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Interview with Joanne Mitchell, director of Sybil
By James Whittington, Sunday 26th August 2018
One of the best things about FrightFest is the Showcases of Shorts which is the way to catch undiscovered talent and unique ideas. Joanne Mitchell has been in the entertainment industry for a few years but has just directed her first piece, Sybil which is showing at FrightFest today.
We decided to chat to her about this amazing and disturbing piece as well as he plans for feature films.
HC: Have you wanted to direct for a while?
JM: To be honest I hadn't really thought of directing until Tracey (Sheals) sent me an email with her idea for Sybil. And I really liked the story and thought this would make a great short film and possibly a feature in the future. It was actually Dominic who encouraged me to direct it. So I threw caution to the wind and decided to take it on.
HC: How did the "Sybil" project come together?
JM: We had worked with Tracey before, in Bait. She's such a great person and a brilliant natural actress, so when she contacted us about Sybil, I was instantly interested. We met up for a coffee and started chatting about the story, character, script and a potential future project. That was two years ago.
HC: Tracey is amazing in it, have you known her for long?
JM: We first came across her in another short film, 'Radio Silence' directed by Mat Johns (who was my DOP on Sybil) - and apart from being an amazing short film, Tracey was just brilliant in it. I loved her natural style and ease infront of the camera. She was so real and powerful. So when there was a part up for grabs in Bait, we instantly thought of her. Thankfully she agreed to do it and again she was great. And here we are now with Sybil fully realised at FrightFest!
HC: What's it like being in the director's chair for the first time?
JM: I can't lie, the first day of the three day shoot I was pretty terrified and running on adrenaline - I'd been working on something else the day before and I hadn't slept as I kept thinking I'd forgotten something! I hadn't of course but the fear and excitement were definitely getting the better of me. I also knew on that first day in the mortuary we had a lot of shots to get through so that was on my mind as well. However, although we had to drop a few of those shots due to lack of time, we got what we needed - thankfully. And the rest of the shoot seemed a breeze in comparison. I really enjoyed the experience especially working with the actors and the crew - learning a hell of a lot along the way. It was exhausting and exhilarating!
HC: What did you learn about directing whilst making this short?
JM: I learnt that whatever happens, confidence and prep are key. I stuck to my camera plans so that was a good base to work from which meant there was space for flexibility. There's always problems on any set and it's important to yourself and everyone around that you appear calm whilst dealing with the surrounding chaos (although inwardly your mind is racing as to what the best solution should be!) Of course I was nervous - I'm sure every director and anyone working on a film set is and should have that excitement, afterall we all want to make the project the best it can be. I think clarity with cast and crew is crucial too. Sometimes I had so many thoughts and ideas swimming about in my head that I'm sure I came across as slightly insane - ask Tracey on that one, ha! I've still a huge amount to learn especially technically with cameras and shots, but I learnt so much from just doing it and watching/absorbing how others work too. An amazing experience from pre-production right through to the end of post.
HC: Does this mean you'll be making your way into directing features soon?
JM: Hmm... well, at the moment I'd really like to work on writing the feature length script with Tracey (Sheals) and if that works out then yes I'd really love to direct Sybil again as a full length movie - that would be amazing. You never know...
HC: So, what else are you working on?
JM: I've nearly finished writing a feature film, Trill Hall, which we hope to get funding for in the near future, and there's also a graphic novel, which I've adapted into a screenplay - it's taken us two years to gain the rights. Dominic will be directing that - it is now in the hands of a great producer so watch this space...
HC: Joanne Mitchell, thank you very much
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