Noah Segan Brings Vampires On A Road Trip In Blood Relatives, His Directorial Debut [Exclusive Interview]

Noah Segan is very much one of those, "Hey, I know that guy" actors. For years, he has been a staple of Rian Johnson's filmography, appearing in everything from "Brick" to "Knives Out." Heck, he even had a little cameo in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Segan has also been quite the genre mainstay, popping up in films such as "Starry Eyes" and "The Pale Door." But now, Segan has decided to step behind the camera (as well as in front of it) for his feature directorial debut, "Blood Relatives."

Segan's film, now streaming on Shudder, is a vampire comedy that co-stars Victoria Morales ("Teen Wolf"), serving as part road trip film, part coming of age movie. It centers on Francis, a 115-year-old Yiddish vampire, who still looks like his young self. He's been roaming American backroads in his beat-up muscle car for decades, trying to keep to himself. But one fateful day, he comes across Jane, a teenager, who claims to be his daughter. That leads them on a rather unexpected father/daughter road trip with charming, bloody results.

I was fortunate enough to not only see the film at Fantastic Fest earlier this year, but I also sat down with Segan to discuss it with him following the premiere. We talked about the tenth anniversary of "Looper," his love for Rian Johnson, the beauty of working with Shudder, and much more.

'It felt like being at home'

It's a couple days removed from the premiere, but how did it feel having your directorial debut at a place you're very familiar with?

It felt like being at home. It felt like you can go home again. That is such a touchstone of why I keep trying to work in this business, is because I had this sort of initial experience working on "Brick" where it felt like ... I never really went to school. I never had the high school or college experience that a lot of people have where they meet their friends, and they all go together somewhere. And ["Brick"] was that. That was like the summer camp experience where you remember that and take it with you and take your friends with you. So I feel like I'm constantly trying to replicate that experience, and luckily, I have — with either that group of people or with a relationship like Fantastic Fest. So that's what that was, is that it very much was that high that I chase. I guess being with your friends is kind of like being high sometimes.

You mentioned "Brick." I do a column for /Film every week, and I typically look at a movie from box office history, an anniversary or something. Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of "Looper."


So I just wrote a thing on it. You just have the shirt on, it reminded me of it. Isn't that nuts?

Oh my gosh. 10th anniversary, which was, I think that was the second time I came to Fantastic Fest.

That was before I got here, so I didn't get to go, but I know that was here.

In 2012, I think.

So my hook with the piece this week, because I thought it was interesting, is that the movie was quite successful. It's pretty rare in this business where you get a movie that's successful, and it's just — that's it. It's the one movie. Did you guys ever talk about going back to that world at all, or was that it? Was Rian always just like, "This is a one and done thing?"

I don't think that was ever at the forefront of his mind, or really part of the conversation. I mean, listen, I'm just an actor. I can't really speak to the depth of it. But I do feel like, just as someone who's read that script many times and was there on many of those days, that story is so complete.

It is.

That story does, with no pun intended, close the circle, close the loop as they say in the movie. I can't imagine ... I mean, I can imagine the world, because the world is so beautiful and sad and full. But like all great stories, it sort of comes down to the characters and their journey, and thee journey of all these people in this movie is very complete.

So let's talk about your movie, man. So during the Q&A, you indicated it wasn't necessarily your intention to direct this. You wrote it, and then it just became a thing where you're like, "Guess I'll do it." Did you ever envision yourself directing at all?

No. I did. I don't want to seem too pretentious, says a person who's probably about to say something horribly pretentious and contrite. That's the worst preamble in the world.

Well, I'll make sure it stays in there.

Yeah, thank you very much. Yes. It's the disclaimer. Please put that up in big, bold letters. Noah Segan does not intend to be pretentious, but here we go. I feel like the great filmmakers that I love to watch, or that I've been lucky enough sometimes to work with, have great scripts and love their scripts, and they rally people around the script, and it becomes this urtext. It's like this evangelical thing, where you're like, "I believe this to the word." And steal from the best, that's all I'm trying [to do]. I think to that end, once I felt like I had a script that I liked, that did what was in my heart and my brain, and tried to telegraph that to whoever was reading it, then it was like, okay, how do we just protect that? How do we all rally around this concept of, "We like the script, we might not like you, we might not like every choice you make, but we can all agree that this thing is a thing we could connect on?" I feel like that's so much of directing, is really just bringing people back to a thing that they like, so that they keep showing up.

