Brian: So, tell me, what gave you the idea for the movie?
Noah: What gave me the idea was becoming a dad and I think wanting to talk about that process and that journey. Then, when I started to look at myself, I had this version of myself in my mind’s eye and thought “well that guy’s really cool”. (Laughs) “That guy you know, he’s got a cool jacket and he slicks his hair back, and has a cool muscle car.” I think that the sort of vampire aspects were sprang from that. When you really ask yourself “you think you’re a cool guy but what would make you even cooler?” If you were a vampire, if you were a monster, if you were a superhero. And I sort of spiraled out in that way and I realized “wait a minute, that thought and the thought of how do you kind of reconcile with this big idea of fatherhood, parenthood.” It all could kind of exist at the same time. It really kind of became like a kitchen sink sort of situation where I was like “all of these things can happen.”
Brian: And it all worked.
Noah: Thank you.
Brian: Yeah, that was the best part. So having written and directed a segment that you did during Scare Package, what did you bring to this project from that experience?
Noah: I co-wrote Scare Package with Frank Garcia-Hejl, who acted in that and is the voice of the radio guy in Blood Relatives, and he’s a lovely guy, great collaborator and an incredible sketch writer. He’s able to write in a format that obviously lends itself to something like an anthology where you can talk about a big idea in a small chunk. He was really, really helpful in doing that on Scare Package. But I think the thing that I took away was how do you make a genre moment, say something about how you actually feel? And how do you do it and not have it feel like homework, which nobody wants. I feel like you want to make something that people like, so I thought, frankly, no pun intended to Frank, frankly at the end of the day it really did become about constructing something that was entertaining and unexpected within a genre package. In that case it was werewolves and sort of cult family members and on this it was vampires.
Brian: The radio voice was a great touch.
Noah: His Alex Jones impression, it was great.
Brian: Every time he came on and some of the stuff he spouted was just like “oh, this is just awesome!”.
Noah: He was fantastic.
Brian: You have been on both tv and films, so what did you pick up from all those years that helped you for Blood Relatives?
Noah: I don’t how to put it, I would say a roundabout experience as a first time director or I should say often like maybe a bit of an opposite experience for a lot of first time directors. Most first time directors spend an enormous amount of time, often their entire 20s or 30s, writing, preparing, being in some version of pre production and then something changes and they have to start over again, that’s constantly what they’re doing. They’re shot-listing, they’re revising their script, they’re talking to department heads and actors and they’re really trying to put something together. They have all this preparation time and I think it often helps, it makes something better, right. And then they get into production and they’ve never been on a set or they’ve been on so few sets that production becomes this sort of unknowable or X-factor kind of experience, it’s very finite. In reality, you have only so many hours in a day and only so many days to shoot the movie and the resources are so limited. It’s a very, very specific environment that’s very very hard to replicate outside of it. That’s the hardest part to probably get on the job training for, but that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years. So, the things that I didn’t know about pre-production or post production are endless and I still don’t know them but at least I had experience on set that I felt like I could bring and get through an 18-day shoot in the middle of a pandemic and mostly have people happy to be there. (Laughs)
Brian: What do they always say, every actor wants to be a director. What put you into that thought to do that, to be a writer and a director? Because you didn’t start until just recently and this is your first feature. I mean, you’ve been acting since the early 2000s.
Noah: Yeah, the first movie I was in was Brick, it’s almost 20 years. You know, I wish I had started earlier. If I have a regret, it’s that I wasn’t really trying to be the best writer I could be until recently, until the last few years and subsequently direct. To me I sort of feel like the people who I love tend to be people who are directing their own scripts and to that end sort of treating the script like it’s the important thing not the direction, you know. And I would like to think that’s what I’m trying to do. To me I felt like I liked the script and that is what I kept trying to convince people to do (laughs) was not to necessarily listen to what I was trying to get them to do but be like “don’t you like the script? I like the script. We all like the script. Let’s just do that.” I think at the end of the day, a part of me just feels like, what is a director, what is an actor if nobody’s got a thing that they can kind of go to and read and feel like is unifying them.
