After watching the new vampire movie Blood Relatives, a unique combination of horror, comedy, and family drama, I had the opportunity to pick the brain of its writer-director and actor Noah Sagan (Knives Out) about the film and what makes it so unique.
In Blood Relatives, “A vampire’s loner lifestyle is thrown into disarray when a teenager shows up claiming to be his daughter, and she’s got the fangs to prove it. On a road trip across America’s blacktops, they decide how to sink their teeth into family life.”
Kelli: “I really enjoyed your movie Blood Relatives. It’s an interesting combination of vampires, horror and family drama, and comedy mixed together.”
Noah: “Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. I tried to throw the kitchen sink at it [laughter].”
Kelli: “It’s great. How did the movie come to be?
Noah: “Honestly, it all started with my becoming a father really. I had spent my career being an actor and having also had the fun experience of getting to stay out late, wearing cool jackets, [laughter], wearing sunglasses inside, and vampire-like things. I could’ve found myself as a different kinda vampire but with a baby and I thought that would make a good I don’t know, discussion of a journey of monsters and parents.”
Kelli: “Right, you sound just like your character. And congratulations on becoming a father.”
Noah: “Oh, thank you.”
Kelli: “How difficult was it to both direct and act in the film?
Noah: “Well, it definitely was a challenge. I was very lucky cause I wrote the script from a very personal place. I sort of wrote it not only really about what I was going through, how I was feeling, but also I tried to show that with Jane, the daughter character played by Victoria Morale. I tried to speak to my own sort of 15-year-old punk self if you will. Sort of a version of when you’re driving away from an argument you’d say, Oh man, I wish I had said that. I wish I had done that it would’ve really put me in the right position. I would’ve felt great. That was sort of the revisionist history sort of feeling. I was lucky cause I spent a lot of time on set. So I felt comfortable being on set, which for a lot of first-time filmmakers is a challenge. But really if it’s just a matter of this is the real heart of the film, the real head of the acting department to keep checking in and asking her, are we getting what we need to hit? Are we being honest? Are we being funny? Are we being in the place that we need to be to have the movie make sense? So I really owe a lot of the acting success that there is to her.”
Kelli: “The casting was great. So tell us what was the most challenging aspect throughout making this movie?
Noaj: “I think it wouldn’t surprise anybody that we didn’t have a huge budget and we definitely did not have a lot. We definitely did not have a lot of time. And one of the things that a lot of my filmmaker friends told me going into this is, to protect your time as much as you possibly can. Get as much time as you can to actually shoot the movie because you know, you can write a script over many years and develop it. You can even spend a little extra time on editing if you need to finish it. But shooting a movie, there’s a very finite schedule, there’s a very limited amount of time and you’re really asking a lot of your tasks and your crew to pull long hours and accomplish that feat. So I would say the most challenging part was just staying on the schedule and getting it done in time the right way.”
Kelli: “That makes sense. What was your favorite aspect of the film?
Noah: “It’s two sides to the same point. I mean, my favorite aspect is absolutely shooting it. If there’s one environment that I know and love, it’s being on a set and being part of a team and really feeling from the get-go. Every good set feels like summer camp. It feels like you are with your best friends and you’re a little kid again. And we had all been through the pandemic, we were still in the middle of the pandemic. So to be able to safely have that kind of environment where this family pops up in the middle of nowhere in central Texas to make a movie, it was definitely the most fun part of it.”
Kelli: “The characters seem to have a very natural connection, chemistry. Especially you and Victoria Moroles’ character.”
Noah: “Well, the crazy part of course not so crazy cuz we all remember how lockdown things were during the middle of the pandemic. Victoria and I had met over the phone via Zoom, but we hadn’t met in person until a couple of days before shooting the film. And the same thing goes for Josh Rubin, who’s one of our producers like Roger, that sort of Renfield character. So all of really a credit to the incredible ability of professionals like Vic and Josh and the rest of the team to do the things that every movie has to do, which is to hit the ground. Running your first day on a movie set has to be as good as your 10th day and as your last day because you’re not shooting the movie in order. So I think we were just all really lucky that we showed up in central Texas and we all had the same sense of humor and we all had the same work ethic and everybody was able to remain really positive and roll with the punches. Just, I gotta say one of the magical unbelievably happy accidents that can happen on a movie set where all these just could come together and just been loving each other.”
Kelli: “When it comes to father and daughter how did you go about balancing that uneasiness of Francis and Jane’s craving for him to act like a father?
