The couple are romantic as well as professional partners, having first worked together three years ago when Ratzlaff wrote and directed the stylish, funny period short VOODOO, and Mukerji served as producer and story editor. They spent most of the past three years working on the feature-length documentary BLOOD RELATIVE, with Mukerji directing and Ratzlaff producing the story of the fight against a blood disease that affects millions of children in India.
The idea for BEAUTY MARK, their latest film, came last year as they were heading to a film festival in Sedona, NM, to screen VOODOO.
“Toddlers and Tiaras marathon,” Mukerji says. They have a tendency to finish each other’s sentences. “It’s a very popular TV show and we got sucked in. We started watching.”
“No breaks, so you say I’ll watch one more,” Ratzlaff says.
The cutesy documentary series depicts pre-teen beauty pageants. “We got our fill. We got down to Sedona, checked into our hotel, turned on the TV just for filler, and it was on again. We were just bombarded.”
They started talking about an idea Ratzlaff had for a short scripted drama about mother-daughter relationships. The kiddie pageants gave them their setting.
“It was a sign,” Mukerji says. They wrote up a first draft of BEAUTY MARK in August of last year while they were editing BLOOD RELATIVE .
“We were taking it to a darker level,” Mukerji says. “Kind of in response to all the pop culture, how everyone makes it seem really glamorous and really fun. We wanted to take it in another direction.”
They wrote the script together, teaming up on the writing for the first time.
“It was great to be able to work with Mish again,” says Ratzlaff. “We’d come off the documentary and now working in the narrative world.”
BEAUTY MARK follows a reluctant pageant star, played by young actor Taya Clyne, and her overbearing, ambitious mother (Christina Cox). Mukerji was responsible for some of the script’s darker touches, like when the mother stuffs padding into her daughter’s bra.
“I made the suggestion to Mark and he was no, no. But because I am a girl, it’s like saying well, that’s what really would happen. He said ‘Well, I don’t know how I’m going to direct the scene.’ I said it’s coming from a true place, it’ll work,” Mukerji says. “Co-writing was fun . . . he would do a draft, then I would do a draft. We didn’t really sit together that way it became looser, I could take it in a direction and he could respond to that.”
They submitted their script to the Whistler festival’s annual short film pitch competition, and won the green light over four other finalists last December. They got $15,000 cash and $100,000 worth of in-kind support, and a premiere screening slot at this year’s festival.
“It’s a timely story, it’s happening now,” Mukerji says. “The goal was not just to make it a surface film, but to make it a short film that would really get into the heart of the characters . When it’s building to this unexpected climax, that people would believe that this was possible.”
The pair brought on Vancouver-based producer Daniel Domachowski and they were off to the races to shoot all around Vancouver, filming over five days, using eight interior and exterior locations and dozens of actors to recreate the kiddie pageant milieu.
CBC (CAN, Broadcast)
WHistler film festival
WHistler film festival
Awards & Nominations
• MPPIA Award - Whistler Film Fest
• Winner - Silver Gryphon - Giffoni Film Fest
• Winner - Best Emerging Filmmaker - Yorkton Film Fest
• Winner - Best Short Film - Canadian Young Actors Film Festival
• Nominated - Best Short Film - Yorkton Film Festival
Leo Awards & Nominations
• Winner - Best Screenwriting in a Short Drama
• Winner - Best Costume Design in a Short Drama
• Winner - Best Female Performance in a Short Drama
Nominated - Best Short Film, Best Direction, Best Production Design, Best Editing in a Short Drama
Austin Film Festival
Yorkton Short Film Festival
Whistler Film Fest
Giffoni Film Festival
Fantasia Film Festival
Vancouver Film Festival
Edmonton Film Festival
Calgary Film Festival
Fargo Film Festival
R2R Youth Film Festival
Telefilm's Not Short on Talent Program - Cannes Film Festival