Q&A: Rich Mallery and Ruby LaRocca Explore the “SOCIOPATHIA” SideFearful Features,Movies/TV,News Michael Gingold
Two creative minds got together to delve into the damaged psyche of SOCIOPATHIA’s antiheroine: Writer/directors Rich Mallery and Ruby LaRocca. With the movie just out on DVD, VOD and digital, FANGORIA picked the brains of its makers in this exclusive interview.
SOCIOPATHIA, released by Cinema Epoch, stars Tammy Jean as Mara, a movie propmaker who also has a collection of “dolls”—the bodies of people she’s murdered—at home. Fledgling producer Kat (Asta Paredes) hires her for a project, and the two begin a personal as well as professional relationship, but one that might not survive Mara’s compulsion to kill. LaRocca came to the project with a long résumé of acting credits such as FLESH FOR THE BEAST, PRESIDENT’S DAY and THE SUPER, while Mallery wrote and produced the upcoming SAMURAI COP 2: DEADLY VENGEANCE; they also took small onscreen roles in SOCIOPATHIA. The cast of the Baltimore-lensed movie also includes other indie-horror regulars like Nicola Fiore, Nicolette Le Faye, John Waters/Don Dohler regular George Stover and MORRIS COUNTY filmmaker Matt Garrett, with makeup FX by CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU’s Jason M. Koch and Kaleigh Brown.
FANGORIA: How did you two first meet up?
RICH MALLERY: This is going to make us sound old, but Ruby and I first met on MySpace. I was bored at work, surfing that site and caught a John Waters quote on her profile. So naturally, I started stalking her. We ended up having so much in common, I didn’t even know she was an actress for a long time.
RUBY LaROCCA: Before we even met in person, we talked a lot during the day through e-mail and IMs while at our desk jobs. Shhhhh, don’t tell our bosses. We’re really good friends and have a lot of fun together. There’s nothing I couldn’t tell Rich or ask him, and he’s always there for me when I need a friend. It’s truly frightening how alike we are—I call us “evil twins,” with no good twin.
FANG: Where did the idea for SOCIOPATHIA come from?
LaROCCA: That was an idea I’d had for a feature for a few years, but the actual story evolved a lot. I knew I wanted to base the main character on a good friend of mine, who is male, and what I imagine he would do if he didn’t get caught or in trouble. I also knew I wanted a female killer, plus a kind of MANIAC vibe—a city background where it’s easy to get lost in the crowds and go unnoticed if you want to, and also work and be seemingly normal to other people who are wrapped up in their own lives. Real sociopaths tend to be extremely smart and can compartmentalize the normal, such as work, and the crazy, such as killing, to such an extreme measure that it all becomes normal to them, and outsiders would never know. I happened to live with a real sociopath for eight or nine years, so it was fascinating to watch, and I knew I wanted to make a movie about that type of personality one day—but make it a woman, because most audiences don’t expect women to behave like that, just like most people don’t realize when there’s a sociopath in their life.
FANG: What led you to decide to write/direct it together?
LaROCCA: I had acted and worked so many different crew jobs on so many movies, but I had only written and directed one short, BELATED BY VALENTINE’S LOVER. So I really wanted someone I trusted completely to help me. Rich writes amazing short stories on top of all the hats he wears in the film industry, and I’ve actually tried to turn some things he’s written into screenplays before. So he was the first and most obvious choice for a person I wanted to be involved—and not just involved, but to partner up and make it our project and do everything together. Start from the beginning with the idea and work side by side with the same amount of passion. I wanted to direct again, and so did he, so it worked out perfectly.
MALLERY: Ruby and I had talked about doing a project together for years, but we were both so busy with a million things. One day we were just like, “No more talking. Let’s make a movie. I don’t care what it is, but we’re shooting something. Let’s get to work.” I think we set a start date before we even had a script. Luckily, we were both inspired and work fast.
FANG: The movie homages the films of the ‘80s, especially MANIAC; can you talk about how they inspired you for SOCIOPATHIA?
LaROCCA: MANIAC was definitely one of the biggest influences because, like I said before, it’s not just the leads who are characters, but the city, his apartment, random people in the street; they all give insight into how a person can live that way completely unnoticed. Same with Mara, and how a young woman can be so starved for attention, lonely and detached from reality, so she’s a little crazy, and finally just snaps.
MALLERY: It was important to us to create something that was more of a character portrait than a slasher film about a killer you weren’t invested in. So films like REPULSION and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER were also on our minds. But we also wanted something stylistic—something dangerous. Films like DRESSED TO KILL, DON’T LOOK NOW and POSSESSION were huge influences, and of course John Waters. That’s one reason we chose to shoot in Baltimore.
FANG: How did you divide/share the directorial duties?
LaROCCA: We didn’t really have certain scenes that I knew I wanted to direct, or that Rich wanted to. We each definitely had certain shots we knew we wanted, so whoever was directing that scene made the shot happen. Other than that, we both had to wear so many hats, it would often come down to what else was going on and if one of us was needed somewhere else.
