Interview With Michael Caradonna (Producer) And Geoff Ryan (Writer/ Director): Blood From Stone

Written by Luke Barnes

Hey Everyone! I recently had the chance to chat to Michael Caradonna (the producer) and Geoff Ryan (the writer/director) about their neo-noir, western, vampire flick Blood From Stone. We talk about

Q: How would you sum up Blood From Stone in a word?

MC:  Honest. I have been a fan of the Vampire genre for as long as I’ve been a fan of film. Blood From Stone shows the realistic problems today’s vampires would deal with should they really exist.

GR: Unique. I wanted to make something different from anything else out there – for better or for worse – and judging from both critic and audience reviews it seems like we succeeded. 

Q: Who is your filmmaking inspiration?

MC – I enjoy films of all genres which has opened the door to appreciating the likes of Soderbergh, Kubrick, Scorsese, Lucas and Spielberg, but looking at a whole catalogue, I’d have to say Quentin Tarantino. From writing True Romance to his latest Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he inspires me as a Producer.

GR – So many to choose from! With this one I’d have to say the most overt influence would be Tarantino. From the genre-blending to the character banter punctuated by extreme violence, to the non-traditional story structure… it’s got a lot of his early works influencing it.

Other big influences would be Peter Greenaway, Paul Verhoeven, Robert Altman, The Coen Bros, and on and on…

Q: Other than your film, what is your favourite vampire film?

MC – Many films come to mind, but I would say Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. There was always something gritty and honest with that film and one of the first films I thought of when I read Blood From Stone.

GR – Let the Right One In. I love that it’s a great movie that perfectly balances being a beautiful character story and a haunting vampire tale.

Q: How did you gauge the emotional tone of this film, between having the character seem sympathetic whilst also being a blood thirty monster? 

MC – I defer this question to my writer/director Geoff Ryan.

GR – As anyone who has been in a toxic relationship knows, the emotions can go from deep love to vicious hate in a matter of seconds. Or, at the big picture level, how a society with so many enlightened and progressive advancements is still capable of primal brutality, selfishness, and tribalism. To me, vampire lore was a perfect way to explore these ideas: It was a way to explore the way our own worst impulses, no matter how much we try to deny them to ourselves or bury them in the past, still make up so much of who we truly are. None of the characters want to be monsters and go to great lengths to convince themselves they are good people (and in many ways they are), but their actions matter. I wanted to really show how actions have consequences no matter our good intentions.  It is something all of us do. I personally might not be a vampire or a killer, but I am a citizen of a nation that wages wars, I buy products from exploitive companies, I eat once living animals, I’m sometimes a crappy friend, and so on. These are things I don’t want to define me but to those who are impacted by these actions it is who I am. And, so, in the story it’s about the search for balance and how we live with the monster inside of us. 

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

MC – Oh my, where do I start?  The crew that worked together on this film was full of its own great characters. From the encounters with the Las Vegas Police Department when I get pulled over while getting the crew food at 3am and they discovered “blood” all over the back seat, to casino security, with hand on gun, following up on a video feed showing dead bodies being dragged down a hall where there were supposed to be no people. We had such a great time on set. While getting every shot that Geoff required, there were infinite moments of fun, laughter and comradery.

GR – So many funny stories! This was really a once-in-a-lifetime type of film for me because the team that came together to work on this was a phenomenal group of fun people. Add to that the ridiculousness of what we were filming, and it made for some funny moments. Like when casino security had to do a safety check because they saw us dragging dead bodies through the hallways or having to explain to a policeman who pulled us over why there were blood stains all over our car (my car’s backseat is still a blood stained mess). On the Blu-Ray there’s a bloopers segment that captures some of the fun but nowhere near the almost constant state of joking, hijinks, and lunacy we went through. 

Q: How would you describe the current state of the Vampire horror sub-genre?

MC – Just as in the myths and legends, vampires will never die. While I am biased, I think that Blood From Stone is up there with many other great vampire films throughout filmmaking history. There are many bad vampire films that are good and many good ones that do not get the attention they should. Every once in a while there is a film that truly stands out like The Hunger, The Lost Boys and even What We Do In the Shadows. These films draw us in and, as fans, we suck it all up. The current state of the Vampire films is alive and well.