'I can't fathom making an un-fun movie'

Especially on a smaller movie like that, because it's not like anyone's there for a gigantic paycheck or anything. People are there, I would assume, because they're like, "Look, I want to be a part of this thing." That would be my guess.

I hope. I mean, I hope not only were they there because they like the script, but I also hope that they were having a good time. That's so much of it, too. I just feel like the idea of directing is like, you've got a script, you've convinced a bunch of people who are probably unaffordable to you otherwise to show up. Maybe they did it because they think you're a nice person, or you're funny, or you have a good story, or they just feel pity for you.

Which you'll take, I'm sure.

Oh, I'll take whatever. It's like, by hook or by [crook], man. "If you're here, then I will try to just make it as pleasant an experience," and I feel like that's directing. "How can I make this as nice and fun a time so that tomorrow, you come back?"

Even in my side of the business, which is just this tiny little micro nugget of the film business, some people seem to take it so seriously, and I'm like, "Look, man, it's movies. Shouldn't we all do this because we like this?" So it's nice to hear that it seems like your whole goal was, "Let's have fun as much as humanly possible."

Yeah. I mean, you have to. At least I think. I can't fathom making an un-fun movie. I mean, people do it all the time, and some of them are very good.

You hear stories about that all the time.

No, but some of them are good. There are movies where you're like, I wouldn't call this a fun movie, but it's a beautiful movie. It's poignant, or it tells us something.

Or it wasn't fun to make it, but the result is good.

I mean, yes. My best experiences are ones where it's really fun. So I think when it became time to actually anticipate and move forward in making the movie, that was what I thought of when I thought of directing it. I thought, "How do we take the script and take these people who we've convinced to be a part of this journey and just keep them comfortable and happy?" As much as you can on a small movie, you know? Because of all of the challenges that we all know show up, time and money. It's all of it. Every day, there's a new challenge. So I think the director's job is just to try and mitigate the discomfort.

Well, then it's hard, too, because you're acting. You're the lead role in it, too, so your mitigation ability is so diminished because you're doing so damn much.

Although, to a degree, now looking back on it, I feel like it kept me so close to everyone. There was never any walking away. There was a huge amount of help. But when you are there in every aspect, in front and behind, and you're not able to go and have a pee when they're doing something, when they're relighting something, or putting up some equipment or something, because you have to immediately change hats, it was like, "All right. Well, great. I've got nice insoles in my shoes. I'll stay on my feet, and I'll be here with you."

This is what Ben Affleck never talks about, is bladder control when you're directing and acting in your movies.

That is the number one. You do not really get a chance to pee, yes.

You're directing your first movie. I'm assuming, because you've been around it for a long time, did you talk to anyone for advice where you're like, "Please help me before I go do this?"

I talked to everyone all day long, every day. I definitely took advantage of Rian [Johnson] at every turn, and he proved himself as an actual friend. Finally, after 20 years, he did something for me. [laughs]

The one and only thing.

The one and only thing he's ever done for me. I love you [to Rian]. No, I mean, I had his support. My wife is an actual genius screenwriter and comedy writer, and she was incredibly generous in helping work with me on this. I had great producers. I had Josh [Ruben], and I had Leal [Naim], and I had the Paper Street guys. And to that end, this was such a no-brainer to do with Shudder.

It fits them like a glove.

It not only fits them like a glove, but it also feels like it's doing the thing that you want Shudder to do, which is to say, "This umbrella gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger. The definition of genre and the definition of what our mandate is only gets wider." They were so supportive of that from the beginning that it juiced me. It gave me motivation.

'You're with me now, and we're at a vampire party, buddy'

I guess we should probably talk a little bit specifically about the movie. As far as monsters in horror, vampires have always been closer to my least favorite on the spectrum. But one of the things I loved about this movie was that you didn't waste any time getting bogged down in the rules we all already know.


You literally were just like, "We know. We know!" I'm assuming that was a very conscious decision to just assume a level of competence on the audience's part.

