I love hearing stories of how individuals got started in the film industry. Mark Mitchell has one of the most interesting stories, beginning his filmmaking journey working on Flywheel as a young teen. He was a part of our Providence crew, and I’m looking forward to seeing his work on his latest film, Remember the Goal, which releases to theaters next weekend.
When did you first develop a passion for film?
From early in my childhood, my parents stressed the importance of the arts to my siblings and me, encouraging us to pursue any interests we had. Through that, I really found my passion for the performance arts. It wasn’t just the performing that drew me in, but how the look and feel of every element of a production came together to create an emotional atmosphere that drove the stories being told.
In the seventh grade, a new youth pastor came to my church, who also had a passion for performance art, and he wanted to start using video in his ministry. It was a no-brainier that a medium like this, that could capture all the elements of performance arts and allow you to experience it over and over again, would draw my attention, so I quickly volunteered!
Tell us about your introduction to faith-based filmmaking.
By the ninth or tenth grade, I had become quite a good videographer, having the opportunity to shoot several local commercials and being a regular montage shooter for many church conferences throughout the southeast.
One evening, while spending some time with friends, we started talking about a youth camp we recently attended, and they asked to see some of the videos I made for it. A friend of a friend, who was in this group, said his church was working on a movie, and they were looking for some one to help edit, since editing on a computer was still new and very few local people were familiar with it. He got me in contact with Alex Kendrick, whom invited me to come to by the church and talk. I was only fourteen or fifteen at the time, so after school, for several months, my mom would drop me off at the church to edit. That movie became Flywheel, the first of the Kendrick brothers’ movies, which includes Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, and the recent War Room.
What was it like being a teenager working alongside Alex Kendrick on Flywheel?
It was great getting work as an editor on a movie at such a young age. One thing I really get a kick out of is that few people get the opportunity to type their own name into the credits of a movie that will be released in theaters, and even a rarer few that are like me who weren’t even old enough to drive while doing it!
I was like a sponge, soaking up every thing I could about movie production. Alex Kendrick was very encouraging about my pursuits in production, and I learned a lot from him about long form editing. Being the incredible storyteller he is, Alex also taught me about story structure and using editing to influence the emotion of a scene and story.
What other films have you worked on?
Much of my work has been in the commercial/corporate world and some music videos, but I have had several more opportunities to work on features in “on set” roles. I’ve worked on Facing the Giants, My Concrete Mattress, Faultless: The American Orphan, Providence, and now Remember the Goal.
What were a couple of the highlights on set of Remember the Goal?
Many of our shoot days were outside, and, being July – August, it was HOT. So a BIG highlight was either taking lunch in a restaurant or getting the rare inside shoot day, and the 2 days it rained were nice, too!!
We had a great cast, and my crew was phenomenal. We all got along well, and developed lasting friendships. It’s always a highlight when, despite weather and shooting conditions, everyone gets along and there is no drama.
Probably one of the greatest highlights is when I was introduced to our boom operator Nick Price’s soon to be famous funny song “Boom Operator,” to the tune of “Smooth Operator.” Actually everything that came out of his mouth was funny!
What’s the best filmmaking advice you’ve ever received?
Early on in my career I had an amazing cinematography mentor who gave me a great deal of fantastic advice, but one that has really stuck with me, and continues to drive my decisions on set is, “Never do anything that doesn’t benefit the story.” Essentially, someone may be able to create a breathtakingly beautiful shot or make an incredibly complex and difficult camera move (that would look “really awesome”), but if it isn’t motivated by the story, it isn’t worth doing.
What advice would you offer to beginning cinematographers?
I would definitely continue the advice my mentor gave me, “Never do anything that doesn’t benefit the story.”
I would also add my own personal advice, study your favorite cinematographers AND your least favorites. Find out why you like your favorites and don’t like your least favorites. Then develop your style from your findings.