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An Interview with Matthew Santia, Co-Director and Star of If I Can't Have You

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2022

Films directed by Matthew Santia on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie If If I Can't Have You - in a few words, what is it about?


A stalker thriller comedy about a woman who has a penchant for being stalked no matter what she does.


Now how did this project come together in the first place?


Tennille Taraszkiewicz [Tennille Taraszkiewicz interview - click here] mentioned she wanted to do a stalker film where the guy was the main baddie. I had been looking for a reason to do a Scream-inspired film for years so I sorta married the two together.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing If I Can't Have You?


Scream and Fatal Attraction.


You've written If I Can't Have You together with Todd Calvin de Pew - so what can you tell us about him, and what was your collaboration like?


Calvin is one of the most gifted actors Iíll ever have the pleasure of working withÖ but heís also incredibly talented as a writer. It was so amazing because weíd be able to start a scene and have the other one finish and be happy with it. We work incredibly well together and are currently working on our third feature film, Nightcap, together. Heís another one thatís so much better than they give themselves credit for. Be on the look-out for him in both his writing and acting endeavors.


Do talk about If I Can't Have You's approach to both horror and humour!


Well, Scream was our benchmark. So we wanted to do something that wasnít incredibly terrifying, but also not incredibly comedic. Mandy Logsdon really helped with the comedy, once we saw the big swings she was taking as Barb, it was really easy to fall in line and give our characters similar undertones. I hope this answers the question, itís always a difficult one for me.


What was co-directing If I Can't Have You with Peter Poulos [Peter Poulos interview - click here] like?


A dream. Knowing the shots Iíd envisioned in my head would come out exactly how I imagined. Heís that good. And humble too. Heís really something special.


You of course also have to talk about working with the film's producer and star Tennille Taraszkiewicz [Tennille Taraszkiewicz interview - click here]?


Working with Tennille is like working with 10 people all together. Because everything that could go wrong sheís already thought about and has a solution for it. When working with Tennille youíre really allowed to just focus on the task at hand, because sheís already gotten everything else covered. It really is lovely.


You also appear in front of the camera in If I Can't Have You - so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you written him with yourself in mind from the get-go?


Oliver is the gay your parents warned you about. Heís narcissistic, absent-minded and very very loud. So I basically just drew on a lot of reality TV and Madonna. I knew I was going to be playing him before we started writing so I just kept writing in things that made me uncomfortable, and when it came time to acting it, just hope I had done my research correctly.


Do talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


Tennille is the most organized person Iíve ever met. She has this scheduling down to a science. Peter is a genius behind the camera. Todd is a revelation as an actor. Mandy was a diamond in the rough that really drove a lot of the comedic tones of the film home. And Brandon Brefka is the best AD youíll ever work with. How could I not want to do this film? I respect these guys so much.


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


I like to keep it fun. I want to make sure people want to be there, because hopefully they believe in the story we are telling. This set was no exception. If you watch the BTS videos and see the photos you can tell the set was very lively.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Todd Calvin De Pew and I just finished co-writing a feature film called Chasing the Ghost. Itís about a drug-addicted anesthesiologist whoís about to enter rehab who has a curse put on him that he has to stay high or his family and friends die one by one. Itís another really fun project, and Iíll actually be directing as well. We are also writing Nightcap about a group of characters that get locked inside a bar because there is an active shooter outside. So itís all of their fears and insecurities come out over the course of one night.


What got you into filmworld to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I remember my mom taking me to the movies at least once a week. Watching those stars up on the big screen, I was certain they didnít have to take baths and they didnít have bedtimes. I made it my goal to become just like them haha. Even though Iím not quite there yet, I just liked the idea of being larger than life and that has always stuck with me. I did receive very formal training in the form of the University of Southern California Film Program. Some of the best quality training I couldíve ever hoped for.


Going through your filmography, one can't but notice you seem equally comfortable on both sides of the camera - so which side do you prefer, and why?


I think Iíll always prefer acting. For some reason, I feel most comfortable on that side of the camera. I donít know a whole lot technically speaking, and I think I can communicate best with actors, because I am one myself.


What can you tell us about your filmwork before If I Can't Have You, in whatever position?


My favorite short film I did before If I Can't Have You was a short I co-directed, wrote, and co-starred in called EntropyÖ or An Irresponsible Retelling of the Iliad. I play a version of Patroclus and my writing partner Todd Calvin De Pew plays a version of Achilles. It was so much fun bringing those characters to life. Hereís a link: Before Entropy, it was a lot of films based on true individuals, which is very very challenging. Entropy really imbued me with the playfulness I needed to bring If I Can't Have You to live.


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


I think Iím incredibly empathetic as a director, yet I can tell when my actor is holding back. For me, my job is figuring out how I can get them to trust me enough to give me that extra 10% they donít even know they are holding back. So for me itís gaining my actorís trust and also a lot of listening. As a director I listen intently to my actors. As an actor Iím always in 110%, so itís just figuring out ways to not go too over-the-top with my performance. Because I tend to be over the top, I just make sure Iím really listening to my scene partner.


Actors, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?


Wes Craven, Colin Farrell, David Fincher, Nicole Kidman.


Your favourite movies?


Scream, American Beauty, Drive My Car, The Lobster, The Hours.


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


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Your shop for all things Thai

Honestly, after working on the other side of the camera, Iíve really realized that every film has something redeeming about it.


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


I donít social media often, so Iím boring and just have a Facebook. Iím just Matthew Santia on Facebook and hereís the link on Facebook to our movie:


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


No, youíve covered this quite nicely. Thank you.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD