If you’re looking for an awesome short with Sin City vibes, Scratch (read our review – here) is truly amazing. I had the opportunity to interview the director/writer Ronan Jorah and actress Carey Van Driest. Learn about what inspired this film, the casting process, details about the special effect, and more!
PopHorror – What inspired you to work in the film industry?
Carey: I came to it as an actor and four years ago had the opportunity to produce a series of short films for a theatre company and loved it. I met Ronan Jorah and I was inspired by his talent to start a production company. Scratch is Mania Studio, Inc.’s maiden voyage.
PopHorror – What film made you fall in love with cinema?
Ronan: When I was young I wanted to be a magician. The thing I found most appealing about it, oddly enough, was the incredible discipline and time it took to create a single illusion. That these people would spend so much of themselves in an effort to inspire wonder in an audience. It became obvious early on that magic was not my path, but I never lost the desire to show people amazing and impossible things. For Christmas, when I was seven or so, my parents gave me a book about the making of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, and it was the first time I realized that movies were just a big magic trick: a huge team of people working very hard for a long time to delight and enlighten the rest of us for a few hours. I’ve been in love with the cinema ever since.
PopHorror – What inspired your new short Scratch?
Ronan: I am the son of a minister and school teacher, so the friction between the mythical and the knowable has always been there. I find the former fascinating in that, at its heart, we are always looking for moral meaning in the knowable world around us. The search for that meaning is why we tell stories. Why do we do what we do? So, having been obsessed with all of the various legends and fables surrounding the Devil, and what they tell us about how we have viewed evil throughout the ages. I thought doing my own take on one in a New Jersey diner would be fun.
PopHorror – Can you tell the readers what the film is about?
Ronan: The key to the film is its perspective, shooting it from the point of view of the killer. This hopefully accomplishes two things: one, the audience is left to their own judgment as to what is real and what is merely the way this sick mind views the world and, two, it places the conflict of the story within the viewer by forcing them to view the story through this man’s eyes. At its core then, the story is about how we rationalize our actions. As has been said many times, we are all the hero of our own stories. Not many, if any of us view ourselves as bad people even when we’ve done terrible things. We had our reasons, and at the worst, we come to believe that we are the real victims. Thankfully most of us never take it to the extreme depicted in the film.
PopHorror – How did the casting process come about?
Carey: I have been plugged into the New York acting community for many years and had introduced Ronan to several extremely talented actors. R.J. Foster was his first choice to play Charlie, and Tiffany Peach and Peter Daniel Straus were brought on shortly afterward. JR Carter came to us through a wonderfully serendipitous connection, and I had initially suggested Mark DeLaBarre for Harvey, but he had mostly done comedy and Ronan wasn’t sure about him in a smarmier role. Eventually, Ronan met with him and realized how tall and imposing Mark is, while also being one of the nicest guys out there, which was exactly the balance that the role required. Harvey ultimately has to be likable for the first three minutes of the film, to capture the audience’s attention enough to set up the conflict we will ultimately feel about the Butcher as we are forced to watch the scenario through his distorted lens. When Mark and Ronan met, within the first five minutes he had the job.
PopHorror – I was super impressed by this short. The acting, the writing, lighting, and overall execution is amazing. Was this a complicated short to create as far as design and cinematography?
Ronan: Thank you very much for saying so. First and foremost I had the benefit of a truly excellent cast and crew, all the way down the line. I had a great costume designer in Tristan Raines who really helped me to dial in the look of these characters, creating a wonderful mix of the mundane and the fantastical. As to the cinematography, I had a fantastic collaboration with Shannon Madden. She got the film right away, understood completely what I was going for and made it even better.
So to fully answer your question, yes, it was complicated given that it needed to look like one continuous shot in addition to all of the visual effects we needed to do, but having such talented people on board made it much easier.
PopHorror – Any memorable moments on set or favorite scenes?
Carey: The Bendix Diner holds a very special place in our hearts. The owner, Mark Diakakis, and his sons run the business and became like family. His oldest son was applying to Ivy League colleges at the time, and the day after our final night he was supposed to hear from his first choice. As the cast and crew were loading up and leaving, every one of them said good luck, and the next morning I received a phone call from Mark that his son had gotten into Harvard. I was the second person he called.
Ronan: One of my favorite scenes, which ties to a favorite moment, is the opening with Harvey talking the Butcher’s ear off. It was based on an experience I had in an airport lounge some years ago. I guy whose flight was delayed just plopped down across from me and started into his life story, telling me things I wouldn’t tell a priest. I don’t think I got more than two words in. So, I wrote this monologue very loosely based on that, but also with the knowledge that whoever played the part would basically be carrying the film completely for the first three minutes. As a director, I would be putting an actor out on a high wire and he was going to be on his own once the camera rolled. There was only time for one rehearsal before Mark DeLeBarre arrived on set the night of the shoot and I got to stand behind the monitor and watch him knock it out of the park in three takes.
PopHorror – Were you pleased with the final outcome of the short?
Ronan: Very much so. As you might expect, I can give you a three-page list of things I wish I had done better, but I am very proud of everyone’s work and the final film accomplishes what we set out to do. You can’t ask for any more than that.
PopHorror – Have you guys thought about making it a full feature?
Carey: We haven’t planned for a feature but were approached about making it into a television series. That project is currently in development.
Ronan: I’ve written two episodes so far and it’s been a good deal of fun expanding the world and the mythology around it.
PopHorror- Any upcoming projects?
Carey: I’m working on an independent feature and developing a series based on a historical female warrior.
Ronan: The aforementioned television series and a historical fiction monster movie set just after World War II in the Arctic.