[Interview] Noah Segan for BLOOD RELATIVES

[Interview] Noah Segan for BLOOD RELATIVES
In Noah Segan’s feature-length directorial debut, BLOOD RELATIVES, Francis, a 115-year-old Yiddish vampire, still looks 35. He’s been roaming American backroads in his beat-up muscle car for decades, keeping to himself, and liking it that way. One day, a teenage kid, Jane, shows up. She says she’s his daughter, and she’s got the fangs to prove it. They go on the road, deciding whether to sink their teeth into family life.

Prior to the film’s release, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke with Noah Segan about BLOOD RELATIVES. During their chat, they discussed everything from what vampiric influences he pulled inspiration from to incorporating Yiddish into the script, and wrapping with the importance of the muscle car driven in BLOOD RELATIVES.

Hi Noah! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Congratulations on your first feature-length film! What inspired this story? 

Noah Segan: It’s the first feature that I wrote, directed, acted in, produced, [all] of those. What inspired this story was I became a dad. It’s really sort of my journey to go from feeling like I was Mr. Cool Guy with a leather jacket, staying up all night, being a cinematic vampire to then burping a baby in the middle of the night, and also still feeling like a vampire but in quite a different way. I wanted to talk about that and talk about how, like most great genre and horror movies, it’s about something we’re going through.

When writing the story, were there specific vampire films that you pulled inspiration from? 

Noah Segan: My favorite vampire movies tend to be movies that are departures from vampire movies. Ganja & Hess is a big one for me. Near Dark, Trouble Every Day, [and] The Addiction [are] movies that kind of immediately take the piss out of the vampire movie. The beauty of genre, the beauty of horror is that we know the sandbox and we get to play in it, and from all that stuff I was able to get all my vampire rules and all the fun lore that I wanted to put. I [also] kept going back to movies that are about parenthood and about family. Paper Moon and Raising Arizona were big inspirations.

There’s a lot of heart and humor in this film. How difficult was it to ride that fine line between horror and comedy?

Noah Segan: Well, the real trick is being married to one of the greatest comedy writers in the game. That’s my secret weapon [Laughs]. I am not that funny. I had great help in terms of telling me when I wasn’t funny, both when I was writing and when I was just sitting around [Laughs]. It’s interesting. Horror movies that try to be funny tend to struggle but funny movies that try to be a little bit spooky are often entertaining and surprising. I really wanted to approach this from a perspective of joy and comedy and self-awareness and earnestness. It’s a big ask from your audience. If we can get there, if we can get those really hard parts, then we can throw in all the really fun horror shit that we love.

Noah Segan as Francis in BLOOD RELATIVES l Shudder

The genuine connection between Francis and Jane is one of the driving forces in making this film so impactful. Can you talk about bringing Victoria Morales on for the role of Jane? 

Noah Segan: I was the luckiest person in the world to be able to work with her. She had done a film that had come out earlier in the year that we produced called Plan B which Natalie Morales directed. It’s an incredible movie about an important aspect of social justice and [was] just done incredibly well. And Josh Ruben who had come on to produce this movie had worked with Vic in one scene on [Plan B]. In a sheer moment of Eureka brilliance when we were talking about casting very early in the process, he said, listen, I know you’re gonna think I’m crazy but I think I know who this person is [for the character]. I watched Plan B and I familiarized myself with her work and I was like, wow she’s the best actor I’ve ever seen. She’s incredible.

Then when we started talking and, in my experience, when an actor has put in the time and honed their skill to the degree that Vic has over most of her life, frankly, the ability to adapt and to sort of meet a script and meet a filmmaker and meet a crew wherever you are, is like part of it. You don’t see the work. You just see the aftermath, which is this incredible performance and frankly, I would never have been able to do what I was doing without her, without having that, without having a person there who was basically running the acting department with her vibes. And then giving this incredible performance on top of it. It was the entire package.

It just comes to show you that you can sometimes find people to work with just by trusting your gut [and] trusting the gut of the people that you already love. I just hope that there’s more work for Vic and me in the future.

I love how you incorporated Yiddish throughout the film. What made you want to bring that in as part of the film? 

Noah Segan: I’m Jewish and I was raised very assimilated, not a synagogue-going family but a fifth-generation New York Jew. That is a very specific kind of culture that does include a lot of Yiddish and does include sort of a very specific kind of attitude and neurosis [Laughs]. It just felt like not only was that who I am and who I am becoming more as I grow older and I become more comfortable with myself and who I am and where I’m from and my heritage, but also in the world right now, especially over the last few years, where we are tasked every day with ensuring that we are speaking truth to power and we are protecting our brothers and sisters who may not be treated correctly because of the way they look or their heritage or their religion or their identity. We have to find ways individually that we can connect with them, and utilizing my heritage and my culture to speak to a small part of a social justice movement was really important and kind of a no-brainer because I felt like there’s no way you’re gonna tell a story these days without picking a side and picking the right side.

Before we wrap things up, I noticed that in the film there’s a subtle emphasis on the importance of a muscle car that your character drives. Can you elaborate on that? 

Noah Segan: I appreciate you asking about that. The short version of the story is that when I came to LA to start my journey into working in movies, I worked for a guy who was a friend of the family and a mentor of mine named Tom Richmond, who was a very famous cinematographer. He shot movies for Alex Cox and Stuart Gordon as well as the “Jeremy” music video for Pearl Jam and Lisa Loeb’s “Stay.” The guy is the eye of 80s and 90s visuals.

He rented me a room for next to nothing and let me be his assistant in Venice when I was 19, 20 years old. He had this cool old barracuda that he had bought from a little old lady in Pasadena. He drove it around and was so proud of it. Unfortunately, he recently passed away but, when he retired to New York about 10 years ago to teach at NYU, he gave me the pink slip to the car. It’s been very representative for a large chunk of my life and the joy and generosity that our family, even sometimes our family who we pick and who picks us, can extend.

BLOOD RELATIVES is now available to stream on Shudder. For more on the film check out our review.

Shannon McGrew
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