Not all vampires are the cool, suave creature of the night.
In Onur Tukel’s “Summer of Blood,” it is a horror comedy a talkative selfish man who couldn’t commit to his girlfriend. After rejecting a marriage proposal from his girlfriend, she hooks up with an old college friend while he attempts to date other women without any results. Not until a random vampire converts him into the dark side, the man becomes a sexual dynamo to pursue any woman and even perhaps his ex-girlfriend.
Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with director and actor Onur Tukel on this hilarious comedy. We discussed many issues including the production, selfishness and religious themes in the movie.
“Summer of Blood” is in select theaters and on VOD this week.
Read the transcript below.
Latino-Review: For this movie “Summer of Blood,” where did you come up with the idea behind this movie?
Onur Tukel: It’s all the matter of being afraid of commitment and relationships. I’m in my 40s and I’m afraid of those things. I thought that if I’m going to make a horror film—I need to make it based on a real fear that I had. I thought it would be an interesting take on the whole vampire genre to make the guy petrified about growing up with responsibilities. He had a very, very wonderful girlfriend who is better than him and he doesn’t deserve her.
With every girl I’ve ever dated, who had put up with me and tolerated me, had been too good for me. It’s kind of like a self-critical examination in looking into on why I haven’t been able to love them back. It’s almost like I have no business in being with them. Why can’t I embrace on what’s in front of me and embrace something wonderful? Why do I always run from it?
So it’s the examination of that and running away from the responsibility. And then mixed with the idea of that you’re a vampire—that it’s easy for you and you don’t have the fear of dying anymore. Now you can be as promiscuous as you want. This is the opposite of being committed. It’s the complete opposite of responsibility. And you’ll live free knowing that you’re not going to die. The responsibilities would come from the guilt in association of hurting others and being selfish.
The movie is these things that I don’t like about myself. It’s the fact I was unable to commit other than to myself. I am learning though. I had girlfriends for two or three year stretches. I tend to run away when things get real. I try to put these things out there, because those are the things I’m dealing with.
Latino-Review: So basically to sum it all up, the character of this movie is—basically you?
Onur Tukel: It’s an extension of who I am. I wrote the movie very quickly. It comes from a very personal place. The idea is coming from my own fears of commitment. And then the fear that maybe I would never be able to commit. That’s a real fear I have as well. So it’s basically me.
It’s the things about myself that I don’t like. I’m a better person overall than this character. I’m a more liberal minded political thinker. I don’t want to make it political, but the character is selfish with more conservative selfish views. I put that in there as well. Erik, the character, flip flops politically on how it serves his needs. I am a liberal-minded person, but I made Erik a right-wing political thinker. I attribute conservatism to more of a selfish life-style. They think about themselves before others.
Latino-Review: The one thing while viewing your film was that I noticed there were some pretty good sharp dialogues. Was this all scripted or was it on the fly?
Onur Tukel: It was all scripted. It was definitely a script that the actors had and we used. I’m not precious about the dialogue. I allow the actors to change the dialogue to fits in more the way they talk. So it’s more natural with the words they use. Often, we didn’t have a chance to rehearse scenes. Sometimes we would throw in the improvisations all the time. I would say 80 percent of the script is the way it is. [The rest] is improvisational, spontaneous and created on the fly. So it’s a mixture.
We didn’t rehearse, because I didn’t want it to become wooden after rehearsing it over and over again. I didn’t want the actors to lock into a specific way of doing something. I wanted it to go with very spontaneous and very in the moment. And these actors did a really great job with that.
Latino-Review: Now when I watch movies, I try to not read the summaries or synopsis for the movie. And what threw me completely off, like you mentioned before, was with the vampires. How did you come up with this story arc? What made you go with the vampire story, especially with the second half of the movie practically?
Onur Tukel: I knew we wanted to make a horror film, because it’s lucrative on the market. It’s going to be a horror film, because we wanted to make money. To be honest, I wanted to write a comedy that was unique, independent and with a unique point of view. We knew it was going to be a horror film. With vampires, you can make a low budget vampire film. So with $100 pair of contact lenses and $20 pair of fangs, the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt and believe they’re watching vampires.
At the end of the day, I’m not a huge vampire lover. It’s just that on how I can make a horror film cheaply and people will buy it. That is exactly why we made a horror film. There’s no way around it.
By the way, I love werewolves. If I had the ability to make a werewolf movie, then I would. To make a convincing werewolf or the one I want to make, you would need a lot of money. Animatronics, makeup and a great werewolf outfit [cost a lot]. I don’t have that kind of money. So with vampires—you don’t need a lot of money. That was the reason.
Latino-Review: You were great in the movie. You were hilarious. Since you directed the movie at the same time—aren’t you your own biggest critic on the set?
Onur Tukel: It was a very small crew. I was in almost every scene of the movie. I was beside with a lot of really good actors. For me, directing is about making sure that everyone is comfortable. So when the cameras are rolling, we’re not self-conscience and aware of them. We’re just in a scene.
The benefit of having two cameras is to let the entire scene go from the beginning to the end. As soon as the scene is finished, I had a good rapport with the crew and producers that we all will discuss the scene. We all want to figure out on how to make it better. Just because I was in a scene—I wasn’t just trusting myself in it. I wasn’t observing the scene. The producers, camera guy and even the personal assistants were [observing the scene]. I wanted criticism. I wanted to make my scene better and on how to make the other actors better.
It was completely collaborative. So once it was set, everyone let loose on their creative opinion and thoughts on the movie. There was always a dialogue in between with everyone. It’s very liberating to make the movie that way. It made me want to do a better job. I don’t consider myself an actor, but playing my own personality—with anger, rage or smug—are the things I could relatively well. I’ve played it my whole life.
Latino-Review: Back to the storyline, you tried to revisit the idea with religion and God. Obviously, vampires are anti-God. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Onur Tukel: If it’s going to be about a vampire film, then you have to have God in the movie. There are two ideas behind that. Since it is going to be a comedy, I wanted to see two vampires praying. It’s a funny visual. Secondly, if you want to have vampires—some religion had to be there as well. It’s not a critique of religion itself. To me, religion is a very, very good thing if you’re using it to be less selfish. It should be used to make you a better person and thinking about other people.
The aspect and prayer in the movie is about addressing about being selfish with thinking that you’re religious and pious. So asking God for things directly for yourself is not necessarily the best way to pray. It’s more of a critique of the selfish prayer. There is a certain hypocrisy to that.
Overall, it’s a critical examination on who I am. I’m a very selfish person and I’m aware of it. Religions had gotten a bad rap. If people are using a book to make them a better person—it ultimately leads them to be less selfish. I don’t like the selfish aspects of myself. It’s a real sin to be consumed with yourself.
Latino-Review: Let me wrap this up. Can you talk about any of your future projects?
Onur Tukel: I finished a movie recently about a musician. It’s about being a musician, having a family and having a job. He’s wrestling on whether his music is any good. Why is he doing it? What is the importance of art? So it’s about a musician in New York. It’s kind of an improvisational music video with performances and weird funny comedy. So it’s more experimental and called “Abbey Singer/Songwriter.”
We’re also going into production in November with a new movie called, “Applesauce.” It’s a movie about infidelity and body parts. It’ll be a dialogue-driven mystery thriller. We’re hoping to get it made and finish by early next year.
Latino-Review: Great. Great. Thank you very much for this conversation.
Onur Tukel: Thanks again. Talk to you soon.
“Summer of Blood” is available in select theaters and VOD this week.