Kiwi actors go from Power Rangers to blood fest

By Hayden Donnell

Rose McIvor, Olivia Tennet and Fleur Saville at the Austin premiere.
Rose McIvor, Olivia Tennet and Fleur Saville at the Austin premiere.

Blood Punch has to be the only blood-soaked horror movie that owes its existence to Power Rangers.

The low-budget flick, which debuted to a packed house at the Austin Film Festival last week, has its origins in a chance encounter between US writers Eddie Guzelian and Madellaine Paxson and a group of Kiwi actors on the set of the kids' television show in Auckland.

Guzelian had been warned not to expect much of the local acting talent when he came to produce the show between jobs on kids' film and TV juggernauts such as The Tigger Movie and Winnie the Pooh.

Instead, he found himself awed at the Kiwis he auditioned.

"We just found these young actors that I thought were amazing. Gems of young talent who felt like no one was using them. No one knew they were there."

The actors were still stuck in his mind when he came to make his first feature film - a gruesome low-budget horror/black comedy that was about as different from children's TV as he could get.

Blood Punch was written by Guzelian, directed by Paxson and stars a trio of Kiwis the pair first encountered when they were young actors trying to get a break on Power Rangers RPM - Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet and Ari Boyland.

Paxson says the cast readily signed on to the movie despite neither herself or Guzelian having any experience in the genre.

"We just rang and said 'hello guys, let's make a movie together'. They said yes. We didn't want anybody to start stealing Kiwis from us."

Olivia Tennet and Milo Cawthorne in Blood Punch.
Olivia Tennet and Milo Cawthorne in Blood Punch.

Cawthorne was working as a flower deliverer when he got an email asking him to star in Blood Punch.

Roles had dried up for the 24-year-old actor, with most directors wanting to typecast him as the "geek".

"And then I get this email at 2am asking me to star in a film. You know how when people win they Lotto they say 'this doesn't happen to me'. Well this doesn't happen to me."

The movie was shot over 24 days in November and December 2011, for a budget of US$175,000 ($212,000), with former Shortland Street actress Fleur Saville completing the Kiwi contingent by signing on as a producer.

It premiered to a sell-out crowd and glowing reviews at the Austin Film Festival last week.

Saville says the next step is sorting out distribution in the US and New Zealand.

"We are so keen to show this movie to New Zealand. That's the next goal."

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- TimeOut

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