Carlen May-Mann – 2019 Festival

The Rat

It's Halloween night, and Renee is madly in love with her boyfriend Jim. On their way to a frat party, he takes a detour to a haunted house, where Renee is forced to confront a terrifying situation.

CARLEN MAY-MANN is a writer, director, and artist dedicated to personal and emotive storytelling. Her short film THE RAT was an official selection of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and her feature-length screenplay STRAWBERRY SUMMER (which she will go on to direct) was a participant in the 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Intensive. STRAWBERRY SUMMER is being supported by Cinereach and has been recognized by Tribeca/AT&T Untold Stories (2018 top 15 finalists), the Black List/Women in Film Feature Lab (2017 semifinalist), and the BlueCat Screenplay Competition (2017 semifinalist).

Carlen’s work as a director also includes several music videos. Of these, “Home” by The Meltaways debuted on Impose Magazine and “Bite My Tongue” by Eli Sundae debuted on AdHoc. Carlen produces her filmmaking through New York-based film and media collective NITE SHIFT, an organization she co-founded.

In addition, Carlen’s credits in the art department include A24’s MENASHE (dir. Joshua Weinstein, 2017 Sundance NEXT; 2017 Berlinale), Washington Square Films’ 11:55 (dir. Ari Issler and Ben Snyder, 2016), NO PAY, NUDITY (dir. Lee Wilkof, 2016), and THE NEAREST HUMAN BEING (dir. Marco Coppola, 2019).

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.

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.

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.

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