Mandao Returns – Q and A With Writer / Director Scott Dunn On Why He Made The Cult Indie Sequel

Scott Dunn as Jay Mandao – Mandao Returns

Film Courage: What’s a good habit and bad habit you’ve developed while in quarantine?

Scott Dunn, Writer, Director, Actor, and Editor: I actually gained A LOT of weight during the first half of the quarantine. It got so obvious that I decided to take my health more seriously. Eating more veggies protein and portion control. I’m still a night owl though.

Film Courage: Is there something during quarantine that bothered you before and now you’ve come to peace with it after enduring 2020?

Scott: Not really. I’ve always washed my hands to the point of chafing. I’m already at peace with doing things from home. It’s actually been business as usual in many ways.

Film Courage: How can we watch your new sequel MANDAO RETURNS? When is it available?

Scott: Mandao Returns is available on Amazon Prime right now! If you feel moved to rate and review it on there, it would make all the filmmakers involved super thankful! It will be rolling out to other platforms in the near future as well.

Film Courage: What is MANDAO RETURNS about?

Scott: Mandao Returns is the continuation of this rag tag team and their astral projection abilities to stop bad things from happening. I think the theme of this one is letting go. It’s about moving forward and living in the moment and being grateful for it all.

It has evil cults, conniving Hollywood talent, time travel, and ghosts! It’s like Halloween and Christmas threw a party and invited everyone.

Film Courage: Why was it important for you to make this sequel? 

Scott: I want to develop an original scifi/horror film series with a growing fanbase. It’s been two years since these characters were on screen. I missed them. I wondered what they would all be up to. So I guess the characters are why it was important to make this sequel. They deserve screen time. We have a primarily Asian and Latino cast. I think it’s cool to not only present a highly original feature film series, but also to present opportunities for Asians and Latinos to star in this new content. I hope to make at least one more sequel or if we get funding – a series.

Sean Liang as Cousin Andy

Film Courage: What makes ‘Mandao Returns’ a better movie than the original?

Scott: It probably comes down to having more confidence and experience this time around. I have to give credit to all the people who gathered around this movie and made it a reality. The truth about filmmaking is that it’s a community effort. Making this movie wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for everyone in front and behind the scenes. 

As far as what I’m in charge of, the writing was tighter, as well as the editing, acting, and even directing. I want to get back on set with another movie so that I can keep learning and growing.



Film Courage: Who is Jay Mandao? When did this character originate and how did you develop him?

Scott: Jay Mandao is an Asian American hero for the new era. He’s ultimately motivated by his growing love and respect for his friends.

In this movie I enjoyed having him be more accepting of the people he’s ended up with. In the first one he was a cranky guy that seemed like he was content being alone. Now he’s realized that family and friends are the MOST important thing to him.

Jay is based on a character I created in high school with my friends. He and Jackson have always stuck in my brain. They are friends of mine.

Sean McBride as Jackson O’Hare

Film Courage: Why are you obsessed with the characters from this story world?

Scott: It’s probably because of the actors who play them, honestly. I love the characters as written but I’ve really grown close to the cast over the past few years. New and old. We had a lot of returning characters from the last movie. We also had amazing new talent join the team. Jenny Lorenzo stepped up and turned the role of Aura into an instant classic. She’s such an accomplished content creator and it was amazing to have her on set! Jim O’Doherty as Ted was hilarious. We all gelled amazingly together.  

Film Courage: How long did it take you to write the script for MANDAO RETURNS?

Scott: I started writing it about half a year after the first Mandao. I got through about 7 drafts. Then about a month or two before production I rewrote the whole thing. 2 drafts of that and we were off and running.

Film Courage: Was there a particular kind of music, band or event ritual you had before/during writing it?

Scott: I was listening to MGMT a lot. Their album LITTLE DARK AGE was not only going through my ears but my eyes as well. The music videos for “When You Die” and “Little Dark Age” were so entertaining and inspiring. Check it out if you haven’t.

Film Courage: Do you talk out the characters while writing?

Scott: Yes. Sometimes I break out the voice memo app on my phone and talk it out that way.

Film Courage: You say rehearsing with actors weeks before production is crucial. Do you ever change the script at this point?

Scott: Oh yes. Almost every time. It’s a good time to see if the words are working with the actors. It’s also a good time to see what works better. That’s one of the reasons I love doing it so much.

