Studio City Filmmaker Delves Into Those Scary Storage Units

Award-winning director Patrick Hasson is using local stars to film his horror film 'Blood Shed,' all in a unique campaign.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (shot nearby at the lot) scared people out of the shower. Friday the 13th spoiled the innocence of summer camps forever. And after Silence of the Lambs, chianti and fava beans were forever relegated to the palates of serial killers.

Groundbreaking horror movies don’t come along often, but when they do they infiltrate our imaginations, making us fear ordinary places or associate evil with innocent things.

Award-winning writer and director Patrick Hasson’s forthcoming low-budget independent horror film Blood Shed set to start production in Studio City later this year, might just be the next film to add a new fear to our collective consciousness. 

“What Jaws did for people going into the water, Blood Shed will do for anyone having to visit that long-lost unit,” said Hasson, a Studio City resident.

Written by Hasson and chosen as a quarterfinalist in the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, Blood Shed draws on elements of mythology and Mexican Santeria to tell the story of Gabriel, a homeless loner who takes up residence in a storage unit that holds secrets about his biological parents. Gabriel quickly realizes he is not alone in the building—many homeless squatters are living among the storage units, including a mother and son, a prostitute, a meth-head and an old man.

The story is based in part on Hasson’s own experience of living in his self-storage unit years ago when he found himself without a place to stay.

It seems fitting that an independent filmmaker promising to add a new concept to the horror genre would opt to use a new approach to independent film financing. Besides hoping to scare the pants off horror fans when they go to pick up their Jason masks from self-storage next Halloween, Hasson’s looking to scare up financial pledges from them to support the production of Blood Shed.

Hasson is one of a growing number of independent filmmakers using an approach called crowdfunding to finance their films through online fundraising platforms like Kickstarter. Crowdfunding lets filmmakers raise money from the general public rather than relying exclusively on banks or film studios, which in today’s credit-challenged economy would leave many projects on the shelf.

The concept is similar to how charities raise money from people who believe in social causes, except with crowdfunding, people support films they believe in. 

In exchange for financial pledges, filmmakers offer incentives that provide exclusive experiences or items related to the movie. In the case of Blood Shed, Hasson’s offering supporters special-edition promotional items, movie props, film credits or personal screenings, depending on what pledge level they choose. The pledge packages for Blood Shed range from $10 to $10,000.

Hasson said crowdfunding benefits independent filmmakers by helping them amass a loyal audience before production even starts, which can help attract additional investments down the road. It also leaves creative control and ownership of the film in the hands of the filmmaker. Crowdfunding was pioneered by Franny Armstrong to fund her 2009 documentary The Age of Stupid, and has been called the future of independent filmmaking.

Recent trends support this prediction. After only two years in business, Kickstarter raises $1 million a week and a growing number of independent filmmakers have successfully used the site to charm audiences before they even call action. I Am I and The Price both recently broke $100,000 and in perhaps the biggest coup, Matthew Lessner’s film The Woods became the first crowd-funded movie to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

So when a series of meetings with various film companies who had expressed interest in Blood Shed didn’t go anywhere, Hasson knew he wasn’t out of options. Given Blood Shed’s uniqueness and the fact that it’s inspired by his real-life experiences, he knew it had potential to pique the interest of the public.

He launched the film's Kickstarter campaign on March 15. Pledges are approaching $2,500, with a goal of reaching $55,000 in pledges by June 13.

Hasson’s first feature film, Waiting, a comedy starring Keri Kenney from Reno 911, was reviewed favorably by the The New York Times and won two audience awards. He has since directed two short films, Stealing Magnolias and Dead Broke, which won Best Short Film in the Los Angeles Silver Lake Film Festival.  Another one of his scripts, Most Likely To Conceive was recently selected as a finalist in the screenwriting competition at the upcoming Los Angeles Comedy Film Festival. Blood Shed is Hasson’s first horror film, which he plans to co-direct with his partner Juan Carlos Saizabitoria under their production company The Vasco Brothers.

Brandon Ratcliff, Studio City resident and award-winning child star of the critically acclaimed 2005 indie movie Me and You and Everyone We Know, has signed on to the project. At just 13, Ratcliff already has an impressive resume playing complex roles in films with heavy themes, but Blood Shed will be his first foray into the horror genre.

