitionist type of demeanor. She is super fun and friendly and gives
you her all EVERY scene! I would love to work with Iryna again!
one of my faves… Danny Hicks (Evil Dead
2, Darkman) who played
“FangBanger”. It was my first time working with Danny. I gotta tell
ya… this guy is the real deal. A true professional, and man is he good. I
only had him available for one shoot day, so we had to write some simple
scenes that didn’t give him the dialogue/scenes that he deserves. After
working with Danny, it really made me want to write an entire film for
him. He is so good!
talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!
were chaotic, exhausting, hectic, messy, sticky, sweaty, and held together
by our glue, the exec producer Lauri Patterson. She was simply amazing.
She brought so much to the table and kept everything organized and
functioning. She kept me alive on set, reminding me to drink water, and
kept the entire production afloat. Lauri has this OCD type personality, so
everything was structure and spreadsheets. Me… I am a whirlwind of
unorganized chaos, so I’m sure I caused her plenty of headaches, haha.
But seriously, our sets were also an amazing circle of love and respect.
We became a close knit family over 7 weeks, and there were a lot of tears
once we wrapped production. Before I start a film, I tell everyone the
same thing. Invest in memories.
shoots for the day started out with a ton of coffee. Usually I would meet
with Chas and Lauri and discuss the plan, go over the schedule and then we
would stare at each other with a “how in the world are we going to get
this done” look. After we had the plan, and our base camp set up, we
would gather every actor and crewmember together in a big group huddle. I
would find some words of inspiration as would Chas, and then we would
break the huddle and get to work. The days were incredibly long, one of
the days lasted 20 hours, and then we started the next shoot day just 4
hours later. So we were constantly pumping each other up and offering
words of encouragement.
MOST IMPORTANT PIECE TO THE FILM ---MY WIFE, Brikotah Styles. She did all
of the food catering and handled double duty as producer, caterer, and
also took care of all of our boys. She is the kindest and sweetest person
I know. I could never do any of this without her and am so blessed to have
a supportive and awesome wife! I seriously don’t know how she multitasks
like that, and then puts up with me being gone such long hours. She was a
main actress in my last film, but our 4th son, Maddox was born
1 month before preproduction began… and then it was soon discovered that
he had a rare condition involving a skull fusion (Craniosynostosis). We
had to have emergency surgery in Utah to split his skull and give the
brain room to breathe. All of this happened just before we started prepro
- and my wife still insisted I go and shoot this crazy flick. She is
a ROCK STAR. An absolute ROCK STAR.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
are submitting to film festivals right now, so there’s rules about
showing the project publicly. Many fests do not allow online viewings or
public viewings, and we have some music that we only have festival rights
from Universal Studios to use right now, so we have to adhere to the
guidelines. After the festival run is over we will make a large public
release (end of 2019).
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The
Blood Hunter yet?
far the reaction has been largely positive, and people have really loved
the quirky horror/melodrama. The queasy folks that love the drama may
complain about the blood, and the horror junkies often say we need to show
more skin, haha. I would say if there’s been one constant critique, it
has been about the run time. We are coming in at just over 100 minutes,
and I agree that the pacing and edit can be adjusted. If we shave 5 to 10
minutes off, I think this will be a very solid and tight film--especially
for the budget!
Any future projects you'd like
I am a father of four boys, so I really have my hands full all the time,
and take things one step at a time. The
Blood Hunter is geared for a
sequel, and I have the first act written for it, but I really just want to
see how this one fares, and see if people want to see more of Deckard and
Moxie before I take it any further. So this year I have no plans other
than film festivals, and then next year I will see what options are
available. I usually have quite a few ideas and scripts brewing at one
time so we will wait and see.
What got you into filmmaking in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
started out as an artist - always drawing. I had no idea what I wanted to do
after a few years of college, so I decided to try the film department,
since it seemed really cool, and I LOVED movies. I had zero idea how much
actually went into making a film, but welcomed the art, and soon found
myself immersed in the film program, shooting, splicing and studying film.
As I neared graduation, I had started to pick up my pencils again, and I
didn’t have the funds to shoot my senior project (film was very
expensive to shoot on) so I dropped out with 16 credits left to graduate.
I thought I would move to California and try my hand at graphic
design/comic books. That never happened and soon 9 years shot by before I
knew it. My friends and I had been making stupid little short films for
fun, and I realized how much I loved it. So, ultimately I returned to the
film program after the 9 year hiatus. In 9 years, technology had made
DRAMATIC leaps. Everything was computers, and digital video cameras, and
hi-def was around the corner. It was a crazy time, and I had to learn a
tremendous amount in a short period of time. One year later I graduated
with my degree in filmmaking, and have been playing around in it since. So
I have been fortunate to have been trained on both film and digital. Kind
of cool to know how to work a Nagra or the new Tascam recorders… or maybe
that just makes me old!
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The
last film I made was a “bro-mantic zomedy” called Hobbes & Phil
Vs. Zombies. Starring Jason Harris, Aric Weber, Tim Quill and Playboy
model/musician Trisha Lurie. It was about 2 slackers that survived the
zombie apocalypse by drinking the years away, when they come upon a girl
that needs rescuing from a group of mercenaries. The girl also holds the
cure for the zombie outbreak.
How would you describe yourself as
I have this idea that if I can do it… everyone else needs to. So if I am
able to go insane hours on no sleep, food, and be completely exhausted and
still go day in and day out, then I expect everyone else to as well. I
love pushing boundaries as far as what you can do on a shoestring budget.
We made Hobbes & Phil
Vs. Zombies on $8,000. I’m pretty proud of that ridiculous number. I
like to give actors complete freedom. I like to mold the process… but
then give them the free will to take it in whatever directions they like.
I feel they are better at making those choices and decisions than me, and
I am never less than surprised at many of the decisions they come up with
as far as their character goes.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
obvious for me would be to say Spielberg, Ridley/Tony Scott, Tarantino,
James Cameron, Rodriguez... but some I dig that are doing some innovative
things today—Ana Lily Amirpour and Denis Villeneuve as directors, and I
love, love love cinematographer Roger Deakins. The man is a MASTER at
beautiful breathtaking visuals.
Karate Kid, True Romance, Rocky, Underworld,
The Empire Strikes Back, Goonies, John Wick.
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Wars - The Last Jedi. It is the bane of my existence. I put Sharknado lightyears ahead of it.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Alkayam. If you have not heard of her—CHECK HER OUT. Now. Do it. She is
an absolutely stunning and amazing musician. She has a voice of an angel.
She did the remake of Cry little Sister for The
Blood Hunter, and it
is unbelievably good. Seriously go listen to her, you won’t be sorry!! I
have been fortunate enough to work with Roniit on several projects, and if
I have a choice, I will never make a project without her music somewhere
in the film!
Thanks for the interview!