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IONCINEPHILE of the Month

IONCINEPHILE of the Month: David Robert Mitchell – The Myth of the American Sleepover

IONCINEPHILE of the Month: David Robert Mitchell – The Myth of the American Sleepover

0 shares SHARE TWEET EMAIL PRINT IONCINEMA.com’s “IONCINEPHILE of the Month” puts the spotlight on an emerging filmmaker from the world of cinema, and this month we feature a filmmaker who premiered his debut film at SXSW in March of last year (where it won the Jury Prize for Best Ensemble Cast) and would then […]

IONCINEMA.com’s “IONCINEPHILE of the Month” puts the spotlight on an emerging filmmaker from the world of cinema, and this month we feature a filmmaker who premiered his debut film at SXSW in March of last year (where it won the Jury Prize for Best Ensemble Cast) and would then play extremely well for French programmers who invited his film for an international premiere in the Critics Week sidebar section in Cannes followed a couple of months later by a Prix du Jury at Deauville. David Robert Mitchell’s The Myth of the American Sleepover will be released theatrically via Sundance Selects on Friday, July 22nd at the Angelika Theater in NYC and at The Nuart Theater on July 29th in Los Angeles followed by a wider release in the following weeks. Here’s David’s Top Ten (actually fifteen) Films of All Time List as of July 2011, and below, our usual Q&A profile.

“Set against the backdrop of mile roads, neighborhood blocks, abandoned factories and lakes which make up Metro-Detroit, this story follows four young people as they search for love and adventure on the last night of summer. Maggie, Rob, Claudia and Scott cross paths as they explore the suburban wonderland chasing first kisses, elusive crushes, popularity and parties. They are looking for the iconic teenage experience, but instead they discover the quiet moments that will later become the part of their youth that they look back on with nostalgia.”

David Robert Mitchell

Eric Lavallee: During your childhood…what films were important to you?
David Robert Mitchell: As a kid, I loved “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial“. It made me want to befriend an alien. I sat outside near the woods and waited for something amazing to happen. I had a bowl-haircut – with an eerie resemblance to Elliott. I was 7
or 8 years old and I saw the movie 3 times at the theatre. I’m sure it contributed to me wanting to make movies. When no alien came out of the woods to hang out with me, I guess I decided to recreate that feeling for myself via my own films. Just a guess.

Lavallee: During your formative years what films and filmmakers inspired you?
Mitchell: I loved Hitchock films, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the “Our Gang” short films, Star Wars and Goonies… and starting in middle-school I started to watch French films – Truffaut was probably the first. Eventually I discovered
Blue Velvet – perfectly complimenting the adventure and dark mystery of the movies I loved. I watched genre films with my dad, and more sensitive dramas with my mom. Their different personalities and tastes in film helped form me into an odd but interesting composite. As an adult, I asked them separately why they named me…David. My dad said “after David Bowie”. My mom said, “King David from the Bible”. That sums it up best.

Lavallee: At what point did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Mitchell: In middle school i wanted to be a writer. I wrote short stories. In 8th grade I wrote my first script – a sequel to the original Ghostbusters. It took me a whole summer and it was around 100 pages long – typed on my grandparents’ old typewriter. I thought it was a great script and I was sure that it would be produced before too long. Eventually Hollywood made their own sequel and I forgot about my script. Sadly (maybe happily) I lost it – there was only one copy. The last place I remember seeing it was inside my old toy box in my closet. I guess it got thrown out. I made a terrible short film in high school (inspired by Blue Velvet). I got one of my good friends to jump into a river in the middle of a Michigan winter – for a death scene of course. I made several more shorts and eventually got my Master’s degree in Film Production from Florida State University.

David Robert Mitchell Interview

Lavallee: What was the genesis of Myth? And could you describe a typical day in your writing process…
Mitchell: “Myth” started after I’d made several semi-autobiographical short films in film school. People seemed to enjoy them and I wanted to make a feature with a similar tone. A typical day of writing for me involves obscene amounts of coffee and 8 to 12 hours of intermittent typing – broken up by snacks, meals, movies and a guilt-ridden round of video games. I usually write about 10 pages a day.

Lavallee: What kind of characteristics/features were you looking for your main characters/during the casting process? And when you picked your cast what kind of “exercises” did you have them do?
Mitchell: I was looking for people with screen presence and a natural ability to perform. Some kids were further along than others, but they all got up to speed by the time filming started. To prepare the cast, I spoke with everyone about the script, their characters and their feelings. We rehearsed and worked very hard. In addition to these traditional steps, I asked the sound department to sprinkle pixie dust from the boom mic while filming. This helped make things more magical and all performances were improved.

David Robert Mitchell Interview

Lavallee: What ideas did you have for the style of the film? What inspirations (other films, location, paintings etc…) did you draw upon for the look/style, aesthetics of the film?
Mitchell: I was inspired by tons of films including American Graffiti, Last Picture Show, Small Change and Love on the Run… Antonioni, Truffaut, Spielberg, Hughes… Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and Joseph Sterling’s “The Age of Adolescence” (see below). This list could go on forever.

David Robert Mitchell Interview

Lavallee: Why was Detroit chosen as the backdrop for this coming-of-age story?
Mitchell: It’s where I grew up. I thought it should be filmed there. I always wanted to see movies filmed in michigan and it was important for me to do that. I have some real pride for the area. Detroit is a good place.

Lavallee: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with your Editor, Julio Perez?
Mitchell: He edited and produced one of my student films and he cut “Myth”. I owe him a lot. We spent countless nights and weekends putting the film together. His taste and intelligence improved “Myth” and his friendship during the difficult process made it fun. We drank whiskey together, dreamed of exciting futures (some of which has actually happened), and pushed each other to make the best film that we could make.

Lavallee: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with your Cinematographer, James Laxton?
Mitchell: A talented guy with a great eye. James found a way to make our film look wonderful when (based on money and resources) it could have looked terrible. I’m convinced that he found a way to transmogrify a small lighting package into something more closely resembling the lighting set-up for a night scene from “Titanic“. But seriously, he had very little to work with and he shot a beautiful looking film.

Lavallee: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with your Producer, Adele Romanski?
Mitchell: She vowed to go with me to Michigan to film the movie, no matter what. We drove cross-country in a cramped jeep – sleeping in parking lots to save money. We rented a house, used for production – everyone slept on air mattresses and ate poorly. Adele’s office was a coffee table in the living room. She assembled a crew (and a good one at that) and fought to make things happen when it all seemed impossible. Spending time with Julio, James and Adele in Cannes, I couldn’t help but recall the silly, painful and unique experiences we shared getting there.

Sundance Selects releases The Myth of the American Sleepover in NYC on July 22nd.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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