Brian: It sounds like you had a story that you wanted to write and a story you really wanted to tell by becoming a father so maybe that was a key that really unlocked something inside of you.
Noah: This was the third script that I had in some form of development. I’d written two scripts before the pandemic that I wanted to work on with my friends and collaborators and we had started to work on them but one was a little bit too expensive and the other one was a little bit too hard to put together. You know, you learn after enough time in the business if you just kind of keep working, something will happen and it’ll come through and perseverance is a very helpful factor. But when the pandemic hit, I kind of realized like man, this is going to be really tough for us to all do together, either one of these other projects. I started to work on and really revise Blood Relatives as something that I felt like I could do more singularly, more on my own and within the confines of a pandemic. It’s interesting because I think in a lot of ways most people will say “oh, well, you know, I wrote this kind of small, low budget insular movie first and then I had all these big ideas” but I don’t think that’s always true. I think there’s a lot of people who are like “I had some big ideas and then I kind of had to drill them down.”
Brian: Because it’s going to be too expensive?
Noah: Yeah, yeah.
Brian: So, how did casting go? How did you find Victoria [Moroles]?
Noah: We found Victoria through Josh Ruben, who was a real rosetta stone through this entire process. I had known Leal Naim, I had known Aaron [B. Koontz] and the Paper Street people and I had been very close with Sam and the people at Shudder. But when I became friendly with Josh, who had made Scare Me which similarly he wrote, directed and acted in, it’s not a very big movie, there’s some ideas in it that are maybe a little bit left of center for a lot of genre films and helped kind of pushed the envelope a little bit in that respect. I sort of saw what he did and I was like “man, I kind of want to do something similar, would you help me?”. And he came on board as a producer and he had done a day’s work on a movie called Plan B that Natalie Morales made for Hulu that Vic starred in. There’s no relation between Natalie and Victoria. He had worked with her on that movie and he suggested her, he said “I know this is crazy.” At the time I hadn’t seen Plan B but he said “I think you should really talk to her.” And I talked to her and then watched the movie when I could, when it was available and saw work that was reflective of this really cool person that I had spoken to and started that friendship. She did not leave, thank goodness. (Both laugh) She had faith in us.
Brian: When it came to you, was it always your intention to star in the film as well?
Noah: Not necessarily. The sort of last thing that I thought of was “am I going to be this guy?”. Because, you know, at least I had seen what all my friends had gone through and I sort of knew that directing a movie was going to be hard enough, I don’t have to act in it. But it was the middle of a pandemic and it felt like the path of least resistance. The way we were going to get it done was if I just did everything that I could do and that turned out to be something that I could try to do. But next time I’m going to hire only good actors like Vic.
Brian: I mean, you did great and I have to condemn you, I’ve never made a film before but listening to enough podcasts and filmmakers just knowing the amount of time and effort it takes to make a film, to write, star, and direct, and be in the movie, you’re pretty much in the entire movie so to direct that and be in front of the camera I’m sure was a fun time.
Noah: It was fun and it was challenging and I’m not sure if that’s something I would recommend to many filmmakers. (Both laugh) If anyone is taking advice or looking for it, I would say of all of the hard things you could do while making a movie, I don’t know if starring in it is necessarily top priority.
Brian: What was the toughest scene on the page that you wrote and also what was the toughest scene to shoot?
