FC: Where did you grow up?
Richie Mitchell: Prince Edward Island. It’s an island off the east coast of Canada.
FC: What does S.I.N. stand for?
Richie Mitchell: It’s an acronym for Social Insurance Number, Canada’s version of the Social Security Number. The film’s title appears on a published paper in the story but isn’t outright explained. Kinda left it up for people to figure out based on what’s going on, plus it plays as a nice double entendre. But I know one critic got pissed off because of it and said it was a sin…. Pun delivered.
FC: What inspired the writing of S.I.N. Theory?
Richie Mitchell: Successful micro budgets were definitely inspiring. I had the concept, and Jeremy Larter who plays the lead and is a filmmaker was itching to get busy especially having just moved to the city (Toronto). In a big way the budget, or lack thereof, dictated the script.
“Really ….. it was me saying I have to do this (make a film) because if I don’t I’ll always wonder. And I didn’t want that.”
.FC: Why did two of your previous feature-length projects fail to obtain proper financing and move past development?
Richie Mitchell: Two different companies picked them up. The first project was a Canadian venture, and given the limited funds available to us at the time, for whatever reason we just didn’t stand out enough. The second project was optioned out to a Danish producer. Despite the effort it didn’t go anywhere and in the end, long story short I opted not to renew.
FC: S.I.N. Theory touches on risk – how much risk were you willing to take to make this film?
Richie Mitchell: I’ll be dead honest with you. When I made the film I was unemployed and promised my girlfriend (now my wife) that I just need to get this one out of my system, then I’ll get a real job. Which really meant biting the bullet and just doing it.
FC: Did you get filmmaking out of your system? How did you realize one feature was not enough?
Richie Mitchell: Really….it was me saying ‘I have to do this because if I don’t, I’ll always wonder.’ And I didn’t want that. I didn’t say this before, but I also knew and communicated, that once the film gets made it’s still going to take a couple years for it to come out through distribution and provide another opportunity, if that ever happens mind you, so I might as well have a steady income during that time. And that’s about where we are now. So once I had the film in the can, I did post work on my own spare time and that’s how I balanced it. And to answer your question (if it got filmmaking out of my system), the answer is more in the vein of it got my excuses out of my system. Now, if I can’t create another opportunity for myself, then that’s on me. And I like that.
FC: Whom do you envision as your audience for S.I.N. Theory and why?
Richie Mitchell: There’s a fantastic quote from a critic that said fans of “Primer,” Darren Aronofski’s “Pi” and Nolan’s “Following” will absolutely love the film. I can’t say it better than that. But in short, cerebral, sci-fi nerds. And I have a feeling anime fans would dig it too.
“He’s pretty flawed but not badass by any means. But that’s why I like him, because he’s weak and vulnerable and not so much the alpha male.” Richie Mitchell on his main character
in S.I.N. Theory
FC: What was your exact budget? How many days did you shoot?
Richie Mitchell: Truly the budget is embarrassing so I’ll just leave it at that. I knew that doing a film and not paying anyone, I knew that at the 2 week mark people would start falling out. So the shoot was pretty laid back. We shot for a 5 day week, took a week off, well I edited during that time, then we all came back for the second week. After that, I did a summer of pick-ups, like a day here and there on the weekends.
FC: Where did you post your casting notice? Did you have a table read?
Richie Mitchell: I approached recent graduates from Humber College acting program. Actually Allison Dawn Doiron who plays Evelyn, I knew her from back home, and after she joined, she did some recruiting for me. That’s how we got Farid Yazdani. Both were hungry for roles.
FC: How did you meet Jeremy Larter? What ideas did Jeremy have that you were enlightened by?
Richie Mitchell: Like Allison, Jeremy and I stem from the same group of filmmakers back home on the east coast. He’s one hell of a filmmaker, more so does the comedy thing. So on set if I was in doubt I’d bounce off my concerns with him and we’d talk it out.
FC: Who edited the film/how did you communicate with your editor?
Richie Mitchell: I took a crack at it then passed it off to Luke Higgenson who edited one of my muchFACT music videos. The process wasn’t overly complex. I did the best I could with it, realized I’m too close to it, so I asked him to do a pass and add a fresh take. It really paid off.
FC: Did you allow actors to see their dailies?
Richie Mitchell: I really used that as a tool. Because doing a rinky-dink film on the surface could be discouraging to some people. I just say that because for me it kinda was. Anyway, so I was quick to take the footage we shot on the day, edit it at night, and before we started the next day, show ‘em the scene we just shot, more so to show it’s going to work and to keep’em motivated.
FC: How much is Dr. Michael Leimann an anti-hero (as you have him refer to John Nash of A Beautiful Mind in the film)?
Richie Mitchell: He’s pretty flawed but not badass by any means. But that’s why I like him, because he’s weak and vulnerable and not so much the alpha male.