“I’ve been wanting to do something bigger, and I think a horror movie can take me to the next level,” said Ratcliff.

Ratcliff will play the role of Trace, the teenager who lives in the building with his mother. Trace befriends Gabriel when he arrives, and the two form a bond despite Gabriel’s usual inability to connect with people. (Ratcliff  just earned a Best Actor nomination at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival for his performance in the short film Down This Road.)

“Gabriel never had anyone to care about, but he finds himself caring about Trace when things become dangerous,” Ratcliff said.

As he settles in to his storage unit and begins sifting through its contents to learn about his real parents, Gabriel begins to realize the entire storage building is under the control of a malevolent presence. Soon he and his neighbors find themselves locked inside the building and stalked through the night by a blood thirsty, demented she-beast who knows Gabriel has arrived and wants much more than his blood.

Hasson said his latest movie is a “creative and tense romp into the horror genre,” and lists Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Paranormal Activity and The Last Broadcast among his horror influences. If Hasson’s Kickstarter pitch video is any indication, Blood Shed presents an intriguing story with a combination of elements capable of drawing horror fans and non-horror fans alike.

Blood Shed is the first feature-length horror film set in a self-storage facility. The plot is both unique and forward thinking—Hasson makes a bold departure from the traditional male villain by employing a Latina villainess—giving the movie crossover appeal for Latino audiences.

As a result of Hasson’s real life experience living in his storage unit, Blood Shed makes an indirect social commentary on homelessness

Just about every character ”is homeless, choosing to hole up in the doomed storage facility rather than sleep on the streets. Hasson said until it happened to him, he didn’t realize people actually resorted to taking shelter in storage buildings and hopes his movie will make people aware of how common it is.

The inspirational seed for the film was planted in Hasson’s mind years earlier, when he was picking something up from his storage unit early one morning and saw a transvestite prostitute enter a storage unit that doubled as an apartment. The image stuck with him and when he found himself without a place to stay a few years later, he decided his storage unit was a better place to stay than his car.

The first few nights he slept in the unit, Hasson was more than a little freaked out and like Gabriel, soon learned he was not alone. He kept hearing what he thought sounded like a typewriter, but figured it had to be something else. On the fourth night of incessant tapping, he went looking for the source of the noise and came upon a scene even more surreal than the transvestite prostitute’s makeshift apartment from years earlier.

He followed the noise down one floor to find an old man sitting in front of a typewriter perched on a small table, typing away in front of an open storage unit. Hasson describes the moment as “haunting and strange,” and said the scene set in motion the idea for the film. The man’s storage unit was packed with what appeared to be the contents of his entire life, and Hasson was fascinated imagining what had led the man to this point and what he could possibly be typing. 

In that moment, he realized every self-storage unit is a story in itself, filled with forgotten and discarded pieces of people’s lives. Like himself and the old man typist, Hasson says sometimes people themselves wind up discarded in storage. He incorporated this theme into the film—Gabriel has been discarded from society and takes refuge in a storage unit containing his entire life.

Although Hasson’s stay at his storage unit was short, when he started writing the script years later, he said he wrote a lot of it in a storage facility so he could bring the inherent bizarreness of the setting to life on the page.

“It’s a creepy environment," the director said. "People are living there among all these forgotten things, and they have to sneak around and improvise the basics of life storage units aren’t equipped for, like bathrooms. And there are a ton of strange noises from stuff inside the storage units settling.”

Like the movie’s antagonist, who is motivated by revenge and anger, Hasson said women are much more in control and strategic in how they respond when they are wronged.

“Men are reactionary; they attack without thinking when they are angry. Women can assess the situation and plan their response,” Hasson said.

The synopsis for Blood Shed promises viewers a “stomach-churning” ride as they learn about the horrific tie between Gabriel and the she-beast and an ending that will “haunt your dreams for years to come.”

So if the latest horror movies have already left your dreams and you no longer get the chills stepping into the shower or pairing wine with legumes, you can play a part in the upcoming demonization of.

To get in on the ground floor, visit Hasson’s Kickstarter page.  

Also see: 

grnskl April 07, 2011 at 09:20 AM
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