27 Oct Words from “the Captain” of The Disappeared, Shandi Mitchell
Shandi Mitchell, writer and director of The Disappeared , has been working with a talented and dedicated creative team since she began her journey into film making. She shared with us who they are, and how they’re so invaluable.
“I had an amazing key creative crew that wrapped around me. Each of them, with the exception of my Director of Photography, have been with me since my very first short films. They are artists in their own right and each of them has been in the film world for over twenty years. It is an incredible gift to have a creative family that will follow you into the unknown and trust that you will honour all that they give.
My Director of Photography, Christopher Porter, and I spent months, long before prep began, discussing the vision and moving through the script scene by scene to crystallize the visual style. We needed to find a shared vision and creative vocabulary. We came upon the motif of an “Eastern” to define the tone and analyzed the script and characters beat by beat to determine the visual approach. We also had to find simple, ingenious technical solutions to the daunting task of shooting at sea with stringent budget and schedule restraints. And finally, we chose 16mm film as our medium.
My Key Art, Alan MacLeod, has been with this project since the first words appeared on paper. He made the early research trips with me to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg years ago and began photographing dories and tools to build a reference book. Working with painting and photographic references provided by myself and my DOP, he assembled the colour palettes and textures that would determine the film’s props and set dress choices to outfit our two dories for their starring roles.
Keith Currie, Key Props, and Donald Langley, Key Set Decorator joined him to execute the vision. Because of the low budget nature of this project this art team of three, also became the builders, buyers, painters, and carps. They had a week to get the show up and somehow they still agreed to work with me. One of my first art department show and tells was on my back deck as they laid out their finds. I listened as they described why they had made particular props choices based on their understanding of the characters inner lives. I saw the excitement in their eyes as they revealed the perfect pocket watch, the gorgeous texture of a coil of rope, and debated the merits of the colours rust vs ochre.
Jeanie Kimber, Costume Designer, arrived with photographs of period wardrobe and described how she saw the costumes being the outward reflection of the psychological state of the characters. She brought me wardrobe with rich textures to create a tactile sense in a visual world. I saw her eyes light up when she found the perfect sweater or boots. I saw her stand back and wait, as I looked at the incarnation of each character, now flesh and blood actors, and saw her smile as each one met with approval.
Each of my Keys approached the film from the inside out. That is the art. I don’t know if many realize the care, detail and passion that Keys bring to a film. Every layer adding to the whole. Every touch adding another creative stroke. Every element being modulated to inform and complement the varied tones while still emanating from the core of the script. And somehow, they deliver all this within impossible budgets and schedules. I have always believed in gathering the best talent around me; giving them all that I see in my head and then granting them the freedom to create with me. I have never been disappointed. Only grateful.”