MALLERY: For the most part, Ruby and I were on the same page about what we wanted to accomplish, so we didn’t need to plan too much about who was taking the lead for each scene. Like Ruby said, it usually depended on what crisis was going on at the moment—or who wasn’t on the phone with our therapist. We also share a psychiatrist, so we had to keep switching off.
LaROCCA: His name is Saul; he’s the best! Or is that our lawyer? Either way, we highly recommend him.
FANG: How were the lead actors cast? Were any parts written for specific actors?
MALLERY: We didn’t want to be locked into specific types, and wanted the characters to develop as the script came together. The second we saw Tammy, though, we knew she was perfect. Ruby and I went through a lot of different ideas about who to cast for Kat, and after we saw Asta in RETURN TO NUKE ’EM HIGH, we immediately reached out to her. Within five minutes of talking to her, we knew she was the one for the role.
LaROCCA: Almost the entire rest of the cast were people I had worked with before and thought, “If I ever make a movie, I want them in it,” and Rich really trusted me on that. Nicola answered our ad in Backstage not knowing it was me and Rich making the movie. When I saw her name, I was incredibly happy, because she’s a great actress, she’s bad-ass and I love being around her; I had worked with her twice before. I told Rich the movie would not be the same without her. Nicolette, too—she gave me practically a closet’s worth of “doll-like” dresses for Mara to dress her playmates in, and trusted me to keep them safe until the end of the shoot. Dante Rene I met at a convention with his beautiful wife Leah, as fans. Now we are friends. I could say something special about every single person. I love working with people I know, because it feels like family and we can all push each other harder without worrying about hurting someone’s feelings, and it’s just more fun.
FANG: How was the experience of both directing and acting in the movie?
LaROCCA: Neither of us was supposed to be in the movie. Both of our cameos were replacements for actors who canceled those days. It being a 10-day shoot, we didn’t have time to recast.
MALLERY: When we did my scene, it was the eighth day in a row of shooting, and I was completely fried. Plus, I’m not a huge fan of acting, so it was the last thing I wanted do. The sacrifices I make for art! Fortunately, I got to play a guy who sits screwing around at work all day, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch. I cringe watching that scene, though.
FANG: Can you talk about any challenges/problems that came up?
LaROCCA: Every day, there was a new challenge or problem; that’s moviemaking. I’d say time was the biggest. We were shooting in people’s houses or apartments, so we couldn’t shoot all night or take a day off. The other, of course, was money; what we wanted to do and what we could do were very different. Most people don’t know we financed the movie ourselves, and we are not rich. So some things had to be sacrificed, but I’m happy we didn’t do any crowd-funding or have any financial backers.
MALLERY: Ultimately, those constraints led to a better film, in that we only shot what was essential to the story. Even the negative things contributed, like the fact that we all stayed at the same terrifying Motel 6 in one of the worst neighborhoods in Baltimore. You couldn’t sleep listening to all the crazy people screaming outside, so why not stay up all night working? Plus, fearing for our lives was quite motivating.
FANG: What was your approach to the movie’s sexual and violent content?
LaROCCA: For me, the same as approaching any scene. Do your very best to get the shots you need by any means necessary!
MALLERY: We knew there was going to be a good amount of sex and violence, but we also wanted to be careful not to be gratuitous. There’s a fine line between what’s effective and impactful, and what’s not. We were always conscious of when to be subtle vs. when to go all out.
FANG: How do you feel about the finished movie?
LaROCCA: I’m very happy. Of course we watch it and think we should have done this or that, but ultimately, we made a movie I’m very proud of. In the end, I’m probably slightly crazier than I was before we started, but I was already crazy, so I didn’t lose anything; if anything, I gained so much from it. Even if some people hate the movie, I don’t care; seeing and hearing positive responses from fans, friends and family is a feeling I can’t even describe—and I also get to share that feeling with my evil twin!
MALLERY: It’s incredible seeing different reactions to the film. I’ve heard a lot of people call it disturbing and creepy, but also quite a few saying it’s more of a fun, get-drunk-with-your-friends type of movie. Ultimately, as long as people enjoy it, I’m happy, regardless of how they interpret everything. Although there are plenty of homages to films we love, one of our main goals was to make something different that stands out. I feel we accomplished that.
FANG: Do you have more collaborations planned?
LaROCCA: I hope so. Nothing right now, but SOCIOPATHIA just came out and I need a break and to get back into the more creative side of filmmaking again, not PR and distro and all the pressure that comes with that. But hell yeah, I want Napalm Love Productions to see many years of success, so that’s Rich and myself going forward and being the outlaw creative art junkies we both are in our hearts.
MALLERY: You definitely haven’t heard the last from us. We’re just getting started. Look for an announcement this summer, maybe at the Slaughter in Syracuse fest in July after the SOCIOPATHIA screening…maybe…