Tuesday, June 21, 2011

David Robert Mitchell Talks - The Myth of the American Sleepover

Over the course of the summer KCET is hosting a Cinema Series at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California. Nine special nights showcasing eight new movies before their theatrical release along with one classic Johnny Mercer scored film. Each screening will also include a Q&A immediately following the film with actors and filmmakers hosted by film critic Pete Hammond. The third film of the series screened was "The Myth of the American Sleepover" written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. The first time director was in attendance along with actor Amanda Bauer for an insightful 30 minute Q&A. Check out some of the highlights below...

David Robert Mitchell's "The Myth of the American Sleepover" is not like your typical teen movie and the director says that was very much the intention. He said he wanted to take the typical conventions of a teen film and "do something a little bit more gentle." "Take clichés and turn them upside and slow them down," David Robert Mitchell said. A style that slows everything down allowing the audience to get to know the characters and spend time with them. The film has a naturalistic element though as David Robert Mitchell says, "It is dream like. Not just reality but an impression of a memory."

Set in a small town outside of Detroit, Michigan where David Robert Mitchell grew up the directors says he was able to gain lots of support through friends, family and the city. "The Myth of the American Sleepover" shot over the course of 5 weeks in the heat of summer during July of 2008. The film was made on a meager budget of $50k. Mitchell explained that they tried to cast unknowns from Michigan and that many of the the people who auditioned were brought on for supporting roles or extras. Despite a tiny budget you couldn't tell on screen. David's hometown really helped add production value. The director remembered that the city allowed him to shoot during an actual parade, even throwing his actors out into the mix.

When asked what it was like working on his first feature length film David Robert Mitchell explained it is the "same skill set as making a short film just multiplied." He said it was important to "remind yourself where you are in the film" and also "where the audience is going to be emotionally" in each scene. DRM also told the crowd that he outlined some of the major characters out while filming as to keep track of their development but that some of the characters changed by what was happening naturally with the actors while filming. The biggest difference Robert David Mitchell immediately noticed in shooting his first full length film was "having to pace yourself physically to get through the long hours filming."

One aspect with "The Myth of the American Sleepover" I loved is that it can speak to any generation. The film itself does not feel stuck in one period but instead a combination of a few. When asked to pinpoint a specific time period David Robert Mitchell replied, "I have no idea." Maintaining he said, "There really isn't a time, at least in my mind. It is a mixture of several different decades." DRM is right, 'Sleepover' feels like it borrows from the 50s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s and even present day. This ties back to what Mitchell was saying about the film not being completely naturalistic. "It is a memory or a dream and not a specific time period," Mitchell voiced. More importantly than nailing down a specific time period David Robert Mitchell's film is expressing human emotions. Feelings and emotions that transcend generations making his film a timeless effort that merits broad appeal.

David Robert Mitchell told us that this movie is personal to him and something he has worked on for a long time dating all the way back to film school. He noted that the film is semi-autobiographical. "Certain aspects are real and certain aspects are completely made up," he said. David Robert Mitchell lamented that some of the script was "stuff he wanted to have happen that didn't" or stuff that he "thought happened to someone else growing up." The biggest hurdle he's faced with the film is convincing someone to distribute a film that has a such a different pace from what is currently being made. DRM said he was "inspired by the films of the French New Wave" and wanted to make a film that resembled early Peter Bogdanovich. Thankfully for us, IFC picked up rights in October of 2010 after high praise from critics around the globe at a number of film festivals including being the only American film selected to run during 'Critics Week' at Cannes in 2010. IFC will begin rolling "The Myth of the American Sleepover" out in limited theaters starting July 29th.

Moving forward David Robert Mitchell intends to keep making movies that are "meaningful" to him. He says "It is about creating something I don't see others already doing." When asked if he'd thought about doing more commercial films for studios, he replied he'd consider it but is already currently working on a love story as well as a horror movie he has planned for the following year. After seeing David Robert Mitchell's first film I can genuinely say I am truly excited to see what else he has up his sleeve. His approach to telling a story may be from a different generation but there is no doubt there is an audience for the stories he wants to tell. Stay tuned for more from the KCET Cinema Series and also my full review of "The Myth of the American Sleepover."