After years of writing for various animated children’s shows, Madellaine Paxson made a conscious effort to blaze a new path for herself. In 2014, with a script penned by Eddie Guzelian, Madellaine took on the role of first-time feature filmmaker with the violent, darkly comedic Blood Punch, starring Milo Cawthorne (read our interview with him here) and Olivia Tennet, which can be streamed on either Tubi or The Roku Channel.
We discuss the challenges met making the film, her connection to the cast and crew, and the successful festival run she and her team experienced.
PopHorror: Madellaine, besides sitting in the director’s chair for your feature debut with Blood Punch, you’ve also racked up an extensive listing of credits writing and editing several animated television shows. Blood Punch is definitely far removed from much of your other creations. What prompted you to dive into directing a feature film?
Madellaine Paxson: Yes, my entire career has been spent writing kids’ TV, largely cartoons. But I got into this industry because I love movies. I studied film production. When it came time to decide what, exactly, I wanted to do in this industry, I ultimately chose writing, because it suited my introverted temperament.
But I’d always wanted to make a feature, since college. [Scriptwriter] Eddie Guzelian and I met at Disney, became cartoon writers, and got married. We were pretty successful at writing, but we always wanted to make a feature. Once digital film production became a possibility, we decided to finally pull the trigger. By then we’d been writing for kids’ TV for years, and met quite a few actors, including the stars of Blood Punch, who we met when Eddie was EP of a season of Power Rangers. So, our movie stars a bunch of Power Rangers killing each other. Fun!
PopHorror: Blood Punch blends several genres but comfortably leans towards horror. What is it about horror that you find appealing? What intrigued you most about Eddie’s script?
Madellaine Paxson: I find myself most interested in supernatural horror and sci-fi most of all. Blood Punch was reverse-engineered, for the most part. We decided to make a movie before Eddie wrote a word of the script. Then we started with what we had: excellent actors. Then we looked at our budget and what could we realistically film. When you’re dealing with a limited budget, you have to limit things… but we wanted to film a movie we’d actually love to watch, too, so that involved creating a tone for the film that blends what we love… a sci-fi horror-mystery, lots of violence, and plenty of dark humor.
PopHorror: What was the biggest challenge you faced while filming Blood Punch?
Madellaine Paxson: We’d never made a movie before, so we were winging it a lot. That was also a strength, because we didn’t know how hard it was going to be. We knew a lot would go wrong, but we didn’t know how much would go wrong… and we had to adapt on the fly. The first day of filming, we got hit with a snowstorm in the mountain where our main cabin set was located, and half the crew were spinning out their cars on the icy road trying to get to set. So from day one, it was adapt and move forward.
One of our actors [Cohen Holloway] came down with altitude sickness and was in the hospital for a week, so we had to put Eddie in Cohen’s wardrobe, shoot him from behind, and hope Cohen would recover enough to shoot the reverse of his face, which fortunately he did. We had to shoot those shots in front of a green screen since we had already lost the cabin set, but Cohen recovered 100%, and we got the shot. This has actually been a very useful life lesson: when stuff goes wrong, don’t waste time fretting about it, just fix it and keep going!
PopHorror: Back when Blood Punch was on the festival circuit, it was very well received and won quite a few awards as well as acclaim from critics and ultimately nailed down distribution. Later on, your film found more praise and fanfare on the uber-popular Shudder streaming service and continues to do so on Amazon and Tubi. Can you share what this whole experience has been like for you?
Madellaine Paxson: I got kind of addicted to watching it in festivals, because there is nothing like physically watching an audience react to your film. Fortunately, the audiences loved it. As far as streaming platforms, Shudder was absolutely phenomenal and so very supportive of our little film. I have also been blown away by fan support. We have had people who have contacted us via our Facebook page to tell us how grateful they were that we’d made Blood Punch, how it had helped them through a tough time in their lives. I never expected anything like that. You just never know how your work will affect people.
PopHorror: What is your favorite memory of filming Blood Punch?
Madellaine Paxson: There are so many. After principle production, we had to do quite a few pickup shots, and a lot of them were done in our garage. In fact, anything scene in color in the bathroom was shot in our garage. The black and white footage was shot in a cabin in the mountains, but we lost that set and were forced to re-create the exact same bathroom. We still have [fake] bloodstains on the floor of the garage! Also, the hands pulling the trigger ***spoiler!*** when Milton shoots himself are my hands. I found my hands could double Milo’s pretty well, which was necessary since he’d already gone back to New Zealand.
When I look back, it seems like so many of my favorite memories were of our clever fixes of stuff that had gone wrong. Let me add that our fantastic, ready-for-anything cast and crew made it all possible.
PopHorror: If you could program a double feature at your local drive-in, what two films make your bill and why?
Madellaine Paxson: Robocop and the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, because I love violence and terror.
PopHorror: What’s up next for you, Madellaine? Where can folks follow you and all your creative projects?
Madellaine Paxson: I’m working on making another film, though it may become a series. Any news on that front will be shared on my Twitter account: @MaddyPaxson.
We would like to thank Madellaine for her time, and we hope you check out Blood Punch, now streaming on Tubi and The Roku Channel!
Additional Information: Madellaine Paxson and the rest of the talent of Blood Punch are available for article interviews, media appearances, and podcast interviews. Please contact Sharry Flaherty at [email protected] by email or by phone at 702.756.3527.