Tribeca: Straight-to-VOD Is More Than OK With Zach Braff

“Scrubs” star's next film, “The High Cost of Living” is being released through the controversial platform

Zach Braff is OK — even excited — that his new movie, "The High Cost of Living," is being released through VOD.

“If you don’t live near an art house or a big city, now you’ll have a chance to see this movie,” he told TheWrap at the Tribeca Film Festival. “On demand and streaming seem to be the way everything’s headed. I watch movies all the time on my iPad and every time I do, I can’t believe this thing works.”

The movie — a low-budget, Canadian drama by first-time writer-director Deborah Chow — is part of Tribeca’s video-on-demand series and is available through cable providers nationwide, and can also be downloaded via iTunes, Vudu and Amazon. (“High Cost” screened last fall at the Toronto Film Festival and opened theatrically Friday in Canada.)

In it, Braff plays Harry, an American drug dealer living in Montreal, where he supplies his clients, who range from strippers to college students, with prescription drugs. After Harry injures a pregnant woman (Isabelle Blaise) in a hit-and-run car accident, he befriends her without revealing his role in the accident.

“The script was sent to me through my manager, who knew I was looking for something challenging and 180 degrees different from ‘Scrubs,’ “ the actor said, referring to the TV sitcom on which he played Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian. The show ran for nine seasons, ending in 2010, and gave Braff the economic freedom to do as he pleases.

Impressed by the quality of writing in Chow’s screenplay, Braff set up a meeting with her in New York. “We clicked and I said ‘Yes’ on the spot,” he said.

How was making the movie in Montreal? “Cold,” said Braff, shivering at the memory of his 15-day shoot in the Canadian city. “I had done ‘Last Kiss’ there during springtime so when they said Montreal, I said, ‘Lovely, lovely.’ But it was freezing.”

Asked if “High Cost” is a festival film, he readily agreed that it was. That’s a label he said means, “a movie that will be seen at festivals. It’s not trying or expecting to get a giant audience, which may be like sacrilege for some people but is okay by me.”

Braff, who had a big success with “Garden State,” his 2004 directing debut, said he is still hoping to direct another movie soon but has run into — what else? — financing difficulties.

Up next for him is his debut as a playwright. In late June, “All New People,” a four-character drama he wrote, will begin performances — he won’t be acting in it — at the Second Stage, a well-respected off-Broadway theater in Manhattan. (Braff appeared in “Trust,” a comedy by Paul Weitz, at Second Stage last summer.) “I’m thrilled,” he said about becoming a produced playwright, especially on his first try.

After that, Braff begins shooting “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” next fall. It’s an indie drama in which he co-stars with Jessica Biel and Chloe Moretz.

In “Devil," he plays a fellow named Harry, his third straight character bearing that moniker after “High Cost” and “Trust.” When this hat trick was pointed out to him, Braff laughed and said he hadn’t realized it before. “I don’t know why it is,” he said. ”My dad’s name is Harold and everyone’s always called him Hal but I have my own nickname for him — I call him Harry — so I guess it’s my tribute to him.”

Braff said he was loking forward to check out a few other films showing at the festival. “I love docs a lot. There’s a doc about a sperm donor [“Donor Unknown”] and one about the Kings of Leon [“Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon”] that look great,” he said.