Brian Mitchell, Ian Start
The Mitchell & Start collaboration formed over ten years ago in the small studio of a high school outside of Sacramento, California. After countless short films shot on Mini DV tape, our hobby quickly became an obsession, so we decided to move to Los Angeles in pursuit of mastering our craft.
Our breadth of commercial experience as producers and directors includes campaigns for NBC’s Dracula, The Walking Dead products and Skybound Entertainment’s plethora of IP’s, programming for Tyler, The Creator’s GOLF MEDIA, and developing and directing series for Mattel’s Barbie & Hot Wheels brands. We’ve produced short films with creators such as Mike Diva, Cody Blue Snider and Louis Leterrier. More recently, we have been producing and directing our own stories, including the award-winning short films Helix, licensed by Crypt TV, and True North, now playing on Alter.
Now, we continue to create more projects that are truly and unapologetically us. Being jack-of-all-trades has led us to a place in our careers where we have pushed to make great iterations of every project, regardless of ambition, budget or team size.
With an obsessive love for great storytelling, priceless experience through years of collaboration, and an amazing film family we’ve brought into the fold, we’re focusing on creating genre content with true originality.
Q & A
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
Brian: The alien from Xtro. JK JK JK. Black Philip from The Witch is always a great villain, in my mind, cause he’s more of a symbol in regards to temptation than he is a menacing or dangerous figure. Plus I just love The Witch. Ian: Honestly, the shark from Jaws. The vacationers and people of Amity stepped into HIS turf. These are the risks of going into the ocean, every once in a while someone’s gonna get bit.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
Brian: Essentially had a bad modern, heightened genre version of a Beauty & The Beast story that did NOT pan out lols. With that being said, the beauty (no pun intendend), and probably the hardest part at the same time, of ideating is the fact that most of time your initial ideas don’t work and you have to build on them. There are always things to take from past ideas that you can apply to other projects down the line. Most of our ideas that end up being something we think is worth making is a culmination of the ideation of many other works that we shelved. Ian: Scrolling through my notes app I found some real gems. I had an idea called SHEETS about a bedding company that produces sheets using fibers from haunted houses, garments, etc. Not my finest work, but I do think you should ALWAYS save your work. No matter how bad you might think it is, step away and come back to it later. I always like to find new inspiration outside of film. So if I’m stuck writing a movie then I’ll go outside and walk around or look at some art online, listen to music, etc.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Brian: I definitely do, but I also really need to up my encyclopedic knowledge. Ian wrecks me on this. Ian: I think so yes. I would really love to become more entrenched in the genre filmmaking community in Los Angeles, definitely have made quite a few friends and partners here but you could always have more!
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Brian: We both love slow burn, aesthetic-focused modern horror films. Vibe-pieces, if that makes sense. And that’s what True North, the short, and our plans for the feature are tonally in line with. Love ourselves some Mandy. Blue Ruin is a film that everyone sleeps on that we’ve looked to a lot while working on True North. Ian: I listen to a lot of metal/death-metal and I think learning the lyrics is something a lot of people don’t do, specifically in this genre. I pull a lot of inspiration from that, pieces of art whether from famous or unknown artists and visiting places that I’ve never been.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Brian: Give Elliot a hug – he definitely needs one. Ian: If I was aware of the events of the film and the fact that immaculate conception is real, I’d probably pick religion back up.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Brian: Gabriel from Malignant. Ian: Chucky, the Tall Man, Elmer from Brain Damage and the upper class orgy from SOCIETY.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Brian: Freddy. My mom’s a big King fan, so I’ma have to do make her proud and stick with him. PRACTICAL ALL DAY. Pre! Ian: Freddy, King, Practical, Pre Apocalypse
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Brian: We’re big on practicality. This obviously takes $$$ to do bigger and better, but it’s something we always challenge ourselves to incorporate into our projects. We always lean on our close art professionals to get their take and input on how to make things happen in a cool way. Ya sure, sometimes you need VFX to make something work, but for us, it all starts with a practical approach to a prop or special effect (like the nail in the large man’s eye in the cabin in True North). Ian: We always try to go about things practically. We have an amazing film family that we can lean on to ask “hey is this insane to do?” or “can you make this?” We never turn something down because it wouldn’t fit in the budget, there’s always a way. I think something we strive to do is provide a timelessness to our films, obviously cell phones are a thing, and you can’t avoid addressing them in a modern piece, but we love to keep things ominous as to when they take place. Adds to the mystery of it all.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
Brian: Real world milestones or instances have the biggest effect on me, to be honest. Losing a loved one scares the shit out of me. Idk how I’m gonna react when my dog dies. The idea of buying a home literally keeps me up at night. The more we can find fun allegories in the genre world to speak to real-life fears, the better. This is when horror is at its best! Ian: Personally, the unknown is what scares me the most. The things around us that we can’t see, not necessarily ghosts, but more ethereal questions of life and death. Where do we go when we die? Is there just simply nothing? Or is there something? Does it have a shape? Motives or thoughts of any kind? I can talk about this for days, but a lot of them are questions that we’ll likely never have answered.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Brian: I have a hard time answering this so I’ma just name some I love: The Witch, Midsommar, You’re Next, The Invitation, The Ritual, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the list goes on and on. Ian: Oof. This is a tough question but if I HAD to say one I’d say Jaws. More recently, I really loved Bruckner’s The Night House.