Film Courage: Why do you film these rehearsals?

Scott: I’ve done three movies where I’m the writer/director/actor. It’s so fun. However, since I’m in it with the actors during rehearsals, I like to throw myself into the acting and discovering stage. The focus is more on the other actors than myself. Later I can see the rehearsal footage and study my own performance a little more.

Film Courage: How much of an idea about locations do you have while writing?

Scott: When I’m writing, I actually go to places like Peer Space and Giggster to look at potential budget friendly options so that I can get a more accurate layout. It helps so much because I like to picture where the characters are in a REAL space.

Film Courage: How many locations did you have for MANDAO RETURNS? Did you pay for all of those locations?

Scott: 2 locations. Cousin Andy’s apartment was actually actress Marisa Hood’s apartment. She played Maeve in Mandao of the Dead. She’s such a wonderful actress and producer. She let us shoot there for free. We couldn’t have done it without her generosity! Aura’s house was rented at a location in Burbank.

Film Courage: What happened to your Toyota Yaris?

Scott: I sold my Toyota Yaris and used the money as part of the budget for Mandao of the Dead.

Film Courage: What did you learn (both in production and release) from the original ‘Mandao of the Dead’ that you applied to ‘Mandao Returns?’

Scott: When we made Mandao of the Dead it was my second feature film. It was my FIRST genre movie. We were all finding it together. We self distributed Mandao of the Dead and had to figure it out on our own. We had no social media presence but somehow we grew and attracted some fans.

Cut to today. Mandao Returns has a distributor, we hosted a successful Kickstarter campaign, and now we have over 12K followers across our social media platforms and growing. We’re also learning how to market our film better and engage with our audience. Slowly but surely I’m learning what works for our movies and what doesn’t. I’m STILL learning. It’s what makes this rewarding.

Film Courage: How did you feel after the successful 2019 MANDAO RETURNS Kickstarter campaign? Why were you tired? 

Scott: I was elated! There’s a quote from VANILLA SKY that comes to mind. “The sweet is never as sweet without the sour”. A couple of years before we did the MANDAO RETURNS Kickstarter, Gina and I tried launching a different one for a movie called WEIRD FOLK. It was a massive failure. It was embarrassing. When it came time to do it again, we decided to get an expert to help us. We went to‘s Justin Giddings. He really guided us through all the things we needed to do to have a successful campaign. We ended up raising 132% of our goal!

Film Courage: How do you sleep the night before production? How do you plan for the lack of sleep?

Scott: I sleep pretty spotty during production. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will arrive on set without a ton of sleep most days. The adrenaline of filming usually makes up for any initial exhaustion though. Coffee on tap is key.

Film Courage: Do you watch footage after a production day? How helpful has this been for money, time, continuity?

Scott: Yes. Always. It’s the only way I’ll catch things that aren’t working or that need to be tweaked. It’s always late at night when I really need sleep but it’s worth it. I sleep when we wrap! It was especially challenging because most of the sequel takes place at night. We’d wrap at midnight a lot so I was pretty tired throughout.

Film Courage: What was the best day of production?

Scott: The day we wrapped. It signified that we shot everything, everyone was healthy and enthusiastic, and it was time to go home!

Film Courage: Can you imagine if you missed your production window this year and you weren’t able to complete this movie this year?  What would you have done?

Scott: It would have been devastating. We were very blessed to finish the film when we did. I’m not sure we could’ve remounted it with the budget we had.

Film Courage: If you return to crowdfunding for another film, what will you continue to do that made you successful for MANDAO RETURNS?

Scott: Everything we learned from The Kickstarter Guy (Justin Giddings) was gold. We would do that again… times 10.

Film Courage: How are you and Gina complementary in the skills you bring to a film production?  What does one do best that the other doesn’t and vice versa?

Scott: She’s the producer in every sense of the word. She and I have the same goal in many ways… Get the movie done WELL. She makes it possible for me to do my job. She’s much more organizational than me. She keeps me on schedule and aware of when we’re running out of time. We’re a big support system. She also has great ideas that make the movies better and funnier! Our love is also a secret weapon.

Scott Dunn and Producer Gina Gomez Dunn

Film Courage: Can you share with us how/why/when you and Gina launched Dunnit Films? What kind of content will you make?