Noah: “I think it’s a really good question… I mean, I think that I looked inside a little bit and sort of acknowledged the real truth that I think a lot of parents go through, which is that even if things are hard, you don’t quit. And even if things are difficult, you don’t understand them, even if they’re scary. You sort of have to see them through. And I think that’s very much part of Francis’s journey in the movie. And it is very much part of my journey as a dad. So it was sort of really about logistically tracking in the script as we were shooting the movie. Kind of where those moments happen where you have that kind of eureka moments and we all hope we have realized sometimes where you say, ‘Holy cow, this is really important. I gotta really make an adjustment in my life.’ And luckily in a script, all that can happen pretty quickly cause it’s only a 90-minute movie. But you’re really trying to just do that effect that we all hopefully have to realize.”
Kelli: “And speaking of balances and things, how did you go about getting the horror aspect with the blood and the vampire movie and the drama and comedy of the film?”
Noah: “Well, listen, if it was up to me, and I’m sure that there’s probably earlier drafts of the script that had a lot more comedy and had a lot more button guts and also had a lot more drama and I don’t know, I felt like I had to eventually as we got closer, the script was going shown to people and taken out to try and get made I found myself looking for an opportunity to do one of those things at any given point. So it was a matter of sort of saying, ‘Okay, is this a spooky movie moment? Is this a comedy moment? Is this a family moment? And sometimes they combine. In a perfect world, you’re kind of spinning all those plans all at once. But I think for the sake of trying to tell the story, it became really important to think about those moments based on where the story was taking next.”
Kelli: “Good answer. Okay. What are you hoping that then the viewers will take away from this film?”
Noah: “I think every movie in some respect makes a request of the audience. You’re asking people to wanna ride, you’re asking people to laugh or be scared or sometimes feel emotional. And this I hope of asks people for a little bit of earnestness, some sincerity. And even though it’s, it’s a vampire movie, and even though there’s a lot of stuff that happens in it that definitely should not happen in real life, I hope that connection that you make to something that isn’t cynical, that doesn’t talk down to them, that helps them feel like there’s a real authentic, sincere earnest vibe. And to that end, what I was really trying to do in terms of the overall tone of the film was to recreate a little bit of what I love about a lot of the movies that I saw when I was a kid that made me feel a little bit, not whether it was or Ghostbusters or Indiana Jones. I mean, there are so many movies we saw when we were kids that kind of made us feel a little bit sophisticated. They made us feel like they weren’t talking down to us and now grownups and we get to watch them, they give us a lot of comfort and they kind of remind us of a little bit of that magic. And so trying to combine those two feelings was a real goal of mine. And I hope that a little bit of that shines.”
Kelli: “Was there a difference between acting when you’re also the boss/director compared to when you’re acting for someone else?”
Noah: “[laughter] Well, I think there could have been I was very lucky because I had people like Vic and Josh and Leal, our other producer, and Aaron who was another producer. And I had a lot of people who kind of kept me honest, who I felt like I could check in who was being very generous with their opinions. And I’m a big believer that once you get on set if you get that far, once you get on set, it really becomes about just trying to keep your cast and your crew and everybody’s working on the movie happy. So I don’t know, I guess I need to say I didn’t really feel like the boss. I felt more like I was just trying to make it a nice enough experience that people wanted to come back the next day. [laughter]”
Kelli: “That’s Always a great thing, especially when it comes to making a movie. Have you already found your next project?”
Noah: “I have a couple of things that it works and nothing that I’m ready to go into production on quite yet. Hopefully something soon. But what I can say is that everything that I’m trying to work on right now, I’m trying to work on with my friends, which has been the case from the beginning. I think that the most important aspect of filmmaking is the team aspect. And when you find the team that you like and you find people that feel like your family you stick with them. So everything I’m trying to do right now, I’m trying to set up with basically the same groups of people [laughter].”
Kelli: “Well, that’s awesome. By the way, I love the movie’s title. It works on multiple levels.”
Noah: “You can thank my wife, Alison Bennett, for coming up with the title. She’s a far better writer than I’ll ever be.”
Noah Segan, who is not only a talented writer-director-actor, was an absolute pleasure to interview. He was filled with laughter and you can tell that he has a true love for what he does, which translates well to the screen in Blood relatives. I highly recommend that check it out, it premieres on Shudder on November 22, 2022.
Sink your fangs into Blood Relatives, premiering on Shudder on November 22, 2022.