You can only tell a story from your perspective. I was thinking, "Okay, well, what is the movie that I like?" I love vampire movies, and I love vampire lore, and I love the rules of vampirism. So I think I did take a liberty to say, "Well, you're with me now, and we're at a vampire party, buddy." To that end, once you do that, it's the beauty of genre. Which is, if the conceit is we all know what the vampire rules are, then we immediately can start to break them. The minute that you're like, "Well, this is the way that it is," you go, "No, I can do a different approach, and I can have some fun with it." You know?

My favorite of the genre is "From Dusk till Dawn," but that movie, all it does is break every rule.


It's obviously more of a comedic horror. You leaned hard into the comedy, you don't shy away from it at all, which I think was great. So what balance did you feel the need to strike as you were making it?

I don't know that I am smart enough to have done what you're describing. I think it's the idea, and again, who do you steal from? You steal from the best, right? It's like this idea that if you watch a Coen Brothers movie, you're like, "Well, this is their version of a period drama. This is their version of a comedy movie, their version of a murder mystery. This is their version of..." But at the end of the day, if it is genre, it is allowed. I felt like that was the world that I wanted to play in, where goofy dad joke comedy exists at the same place as a vampire horror movie, or a classic coming-of-age movie, or a road trip film. These are all such ... we know these rules, so they can all exist on parallel tracks, and we can have fun with it.

I think what's interesting is the idea that, at some point, everything becomes mundane for vampires. You've been doing this for decades and decades, to you, just like, "Well, I got to drink some blood. I got to kill a guy, I guess." But the idea that you can slip in a dad joke while you're teaching your daughter to properly kill a person, because to you, this is just life.

Yes. I think that, yeah, again, that sort of conceit of just saying, "We've got a vampire, and he's been on the road for God knows how long, and this is his lifestyle." The minute that we say that's the case, well, you get it, I get it. I mean, we're not reinventing the f****** wheel here. Like you said: "Relax, it's a movie." But the risk is, as with anything, you have to be in the mood. I think that kitchen sink approach is my little way of hoping everybody's in the mood for something. I've got a little bit here that might help everybody get in the mood.

I know you've made a bunch of movies before as an actor, but this is your first time as a director. A lot of times, with a smaller movie like this, you'll make it and then you'll bring it somewhere like this and you'll hope to maybe get picked up by a distributor. As I understand it, you made this the whole way knowing it was going to be on Shudder. What comfort did that offer to you, where you just knew, "I'm good. I know it's got a home?"

It was a great comfort to know that there's a world where people see the movie. Especially, I think, the way people see movies now, right? The idea that you've made a low-budget movie that can be seen, it can be seen this way. I think that's a wonderful thing that's happened in the last few years. Because I think otherwise, with the expectation of, I don't know, I don't want to say "traditional" because I don't think it's traditional anymore, but the older style of distribution, I think that there were a lot of questions and like, "Okay, well, this is a sort of small movie, and it does play maybe more intimately, or it does play to a certain crowd? How do we program that and distribute that in a theatrical experience that's very expensive, and often unwieldy at that level?" So I think the move to streaming bodes very well for a movie like this. But specifically just having Shudder, it's not a faceless entity. The people that work at Shudder are lovely people with lovely ideas.

Well, they have actual curators. They're not just sea-netting content.

Yes. I think the idea that they believe that you push the boundary of genre through inclusiveness as opposed to some hard definition. I mean, that was the biggest comfort in the world when you're making a movie that one minute is a Jewish dad movie, and another minute is a coming-of-age vampire movie. You know what I mean?

Right. Yeah.

I mean, of course, yeah, because you've got people behind you saying, "Oh my gosh. No, it's okay. This is all under the umbrella." So the Shudder relationship was ... I don't think that we would've been able to ride that line without them. So that was quite lovely. It's funny that you bring it up, because I haven't had this anxiety that I've had with other movies, where you go, "Oh my God, is anyone going to see this?"

Because you didn't premiere it here and then have to run around talking to people, trying to sell it.

Yeah. Exactly. It's a very interesting dynamic and a very luxurious position to be in. But there's no telling. I'm maybe trying to hawk the next one to you under a table. I mean, that's probably what'll happen.

"Blood Relatives" is streaming now on Shudder.