deadCenter Film Festival Interview: ‘Un Regalo’ Director Paul Avellino


If you followed my coverage of the deadCenter Film Festival, you know that one of my favorite short films was Paul Avellino’s Un Regalo (A Gift), a gory shock comedy with real chops and dry wit.  Mr. Avellino happened to be at the showing, so I had a chance to talk to him for a few minutes afterwards.  My curiosity was piqued enough by our discussion that I wanted to follow up with a proper interview.  Thanks to the power of the Internet, we were able to have a good discussion about the film.

Asher: Could you tell me the major cinematic influences on you, specifically with regards to Un Regalo and the horror/comedy genre?

Paul: My biggest influences are Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood westerns, and a bunch of European stuff from the 50′s and 60′s. I typically don’t care for horror films because they completely freak me out. The music and how it was used in Un Regalo was absolutely influenced by The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I think a few other parallels can be drawn from that film as well.


A: What do you think are the keys to making an effective film that blends shock and gore with comedy?

P: I’ve never mixed shock or gore with comedy prior to this, so I’m just glad people seem receptive to what I did. To me, the success of this film comes down to two things: the acting of the kids and the special FX. Without Isabella and Elisabeth, this project would have been a total bust. Isabella in particular. She put up with a grueling shooting schedule and was covered in disgusting fake blood for most of it. She handled it like a champ and gave an outstanding performance. She was absolutely rock-solid, which is astounding considering how young she is. And then Elisabeth. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to find an 11 year old who could deliver the F-bomb with authority. She owned her lines, she was in complete command of her delivery, and she was absolutely hilarious. The entire cast really, including the Chihuahua, truly deserve a ton of credit.

Then the special FX… Sean Cunningham (the FX guy) saved my ass on this. We spent months trying to get the explosions and blood just right. There’s an incredibly fine line between violence and gore that is actually appropriate & funny, and gore that is just stupid, gross, and unnecessary. I’d give Sean notes like “the blood erupting from the head needs to look more organic”, & “that blood splatter isn’t funny enough”, and he delivered with aplomb. Un Regalo would not have been possible without his talent and willingness to be involved, period.

A: Where did the idea for the structure of the movie come from?  I know you mentioned it was originally a music video - did the band come to you with a specific idea of the box, or did that come from your own imagination?

P: Yes, it was written as a music video, but I knew I wanted to do something that could stand upon it’s own as well, at least in regard to story. The idea came to me while I was listening to one of the band’s songs. There was this guitar riff that was so goddamn awesome, I thought it had the power to make heads explode. I crafted the story around that concept. Things didn’t work out with the band though, so I just made it as a short film. If I can find an appropriate band, I still have the desire to turn this into a music video.

A: Are there any other film festivals you are submitting Un Regalo to, aside from the ones you’ve already been accepted to? [In addition to deadCenter, Un Regalo has been accepted at the Los Angeles Underground Film Festival, the Boston Underground Film Festival, and the Bare Bones Film & Music Festival]  Any further plans to promote and distribute the film?

P: I’ve submitted to Austin Film Festival, and I’m going to submit to St. Louis Film Festival. I feel like I’ve already spent a small fortune submitting to festivals, and it’s gotten to the point where I just need to stop. In regard to promotion, I have no idea. It’s not my forte and I’ve got my hands full writing new projects. Once the festival run is over, I’ll put the film up on my website.  Aside from that, I wouldn’t even know what to do with it.

If you are interested, you can watch a partial cut of the film below.  Be sure to check Mr. Avellino’s website in the coming months for a full cut of the film.

Make sure you check out Un Regalo, both the short cut and the final cut when it appears online.  Well worth the small amount of time it takes. 

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Asher Gelzer-Govatos fell in love with film in high school, where the one two punch of Lawrence of Arabia and The Third Man opened his eyes to the beauty of the filmed image. Asher is the founder and editor of The Erstwhile Philistine, a culture site. He teaches history (including film history) at a charter high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives with his family.