FC: Why do you think forecasters and scientists are shunned, feared or harshly ridiculed until their predictions/theories ring true or even after they’re established? (Including Nostradamus and the Atomic bomb creator, as you touch on in S.I.N. Theory)
Richie Mitchell: Well a weather forecaster is an easy target, but when it comes down to it, I think it’s about the delivery of how they say it. If it’s an expert saying how things are going to sway, it comes off like they’re selling you something, either themselves, like how smart they are, and no one likes that. An expert that doubts himself, that’s who I’d want to listen to.
FC: How did you want Dr. Michael Leimann to face/interact with his peers/colleagues? Have you witnessed similar treatment of individuals in the media or your own life?
Richie Mitchell: I took it more as him being laid off. There was a lot of that going on at the time with the recession and all. Plus someone trying to prove himself, I think that’s every indie filmmaker. Definitely is for me.
FC: How did making your first feature film present challenges or rewards versus your two prior short films? (Was it much of the same, easier, more difficult)?
Richie Mitchell: On IMDB it says I made two shorts, but in actuality it’s probably closer to 15-20, and that excludes my music videos because for some reason IMDB won’t allow it to be posted. For the music videos that was a lot of fun because we got to use some of the bigger toys. For 3 of them the budget was about 20K each, which was for a one day shoot plus a month or so of visual effects. But yeah shorts and going to festivals and getting involved with the local film community was all a part of my upbringing. Because when it’s time to do the feature production and you’re not paying anyone, you literally can’t afford to f@ck up a scene and do a reshoot. Pretty well got to get it right on the first go, which worked of course because you learn to prep for that and roll with the punches on the day. That said, back when I first started making shorts about 12 years ago, I did make the mistake and try right of the bat to make a feature but failed miserably. I cut it down to 40 minutes I think, and it was pure garbage.
FC: Your soundtrack in S.I.N. Theory is chilling and mysterious – how did envision the film’s score?
Richie Mitchell: Twin Peaks, X-Files. My wife and I were plowing through them. I had to. I showed Pete Rankin, in which Allison brought him on board to do the music, and he was up for it. That, and I was familiar with his band The Robots in which they had elements of that sound.
FC: Where did the decision to make S.I.N. Theory black and white come into play?
Richie Mitchell: Not meaning to sound pretentious, but the real answer is I felt it better embodies what type of film this is, an independent film. Like as soon as you see Jeremy standing on the street in the first shot, in black and white, you know it’s an independent, and it’s also us saying we’re not trying to be something bigger. But yeah being it was shot on the Canon so it was captured in color. But once I saw it converted to black and white, it confirmed what I was thinking, plus looked way better. But last thing…in the end, being black and white did hurt me a bit. I had distributors contact me early on but once they saw it was black and white, they passed. But that’s okay, we’re sitting pretty now.
FC: You’re releasing S.I.N Theory on December 2, 2014 via various VOD platforms. How did this come about? Wasn’t the film initially released in December 2012?
Richie Mitchell: A rough cut was shown then. It wasn’t until after the Boston Sci-fi Film Fest screening, in April 2013 I think, that Luke Higgenson came on board and really strengthened it. From there the producer I previously mentioned who optioned one of my scripts but got nowhere with it, saw S.I.N. Theory and recommended it to MCTV, in which they picked it up for distribution. Then those guys made a deal with Entertainment One (E1), in which S.I.N. Theory is a part of the second batch to be released by E1 onto iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Sony Network and a bunch of others. All in all, after completion, it’s been percolating for almost 2 years now, up to this point.
FC: Which scene from the film was the most difficult to shoot? How did you work through it?
Richie Mitchell: Probably the climax. Getting everyone together is the hardest part. I think that’s the only time everyone in the film is together. But once everyone is there it’s no prob. That’s the thing, everyone knows they’re doing you a favor, and they might not mean too, but they ultimately do whatever they want and you just gotta work with what you got.
.FC: Thoughts on Canadian government support for indie film versus what you’ve seen in other countries (U.S,, Spain, Sweden, etc.)?
Richie Mitchell: As for Canada and the feature film game here, for the most part it’s Telefilm. It’s a tough club to get into. I’m still working on my membership.
.FC: If embarking on a second feature film, what quick tips will you remind yourself of the second time around?
Richie Mitchell: I am well into development on my second feature. What I’m telling myself is this one can’t be a DIY because I used up all my favors. I knew the second project would depend on S.I.N. Theory working out and that’s starting to show.
RICHIE MITCHELL (writer/director/producer):
During his studies, Richie’s short films have screened in festivals on both sides of the border. Since moving to Toronto, 2010 Richie has directed a growing number of music videos, 3 of which were funded by muchFACT!; a division of a Canadian music television channel. In 2011 Richie (and his co-director) earned an ECMA Music Video of the Year nomination for his Two Hours Traffic “Noisemaker” music video (watch video) and has worked as a VFX Editor for Shark Teeth Films; creating commercial animatics and contributing as VFX coodinator on feature length film Good Satan.
After two feature length projects failed to obtain proper financing and move past development, early 2011 Richie bit the bullet and self financed and directed a contained sci-fi feature length film he wrote; a lo-no budget project loaded with cerebral mathematics and 1980 synthesizers.
CONNECT WITH RICHIE: