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The Rat is a short psychological thriller about what women really  fear and who they can and cannot trust.
The Rat is a short psychological thriller about what women really fear and who they can and cannot trust.
146 backers pledged $17,211 to help bring this project to life.

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It's Halloween night, 1984, and 18-year-old Renee is madly in love with her boyfriend Jim. They've made plans to go to a frat party, but after he picks her up -- late again, but affectionate -- he takes a detour, driving off the beaten path to a haunted house. Here, Renee is forced to confront a terrifying situation and come face to face with the thing that, deep down, she’s most afraid of.

Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock

The Rat is a new film from writer/director Carlen May-Mann, whose work focuses on the inner lives of troubled girls and young women. It's a story about fear -- real fear -- the kind that echoes just as loudly in a haunted house as it does in the arms of the person you love.

Every marginalized person I know has at least one story from their own life that reads exactly like a scene from a horror film. Perhaps this is what I find so appealing about the genre -- no matter how heightened, how fantastical, how outlandish, there is something in nearly every horror film I’ve seen that speaks to a real fear that I have felt in my own life. 

With The Rat, I call into question what is really scary, both in film and in real life. I find that there’s a great deal of crossover. Fear requires a violation of trust -- trust that we can believe our eyes, our ears, our own thoughts, trust that what we see on a screen can’t hurt us, that the people we love have our best interests at heart.

"Home" by The Meltaways, dir. Carlen May-Mann
"Home" by The Meltaways, dir. Carlen May-Mann

As a director, I am visually and thematically inspired by mainstream art horror of the 1960s and 1970s -- films like Rosemary's Baby, Carrie, and The Exorcist. These films are about the terror that emerges from below the surface of our daily lives. The normality of a new relationship, a school dance, or a cocktail party suddenly becomes twisted, nefarious, infested with horror.

These iconic films all address female terror in their own way. And yet, they were all made by men. Rosemary's Baby in particular has served as an inspiration for much of contemporary film’s most impressive horror, such as Get Out and Hereditary, but it cannot and should not be ignored that this film was made by a known rapist, by someone who inspired in real women and girls the very fear that his films so aptly depict. Plain and simple, this is not right.

The Babadook, dir. Jennifer Kent
The Babadook, dir. Jennifer Kent

I want to do my part to steal back the genre by making a film that explores real fear. I want to tell a story that speaks to the unique ways that we are always frightened -- of late nights, of empty streets, of men. I want to tell a story about the debasement of women not because it’s provocative, but because it’s real, it’s happening to us every day, and it needs to stop.

Carlen May-Mann (Writer/Director)
Carlen May-Mann is a filmmaker dedicated to personal and emotive storytelling. Her first feature-length screenplay Strawberry Summer is a Cinereach supported project and was recognized by Tribeca/AT&T Untold Stories (top-15 finalist), the Sundance Screenwriters Lab (finalist), the Black List/Women in Film Feature Lab (semifinalist), and the BlueCat Screenplay Competition (semifinalist). Strawberry Summer is slated to shoot in 2019, with Carlen as director. Carlen’s past work as director includes one short film shot and edited on 16mm (Burn, Baby, 2014) and two music videos (“Home” by The Meltaways, 2016; “Bite My Tongue” by Eli Sundae, 2018). “Home” debuted on IMPOSE Magazine and was featured on 50 Third and 3rd, and “Bite My Tongue” debuted on AdHoc. Carlen graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Film Studies and Psychology. She was awarded departmental honors, the NNK Award for Best Undergraduate Film, and the Leavell Memorial Prize for Outstanding Work in Film Studies.

Burn, Baby, dir. Carlen May-Mann
Burn, Baby, dir. Carlen May-Mann

Beck Kitsis (Producer)
Beck Kitsis is a writer and producer focused on developing stories absent from mainstream media. Beck is currently producing Narrowsburg, a documentary directed by Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Martha Shane (After Tiller, 11/8/16), and in post-production on a 16mm short film entitled The Inconceivable Mountain. Her first feature-length narrative film Strawberry Summer is currently receiving support from Cinereach. It also placed as a finalist in the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, the Sundance Creative Producers Lab & Fellowship, and Tribeca/AT&T Untold Stories (top 15). In addition to producing features, short films, and music videos, Beck opened The Look of Silence (2015), Clouds of Sils Maria (2015), and What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015) to critical acclaim. Her marketing work at Sony Pictures Classics culminated in award-winning campaigns for Son of Saul (2015), Toni Erdmann (2016), Elle (2016), Call Me By Your Name (2017), and A Fantastic Woman (2017). Beck graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in Film Studies and East Asian Studies from Wesleyan University.

The Inconceivable Mountain, prod. Beck Kitsis & Albert Tholen
The Inconceivable Mountain, prod. Beck Kitsis & Albert Tholen

ALBERT THOLEN (Producer)
Albert Tholen is a founding member of New York City-based production company Good Baby Films, where he has worked as a producer, director, and editor since 2016. He produced and directed photography for a feature-length concert film entitled BRMWWV, which follows Jason Moran and Suga Dairo’s improvised piano “battle” set in Steinway & Son’s Astoria, NY factory. Among other music video work, he has produced and directed two segments of MUNA’s visual album “About U” and provided additional directing support for the other six. Currently, Albert is in post-production on The Inconceivable Mountain (Roy W. Dean Grant Semifinalist), a 16mm short film he produced last fall. As half of artist-filmmaker duo Zakkubalan, Albert has shown work at the Watari-um Museum of Contemporary Art, Sogetsu Art Center, and Sezon Gallery in Tokyo, Japan; GLINT Gallery at piknic, Seoul, South Korea; and the 2017 Reborn-Art Festival in Ishinomaki, Japan. Albert graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with High Honors from Wesleyan University earning a B.A. in Film Studies. He was a 2017 IFP Marcie Bloom Fellow in Film.

CHACHI HAUSER (Producer)
Chachi Hauser is a filmmaker and writer based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most recently, she associate produced the feature documentary Roll Red Roll (Tribeca Film Festival 2018, HotDocs 2018). Previously, she directed and produced the short films 1227 Lesseps (New Orleans Film Festival 2017) and Lolo (Boston Wicked Queer Film Festival 2014, London Fringe! Queer Film & Art Fest 2014). Chachi graduated with Honors in Film Studies from Wesleyan University and was the recipient of the Herbert Lee Connelly Prize as well as the Boylan Award for her nonfiction writing.

MARIA RUSCHE (Director of Photography)
Originally from Boston, Maria honed her eye for visual storytelling at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she focused on cinematography and lighting. Her narrative work includes One Good Pitch, which was an Official Selection at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016 and Starry Night, a short film that was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Production Grant and is currently being developed into a feature. Her commercial work includes clients such as Delta, Verizon, Smirnoff, Bank of America, American Express and more. Maria got her start as a gaffer and lighting technician on major feature films and television shows, where she developed her eye for lighting and the collaborative skills that are essential to a cinematographer. She was featured on Women In Film Portraits and is a Member of the cinematography collectives CinematographersXX and the I.C.F.C

Starry Night, DP Maria Rusche
Starry Night, DP Maria Rusche

CHRISTOPHER MCNABB (Editor)
Christopher McNabb is a 2016 Sundance Institute Documentary Edit and Story Lab Fellow and an Emmy-award-winning editor. His past work includes Emmy-award-winning project {The And} (Official Selection, IDFA 2014), the accompanying short film {The And} Marcela & Rock (Official Selection, Sundance 2015), and the feature film Whose Streets? (Magnolia Pictures, 2017), which opened the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. He is currently editing Narrowsburg, a documentary directed by Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Martha Shane (After Tiller, 11/8/16). 