GR – Just like all movie genres, there’s a ton of mediocre-to-bad with some exceptionally unique and amazing work shining through. Plus, there’s some really exciting new Dracula/Nosferatu films in the pipeline that I’m eagerly anticipating. Much like vampires themselves, the genre won’t ever die, and great artists will continue making great vampire films while some will suck the corpse dry for whatever cash-grab potential it has. 

Q: Was there a message you were trying to communicate with the film? And if so what was it?

MC – I defer this question to my writer/director Geoff Ryan.

GR – I kind of touched on it in the early question about tone but the primary theme I wanted to explore was about our interconnectedness. It’s why the two main characters only share two scenes together: I wanted to tell a story of how their lives are connected even when their actions aren’t directly to each other. And, I intentionally told the story in a way that offers a lot of ideas in a way that will allow the audience to create their own opinions on it. It’s been fascinating to hear from audiences about how they see the characters and the story. Some see it as a tragedy, some as a love story, some as a dark comedy. Some people think Jure is a monster and others think Darya is the real monster. 

But the most important line of the film to me is when Viktoria tells Jure, “There are no endings, only cycles. It’s your choice: Creation or destruction, vengeance or forgiveness.” This to me is the message of the film. We all have those choices in our lives. Are we creators or destroyers? Do we seek forgiveness for our own sins, or do we seek vengeance for wrongs against us? The choices we each make will shape the future for humanity. Do we circle back to another dark ages or do we progress forward into a brighter future? 

Q: How important were western and neo-noir elements to you as you were filming? 

MC – I defer this question to my writer/director Geoff Ryan.

GR – To me they were very important! For Jure, the movie is a western. For Darya, it’s a noir. Even the score represents this with Jure’s music being composed of guitar, banjo, and lap steel to evoke that country/western vibe. And Darya’s music is reminiscent of Bladerunner with pulsing Moog and sparkling synth Arpeggios. He’s rooted in the old world and she aspires for the future. 

Westerns especially are iconic American stories. The lone hero is a trope that has its virtues but also has been used to justify some of the worst elements of our society from our wars (“You’re either with us or against us”) to our gun culture (“Only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”). Jure sees himself as this lone hero. At the beginning, he’s riding into town to save the girl, and at the end: He’s riding off into the sunset (or sunrise). He sees himself as the good guy, even a god amongst men, but modern society has forced him into the shadows. He resents this new era where he can no longer act with impunity. It was often joked that Jure should wear a hat that says, “Make Vampires Great Again”. 

Similarly in noir it was often a “damsel in distress” that turned to the guy to save her, but she was usually hiding a dark secret. And Darya at first is portrayed to be that “damsel in distress” but over the course of the film she evolves into a force of nature. She is from an old world and holds an old idea of who she should be. She hides her true self just wanting “to be normal”.  But over the course of the story there are glimmers of light showing her breaking through that and discovering her power to shape her own destiny. 

Q: Sequel ideas and future plans?

MC – I defer this question to my writer/director Geoff Ryan.

GR – I would love to! It kind of sets itself up for one and I have notes for where the story will go. Much like this one had a yin & yang between Jure and Darya, the sequel would have that between past and present. It would juxtapose life for the vampire women of the story after Jure (spoiler!) and life for him before modern society – and how those timelines impact each other. Sort of like a hybrid of Unforgiven and Thelma & Louise told through Aronofsky’s The Fountain! But, unless Blood From Stone develops a much bigger fan base than it currently has, the prospects for a sequel are unlikely. 

Q: If Blood From Stone ever won an Oscar or other award who would you thank in your acceptance speech?

MC – First and foremost, Geoff Ryan for trusting me to produce this project for him followed by the rest of the amazing Blood From Stone family. Geoff Black, Nika, Adeshola, Sarah, Alethea, Carl, Steven and, of course, our solid cast, including our stars, Vanya and Gabriella. Thanks to all of you!

GR – My BFS Family: Our small and wonderful team who put so much of their trust, time and talent into helping make my crazy fever dream a reality on a budget that did not merit the scale of what we made. Linda & Michael of Indie Rights who believed in this film back when it was just a concept in my brain. The people of Las Vegas who opened their doors and contributed so much to this movie. And, my cat Pafoofa who passed before the film came out, but her voice is immortalized in the music score. 

If you would like to check out Blood From Stone you can find it on all good digital media marketplaces, Vudu, Amazon and of course you can buy the Blu-ray and DVD director’s cut as well. As always I have a review up of the film on my site now, so check that out as well!

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