Scott: We recently launched Dunnit Films this year to be an official production company and brand that we could grow. Coming soon in 2021, we’re going to release merchandise, fun skits/short films for our YouTube channels, produce more feature films, and have a blog where we share our experience and interviews with creative artists who share the Dunnit motto: Dream it. Do it. Dunnit.  

Film Courage: What did you edit the film on?

Scott: The bulk of it was done on Final Cut Pro X. I also used Adobe After Effects, Davinci Resolve, and a pinch of Adobe Premiere. These are powerful tools that combine really well.

Film Courage: What do you use for sound effects in the movie?

Scott: I did my own recordings for some sounds. A lot of what I got was from a site called They have AMAZING professionally recorded sound effects. I love getting creative and combining different sounds to make brand new ones.

Jenny Lorenzo as Aura Garcia

Film Courage: Advice for fellow filmmakers going to Comic Con with their movie (in the future)?

Scott: Be prepared to get on the streets and preach the gospel of your movie. Otherwise people won’t show up to your screening. Now with the pandemic the way it is, I’m not even sure what the protocol would be. Crazy.

Film Courage: Did you seek distribution for MANDAO RETURNS?

Scott: Yes. I want to own my movies. At least when it comes to the Mandao series. The company we went with is Indie Rights. They are transparent, have a good reputation, and they have contracts that last 3 years. From there you can renew or not. It’s extremely fair. Linda and Michael are great!

Film Courage: What would you advise other filmmakers on securing distribution?

Scott: I’d advise that they get crystal clear on what their goals are. I know Minimum Guarantees are essentially a thing of the past for indie filmmakers. For Gina and I, it was about being with a transparent and respected distribution company. We went with Indie Rights. They have a great reputation and short terms.

Film Courage: Have you begun writing the third script in the MANDAO trilogy?

Scott: No not yet. I’ve got three ideas that I’m flirting with. Who knows though. I’ve actually been entertaining the idea of having a different director for the third one. Possibly an additional writer as well. Could be FUN!

Film Courage: What would Jay Mandao have done to keep calm during 2020?

Scott: No doubt about it, Jay would immediately travel back to 2019.

Film Courage: If you could only choose one cereal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Scott: If I didn’t care about my insides, I’d pick Lucky Charms. The one with the extra marshmallows. 

Illustration by Chris Barnes (Brutal Posters)

Christmas came early this year as Amazon Prime just released the scifi/horror indie “Mandao Returns” the sequel to the cult hit “Mandao of the Dead.” It was recently acquired by distributor, Indie Rights. 

Starring: Jenny Lorenzo, Sean Liang, Scott Dunn, Sean McBride, Gina Gomez Dunn, Jim O’Doherty, and Alexandre Chen 

Illustration by Chris Barnes (Brutal Posters)



This is the third feature from Writer/Director Scott Dunn and Producer Gina Gomez Dunn. They successfully raised funds for the sequel via Kickstarter and managed to complete production only 2 days before all film productions shut down due to the pandemic. Because of the lockdowns, Scott Dunn had to tackle post-production by himself (editing, color correction, effects, and sound) and release the flick in time for the holidays. 

The first installment in the indie franchise, Mandao Of The Dead, garnered critical acclaim when it was released and screened at the San Diego Comic Con and LA Comic Con in 2019.











SCOTT DUNN is a Korean-American filmmaker and entrepreneur who recently launched the film production company, Dunnit Films. He grew up making films as a hobby with his friends before ultimately moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting. After working on several film and stage productions, Scott was cast as the recurring character Shane Peters on Disney’s “Kickin’ It.” He then switched gears back to his filmmaking roots. He is the Writer, Director, Actor, and Editor in SCHLEP, MANDAO OF THE DEAD, and MANDAO RETURNS. His film-centric YouTube Channel serves as the main Dunnit Films YouTube Channel. It features high quality content such as trailers, behind the scenes, vlogs, skits, and films.

*This is a sponsored post.


Advertisement – contains affiliate links 

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)


This is the third feature from Writer/Director Scott Dunn and Producer Gina Gomez Dunn. They successfully raised funds for the sequel via Kickstarter and managed to complete production only 2 days before all film productions shut down due to the pandemic. Because of the lockdowns, Scott Dunn had to tackle post-production by himself (editing, color correction, effects, and sound) and release the flick in time for the holidays.