Whose Streets?, ed. Christopher McNabb
Whose Streets?, ed. Christopher McNabb

TOLD SLANT (Composer)
Told Slant is the songwriting project of Felix Walworth (They/Them), Brooklyn based lyricist and producer. Walworth started the project in 2011 as a means of marking a stylistic shift in their songwriting, specifically a shift toward understated, ambling arrangements and simple, illustrative lyrics. They have been highlighted as one of the top most influential artists of contemporary independent music on NPR, Pitchfork, The Fader, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, and more. 

KATE GELLER (Casting Director)
Kate Geller is a casting director at New York's renowned Chrystie Street Casting. Kate is known for many award-winning projects, including Lizzie, Sollers Point, The Incredible Jessica James, Don't Think Twice, Tully, Demolition, Noah, Obvious Child, and John Wick.

JENNA WEINSTEIN (Costume Designer)
Jenna Weinstein is a costume designer for film, TV, and theater. Her credits include A Vigilante (2018), Madeline's Madeline (2018), Wildlife (2018), The Accidental Wolf (2017), A Woman, A Part (2016), The Comedian (2017), Listen Up Philip (2014), Appropriate Behavior (2014), and Shades of Blue (Series).

ROYCE BROWN (Co-Founder, NITE SHIFT)
Royce Brown co-produced A24's Menashe, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival & the 67th Berlinale to rave reviews. Royce also worked as line producer at Sparks Next Inc., where he produced music videos & documentary shorts for the Jewish market. His other feature experience includes White Girl (art dept.), Shiners (NY fixer) and Seasons of Love (set dresser).

We look to independent cinema to break ground, to show us things that we have never before seen on film. The Rat seeks to do just this -- to present an authentic subjective experience about the horrifying realities faced by women, and to examine the many ways in which their bodies and minds are exploited on screen. In order to tackle this sizable endeavor and gather the capital necessary to complete our film, we need support from larger organizations committed to empowering and equipping new filmmakers with the tools needed to break out and succeed. We are turning to Kickstarter because we know this is a community that thrives on producing innovative ideas.


Your contribution would directly enable us not only to hire a cinematographer, gaffer, key grip, production sound mixer, and production designer, but also to rent lighting equipment, set decoration, and props. Furthermore, it would cover all costs of post-production (editing, music, sound mix, color), and pay for legal, publicity, and festival submission fees.

Risks and challenges

As with any other short film, there are financial risks involved in producing THE RAT. More often than not, short films do not earn return in distribution. For this reason, we have kept our budget ultra-low and have avoided procuring equity from investors. Instead, we have focused on applying for support from non-profit institutions. Fortunately, we received a generous grant last month, which has enabled us to move through development and casting. While we will continue to apply for more grants, we are aware that they are incredibly competitive, so we cannot rely on grant funding to finance our film. Instead of putting the fate of our project in the hands of a few decision-makers, we have decided to turn to our community of friends, filmmakers, and activists at Kickstarter to fundraise the additional money we need to make THE RAT a reality.

THE RAT will not be an easy film to make, but we believe in our ability as a crew to successfully bring this nuanced story to the screen. We have been researching and preparing for months, and all of us have experience seeing projects through from beginning to end. We have proven ourselves to be capable and driven with our feature horror script STRAWBERRY SUMMER (writer/director: Carlen May-Mann, co-writer/producer: Beck Kitsis), which is currently receiving support from Cinereach. With THE RAT we will continue to use the horror genre to address similar themes of gendered violence, fear, and horror in women’s daily experiences.

As we well know, the film’s subject matter is controversial, and fans of the horror genre do not always overlap with advocates for authentic representation of women in film. It is our hope that, with your support, we will be able to connect not only to traditional horror audiences -- opening minds to the power of social justice genre film -- but also to new viewers: feminists and activists who aren't necessarily fans of the horror genre.

We hope the Kickstarter community can help us bring THE RAT to life and communicate our message far and wide. It takes the voice of a community to make an impact!

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    Limited Edition THE RAT print by New Yorker cartoonist Eli Dreyfus

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    Exclusive haircut/styling/color by Carlen May-Mann of FAN CITY QUEER CUTS! *NYC only*

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Funding period

- (30 days)