Studio City resident and award-winning actor Brandon Ratcliff is an old soul.
At just 2 1/2-years-old he was memorizing and reciting verbatim scenes from his favorite shows at that time, quoting Elmo and Barney, and declared his dream was to be in “TV, movies and pictures."
At 5, Ratcliff was cast by director Miranda July in her movie Me and You and Everyone We Know to play 7-year-old Robbie Swersey. July said she was originally looking for a small 9-year-old to play the character, but said Ratcliff was better and smarter than any of the 9-year-olds who auditioned. In Roger Ebert’s review of the movie, he points out that he received a letter from Ratcliff assuring him that he is smarter than an 11-year-old.
Ratcliff’s parents moved him to Los Angeles from his hometown LaCrosse, Wisconsin for pilot season when he was four years old to pursue his dream. Almost immediately he booked modeling jobs and roles on two UPN series, Rock Me Baby and All of Us. Shortly after came the role in Me and You and Everyone We Know, which earned him critical acclaim and a Chlotrudis Award that he shared with his co-stars for Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast.
This role was the first of several meaty ones that have made Ratcliff one of the youngest accomplished dramatic actors today. In Me and You and Everyone We Know Ratcliff’s character Robbie goes in an online chat room and unwittingly strikes up a scintillating conversation with a lonely woman that very innocently and humorously turns scatological.
His directors say it was uncanny how Ratcliff handled the material so well at such a young age, especially several scenes in which much of his performance is visual. In one of the film’s culminating and most surprising scenes, Ratcliff’s eyes convey such emotional depth and complexity that it could be argued they are the very soul of the movie.
Since Me and You and Everyone We Know, which Ebert gave four stars and declared the best film at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, Ratcliff has had dramatic roles in several short films. In 2008, he became the youngest actor to have two films screen at Cannes – Me and You and Everyone We Know, and the film short Sizzlean. Ratcliff was just nominated for his latest short film, Down this Road, in which he plays Rodney, a boy who seeks out his estranged father in the wake of a family tragedy.
As he prepares to turn 13 on April 14, Ratcliff now seems more like a 16-year-old and it’s clear he’s spent a lot of time thinking about his career.
Ratcliff recently signed on to star in the independent horror film Blood Shed about Gabriel, a homeless loner who takes up residence in a storage unit that holds secrets about his biological parents, and soon learns the entire storage building is under the control of a menacing she-beast. Ratcliff will play Trace, a homeless teenage boy who lives in the storage building with his mother who befriends Gabriel.
Although Ratcliff says he is looking forward to his first horror project, he isn’t necessarily a fan of horror movies.
“I never really watch horror movies,” said Ratcliff. “Not because I don’t like them, but they really scare my mom, and seeing her reaction to them made me stay away from them.”
But he wanted to do something bigger that could advance his career, and said a really successful horror movie has the potential to do that. Ratcliff said he believes in Blood Shed’s potential to become the next big horror franchise and he’s currently working with the writer and director of Blood Shed, Patrick Hasson, to finalize the script and refine the characters. He said the script contains emotional nuance as well as a groundbreaking, fear-inducing premise.
Ratcliff’s character Trace is the first person to really connect with Gabriel. When they find themselves at the mercy of Blood Shed’s villainess, Ratcliff said Trace helps Gabriel by filling him in on what little he knows about her and Gabriel tries to protect Trace from danger. The movie’s setting is also a commentary on homelessness, exposing a little known fact that more and more people are resorting to living in self-storage units.
Ratcliff also dances and has recently started to work on his singing, saying he’s “always wanted to be a triple threat.” He takes tap and hip hop classes at Millennium Studios and has developed his own freestyle dance moves that he plans on displaying at his upcoming birthday party, which will have a car theme.
“I choreographed a dance routine to Ravine Simone’s Double Dutch Bus that me and three of my friends are going to perform,” Ratcliff said.
Ratcliff is also passionate about helping others express their talent. He’s working on a YouTube channel where people will be able to submit videos of their musical performances and hopes to have a hand in making some dreams come true. (See video clips of Brandon in the photo gallery.)
When he’s not acting, dancing, singing or talent spotting, Ratcliff attends Pacific Hills school in West Hollywood where science is one of his favorite subjects. He also likes to go shopping on Ventura Boulevard with his mom, Tonni, who works for the company Brazilian Blowout and also teaches yoga at Lotus Kitty on Ventura Place. He spends a lot of time with his latest director Hasson, who also happens to be Tonni’s boyfriend and like to get their hair cut together by Amie at Floyd’s Barbershop on Moorpark Street.
So next time you’re walking down Ventura Boulevard or need a trim at Floyd’s, be on the lookout for this young, old soul with the uncanny ability to inject soul into movies that are beyond his years. And watch for him in Hasson’s Blood Shed which promises a soulfully scary experience.
Check out the story about Hasson: Studio City Filmmaker Delves into Those Scary Storage Units