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SxSW ’10 Interview – “The Myth of the American Sleepover” director David Robert Mitchell

The Myth of the American Sleepover - At SxSW Film
by Jason Whyte

“The Myth of the American Sleepover” follows four young people as they navigate the suburban wonderland of Metro-Detroit looking for love and adventure on the last night of summer. They want the “iconic teenage experience”, but instead they find quiet moments, strained first kisses and nighttime quests that they’ll look back on with nostalgia.” Director David Robert Mitchell on the film “The Myth of the American Sleepover” which screens at this year’s South By Southwest Film.

Is this your first film in SxSW? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to be in Austin for the screenings?

This is my first film in SXSW and I’m looking forward to attending our screenings. Several members of the cast and crew will be there with me. Everyone is excited to be a part of the festival.

Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

Growing up, my dad got me interested in American genre pictures and classic monster movies, while my mom rented foreign films and encouraged me to appreciate their subtlety. In junior high, I went with my family to a local film premiere in Detroit and I was so impressed by the experience that I wanted to make my own movies. It seemed like the most amazing thing in the world, and I still think it is.

How did this whole project come together?

This project came together over the course of a few years. I wrote the script and teamed up with my friend and producer Adele Romanski. We decided early on that we wanted to find a unique and unknown cast of actors in Michigan to give the film a sense of naturalism. It was very important to me that the characters feel genuine and real. Once we found our cast, we moved from Los Angeles to Detroit for an entire summer where we spent months location scouting, planning and filming.

What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it the script, principal photography or post-production stage?

There were a lot of challenges in making this film. Aside from casting, and location scouting, one of our biggest obstacles was the sun. Most of the film takes place outside at night and we were always racing to finish a shot before the sun came up. We had a great crew and we pulled it off, but it was tough. I always wanted the night to last a little bit longer.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

The film was photographed by James Laxton. He’s a very talented cinematographer who recently shot “Medicine for Melancholy”. We filmed “The Myth of the American Sleepover” on the Red One camera, because I wanted a highly polished, sharp image with classic compositions in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. With that camera we were able to capture amazing detail. James took those carefully crafted fames and added a nostalgic color palette. I’m really happy with the result.

Talk a bit about the experiences (festival or non-festival) that you have had with this particular film. Have you had any interesting audience stories or questions that have arisen at screenings? If this is your first screening premiere, what do you hope to expect at the screenings of the film?

I think that SXSW audiences will enjoy the film because it offers a nostalgic glimpse of our youth. I think audiences will see themselves in one or more of the large ensemble cast. I hope that it reminds people of the brighter parts of their teen years.

Who would you say is “the audience” for this film? Do you want to reach everyone possible or any particular type of filmgoer?

I think the audience for this film is anyone who remembers what it felt like to be a teenager; it’s for anyone who remembers the awkwardness of their first kiss, the girl they loved that they never talked to, or the first time they snuck out at night. I think it’s for most of us.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this project in particular?

I’m definitely inspired by Truffaut, Bogdanovich and a ton of other directors. I appreciate filmmakers who care about the softer, quiet moments that live somewhere between a movie’s plot and dialogue. That’s the stuff I’m striving for.

How far do you think you would want to go in this industry? Do you see yourself working on larger stories for a larger budget under the studio system, or do you feel that you would like to continue down the independent film path?

I want to keep making films. We have several projects planned that I’m excited about making. I definitely see myself continuing to make independent films, because they allow for creative choices and risk that are often difficult in studio films. But I would like to make a Hollywood film someday. Depending on the project, I think it could be a cool challenge and it would be fun to mix my filmmaking approach with studio resources.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

I think critical and media response is really important for most movies. We live in an oversaturated media society, and it’s really difficult to get attention for independent films. Hopefully film criticism will find new ways to flourish and audiences will follow and support critics.

What do you love the most about this business of making movies?

What I love most about making movies is creating something people connect with. It’s a really great feeling when someone is moved by the collection of images and sounds that we assemble. The other thing I love is making movies with my friends. It’s a ton of work to make a film, but it’s more rewarding when you share it with the people you care about.

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?

Anyone who wants to make a film should do it. I have a lot of talented friends who are starting to put their own projects together and I think it’s good to see people finding ways to tell stories that matter to them. If you dedicate yourself to it, you can do it. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible.

This is one of the many films screening at this year’s South By Southwest Film in Austin, Texas between March 12-20. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 03/10/10 17:50:28
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