Noah: The toughest scene on the page was probably the scene in the diner which is where the movie kind of stops being in my control and starts being in her control. It does this thing, that I had always wanted to see in a movie, which is I always feel like you know in movies that are sort of family dramas or relationship dramas, you know the movie ends with these two people or this family that will get together and walk off into the sunset and the music swells at the end and the curtain closes. I always thought to myself man, you know, you see a movie and you see whoever it is, friends or two people or a whole family and they go through a whole bunch of bullshit and kind of come out of it and say “oh, we’re gonna to be okay” and the movie ends, and you’re like “wait a minute, what are they going to do? How are they going to figure this out?”. And I know it’s great that they understand that they love each other, it’s great that the family loves each other or the guys love each other, whatever it is but it’s like how are you actually going to live your lives now? And that’s what I wanted to do at the end of Blood Relatives is that I wanted it to be like “wait, how are these people going to deal with this now, deal with being a family?”. When I realized that’s sort in her court, she’s actually the smarter one and the person who can influence that, that helped, but that was a tough scene to write. The toughest scene to shoot was probably the scene with the security guard and that was because he’s sort of in this glass lobby and I’m on the outside and then Vic shows up and we try to get in. You know, shooting in a glass lobby, when you’re a vampire, and avoiding those reflections, is not easy. And it can be very complicated. That was actually a very complicated kind of dance that we had to do throughout that whole night and that was tough. Now, otherwise, all the actors were so good that you’re just trying to get as many takes as you can with people because they’re so good and you’re just trying to get through a day. We always had to beat the clock on a movie like this, it’s just “can you get your day done?” you know. And then you get greedy because the actors are good and the camera looks good, the lighting is good and you start getting greedy and you go “one more”.
Brian: How much of the film stayed true to the script versus did anything get improvised on set or was it mostly pretty much your words on the page?
Noah: We mostly stuck to the page. There were a few moments, I remember we had this incredible legend, Jon Proudstar who came in and played the very kind owner of the garage and he came for one day to be in the movie. The whole point of that character is he’s supposed to be sort of suspicious, he’s supposed to be the epitome of a good dad, someone who you meet immediately and you go “this guy’s watching out for you”. And Jon has that vibe, like he is that guy, he’s got that energy already and knows how to project it with power, with gravitas. At some point, in that first scene, he kind of went into, I think, a little bit of a personal space and he said a few things that were not on the script but they were in the world, they were in the scene and they made it in the movie because he was there, he was honest and he was sort of feeling it. You always want to give people the room to do that, you know.
Brian: Especially to define the character they’re playing.
Brian: They always say the hardest part of filmmaking is the editing. What did you learn about your film during the editing process?
Noah: Oh, man, the editing process was by far the most challenging process of making this film. I had the luck and grace of having Patrick Lawence who edited Scare Me, another introduction from Josh. Patrick is a consummate professional and he does not know how to quit. You go through what they call an assembly which is basically you sort of just put the movie together very loosely and then from there you do your first cut as a director and then you start to have conversations. It can be a very disheartening experience because nothing looks like what it does in your mind at that point, nothing’s finished, nothing’s polished. At some point though, Patrick and I sat down and we really had a bit of an emotional conversation like “what do we really think this movie’s about? What do we think we’re trying to project here?”. And the answer was fun, like the answer wasn’t like some crazy, you know like we didn’t invent a new word for it, it was just fun and self-aware and all the shit that we all probably like out of movies. But it was fun. We sort of had to hold each other one day but once we figured that out it was just like alright, we just kept asking ourselves “how do we make this fun? How do we make this fun? What’s the fun answer here?”. And then the process became fun but it was one of those interesting things we had to decide. Fun, okay, that’s easy.
Brian: So do you think the limitations of filming this during covid helped or hurt the film? Do you think that if this had been filmed in the normal world, that you would have had the same film you ended up with or do you think it would have changed?
Noah: I don’t know if the film for those watching it would be different. I know that there were challenges because of covid that are logistical and that add cost and require more time and all of those things are just, sure, if you didn’t have to deal with that stuff then you’d have more resources. Or if obviously you weren’t worried about people getting ill and not just losing work but being sick, we can’t forget that there’s all these logistical things that we worry about and that people talk about but there’s a real cost which is that you don’t want anybody sick, you don’t want your kid to be sick, you don’t want your mom to be sick. So, I think, obviously there’s an emotional, mental cost to that that we all paid, that we’re all probably still paying. Because of the work that Leal did, our producer, to kind of arrange all of the things we needed to do like tests, and mitigate and make sure people wore their masks when they needed to wear their masks and not go out to crowded restaurants and all of that. We were able to do it and make a movie that would’ve been the same movie with or without covid, thanks to him.
Brian: Well, it’s a great movie and I hope a lot of people see it. I really appreciate your time.
Noah: Thank you. I appreciate your time.