MOVIES: Filmmaking couple want to make a mark with Beauty Mark in Whistler

Published: November 30, 2012

GLEN SCHAEFER
VANCOUVER DESI

Vancouver filmmaking couple Nimisha Mukerji and Mark Ratzlaff were excited enough Thursday as they awaited the Whistler Film Festival world premiere of their new short film, the dark drama Beauty Mark.

But then the city-bred pair saw a bear on a walk through the resort. We’ll let them tell it:

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.

“We were on the plane, stuck with very limited options about what to watch on an airplane television set,” Ratzlaff recalls. “They had a TLC channel which had . . .”

“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.

“They noticed quickly that it was darker than past pitches,” Ratzlaff says.” I’m glad that they went for it. I think it brings up an important discussion. We wanted it to disturb, upset, to make people uncomfortable.”

“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.”

It is that, disturbingly believable. They filmed over five days, using eight interior and exterior locations and dozens of actors to recreate the kiddie pageant milieu. They had to act fast when a Vancouver school, apparently spooked by the script, pulled out as a location two days before filming.

Acting fast was Mukerji’s job.

“This is a massive production, it’s not like a small independent short film,” she says. “We had so many professionals donate their time. On any given day we had as many as 60 people, we had an enormous number of pageant people, background people. For Mark, his focus was the actors, so it was really managing everything that wasn’t happening on camera.”

It seems the couple are trading off directing duties on each project.

“I think we both at the end of the day want to direct,” Ratzlaff says. “It has just worked out that we’ve been able to make films together, which is kind of a really great blessing in the last couple of years. I can’t imagine how much we’d see each other if we were doing things independently. It’s been nice to overlap.”

“Blood Relative took three years,” Mukerji says. “Our whole relationship was making Blood Relative. In the middle of that we decided to do this. I like producing when it can be creative and when you can see it through from the beginning. To write with Mark and then to see it all the way through to the finished product, That’s a really rewarding experience for a producer.

Says Ratzlaff : “She brought such an important insight. Mother and daughter relationships are different . . . I think mind games.”

Adds Mukerji: “I think it was fun to collaborate on that dynamic while writing a script together. We balance each other out. I love my mother, we have a great relationship, but we know how to push each other’s buttons. Christina Cox brought a lot to that, playing the mother. These little comments that can drive someone a little closer to the edge. She understood the complexities of the mother roles.”

Beauty Mark gets its world premiere 2 p.m. Saturday at Whistler’s Millennium Place with a program of short films. It plays again 7 p.m. that night at Maxx Fish. They’ve started submitting it to other festivals.

Now, they’re both working separately on feature scripts.

“That’s what’s fun about it, we can get feedback, go back and forth,” Mukerji says. “When it comes from a place of love, it’s easier to accept. We’re really lucky.”






Featured

dead man walking

Man declared dead by hospital wakes up two days later

CEN AGENCY An Indian hospital who declared a man dead discovered he was actually still alive when police turned up an incredible two days later…
Continue Reading »

BC schools

We don’t want to be held hostage: Students to protest B.C. public school shutdown

IAN AUSTIN, JOHN COLEBOURN AND FRANK LUBA THE PROVINCE Students who should be returning to school Tuesday will instead be protesting because schools are closed….
Continue Reading »

B.C. courts

NRI who did not have sex with his wife for 8 years gets her charged for adultery, having an illegitimate child

IANS Dubai – An Indian man filed a case in a court in the UAE against his wife, who gave birth to a child in…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

BC schools

We don’t want to be held hostage: Students to protest B.C. public school shutdown

IAN AUSTIN, JOHN COLEBOURN AND FRANK LUBA THE PROVINCE Students who should be returning to school Tuesday will instead be protesting because schools are closed….
Continue Reading »

babe SEXY BOLLYWOOD desi

B.C.’s Miss India Canada pageant contestant sues ex-boyfriend to pay for tuition for failed class after breakup

KAMLOOPS THIS WEEK KAMLOOPS — A 22-year-old B.C. woman is suing her ex-boyfriend to pay tuition for a class she says she failed due to distress…
Continue Reading »

Longtime Surrey politician and former mayor Bob Bose is pictured here near his south Surrey home on Monday, November 21, 2011. Jenelle Schneider/PNG

Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose backs Barinder Rasode, says no Surrey Matters slate coming

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — Though Coun. Barinder Rasode has yet to officially announce her intentions to run for the city’s top job, she’s…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

carleton-university-phd-student-selvan-mohan-is-trying-to-ra

International student in Ottawa launches campaign to raise money for new prosthetic leg

MEGHAN HURLEY OTTAWA CITIZEN A Carleton University PhD student from Malaysia has launched a fundraising campaign to replace his worn-out prosthetic leg. Selvan Mohan, 24, was born without a…
Continue Reading »

jail sex

B.C. Supreme Court to decide if Kamloops Mountie watching women have sex in jail is a crime

THE CANADIAN PRESS KAMLOOPS, B.C. — A judge wants to hear arguments from lawyers about the legality of the charge against an RCMP corporal accused…
Continue Reading »

Rice Bucket India poverty

India’s Rice Bucket Challenge gives a ‘meaningful twist’ to ALS ice bucket challenge

VANCOUVER DESI India has created its own “desi” version of the ALS ice bucket challenge that has swept the globe. While the original icy cold…
Continue Reading »

India

Man proudly wears world’s largest turban weighing in at 100 pounds and 645 metres long unwrapped

VANCOUVER DESI A 60-year-old devout Sikh in northern India appears to be the proud owner of the world’s largest turban – weighing in at 100…
Continue Reading »

Elephant headed god

Gallery: India prepares to welcome elephant-headed Lord Ganesha

VANCOUVER DESI Preparations for Ganesh Chaturthi, a festival marking the birth of the elephant-headed god, have taken off in India as Hindus prepare to welcome…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Priyanka Chopra

Priyanka Chopra: Now I can beat anyone

IANS New Delhi – No, Priyanka Chopra is not talking about the box office competition, but about actually beating up someone physically! And the actress…
Continue Reading »

Indian Bollywood sex

Bipasha Basu wants to work with Yo Yo Honey Singh

IANS Mumbai – Actress Bipasha Basu is so impressed with rapper-singer Yo Yo Honey Singh that she wants to work with him. “I will be…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Bollywood’s Aamir Khan wants to groove like Greek god Hrithik Roshan

IANS Mumbai – Superstar Aamir Khan is so fascinated by Hrithik Roshan’s dance moves in “Bang Bang!” that he too wants to groove like him….
Continue Reading »