2015 Slamdance Film Festival Filmmaker Profile: Branden Kramer (Writer/Director – ‘Ratter’)

RATTER – [rat-ter] noun

A hacker that uses malware known as a RAT (Remote Access Trojan) to take control of a target computer and webcam. RATs are downloaded invisibly and without the consent of the user.

Emma (Ashley Benson) is a young and beautiful graduate student just starting a new life in New York City. Like most people her age, she is always connected – her phone and laptop are constant companions, documenting her most intimate moments. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s sharing her life with an uninvited and dangerous guest. A hacker is following Emma’s every move. When the voyeuristic thrill of watching her digitally isn’t enough, the situation escalates to a dangerous and terrifying level.

Seen entirely through the eyes of Emma’s hacker, RATTER is a chilling cautionary tale that illustrates how delicate a balance our love-affair with connectivity is and how, in the wrong hands, access to our digital world can have terrible and profound consequences.

Anticipating the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival WORLD PREMIERE of ‘Ratter,’ we spoke with the film’s Writer/Director Branden Kramer about the film’s origins, inspirations, and goals.  ‘Ratter‘ screens in Park City, Utah on Saturday, January 24 & Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

Find More Information & Tickets to ‘Ratter’ at the 2015 Slamdance Film FestivalHERE

Ratter

What first drew you to this material?
About five years ago, I had a friend who’s webcam light would turn on and off by itself. Nothing else would happen. My friend thought it was a glitch but my mind immediately went into story mode. What if there’s someone else on the other end of that camera? At that point I had never heard that people could hack into webcams. I never thought about it.

When I researched it and found that it actually happened, I knew there was a story there that needed to be told. So I brought it to my partners – Jan Jaworski, Stefan Haverkamp, and Tom Kropp – and we decided to make a short about it as soon as we could. The short film took off, went viral, and really affected people. At that point, we immediately started working on the feature, which was an entirely different beast.

What made you decide to tell the story through the POV of the protagonist Emma’s hacked computer and smart phone’s cameras?
It was a big decision to commit to… Is it too experimental? Is it too restrictive? But ultimately we pulled the trigger on it because we knew it would make the story feel authentic. The style of “RATTER” makes it feel very real, and voyeuristic, which adds to the tension. It was fun to write a story like this, because it’s so different. The hacked devices and computers are part of the narrative. So as you watch the film, it feels like you’re invading Emma’s privacy. (There’s also another POV camera not mentioned above – I’ll save that as a surprise…)

This film emphasizes the negative impact of technology, such as our loss of privacy. What is your own attitude towards technology?
We don’t mean to scare people away from technology with this film. I have a very positive view of technology. But I think it’s interesting how behind we are when it comes to security. Considering how our computers and cell phones and tablets are so entangled with our lives, and how important they are to us, do we take enough precaution? Do the companies that sell this stuff take enough precaution? Should there be educational courses in primary schools that teach kids about the Internet?

Your film taps into a common fears like being on your own in a big city and getting stalked. What overall message do you hope viewers will take away from this film?
RATTER combines stalking and technology, and it’s presented in an original way. At one point, we referred to it as “a new age stalker film.” Hopefully, the take-away isn’t about being scared to be alone in a big city. It’s the big Internet we want people to think about. It’s very powerful in that it’s a growing catalyst for both great things… and also very dark, dangerous things.

In doing research for the film, we learned that there are underground “ratting” communities where hackers trade webcam video feeds. Imagine your own devices and computers being turned against you, without you knowing. Hidden cameras and microphones inside your home where you think it’s safe. It’s a nightmare. We’re hoping people will be more aware of this so they can better protect themselves.

Why is the Slamdance Film Festival a good screening destination for ‘Ratter’?
Slamdance is a fantastic festival and we’re lucky to be part of it. They are incredibly selective and they represent the true indie spirit. They elevate new filmmakers that are making brave, original material. We think it’s the perfect fit for the film.

– Interview compiled by Jason Teich

Facebook: /RatterTheMovie

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