By MIKE CHAIKEN
When last heard from, the two women behind Hells Bells Production were reaching out to the community via crowd-source funding to help them journey to Georgetown to film an episode of their web series, “Women of the Day.
And just as one of the pair gets ready to screen one of her latest efforts at a film festival in the Midwest, the duo report the fund raising was a success.
Hells Bells Productions, which is Sarah Elizabeth of Bristol, is responsible for “Women of the Day.” The series stars Mitchell and Lauren Clarke of Massachusetts. Up until earlier this year, the shorts were filmed in either Bristol or Massachusetts. The pair then had the idea of taking their two characters to Washington D.C. to film an episode on a set of iconic stairs used for the classic horror film, “The Exorcist.”
“We were very successful in fundraising for the Georgetown trip to film our episode ‘Jane, Lyd and the Exorcist Stairs.’ We were surprised and thrilled by the overall response,” said Mitchell via an email interview. “Every day or two, I would look on our (crowd-source funding) Indiegogo page and see that another person had contributed. It was really encouraging to see how many people were behind this idea from the very beginning. People kept wishing us good luck and telling us how much they couldn’t wait to see the episode when it was completed. I saw friends of mine contributing to the fundraiser, we even got a contribution from Martha Richards – the founder of WomenArts and the international SWAN Day. We also got a very generous contribution from Terryville Chevrolet, and all they asked in return is that we ‘Like’ their Facebook page and mention them in the credits.”
The effort bore more fruit than just funding for their latest installment, said Mitchell. “(It) seemed to raise a lot of awareness about the whole ‘Women of the Day’ series, because I noticed also that we started to get more ‘Likes’ on Facebook, and people began to subscribe to us on YouTube,” said Mitchell. “So overall, I thought the whole thing was extremely successful.”
Often times in creative endeavors, something gets lost in translation between idea and execution.
How did the vision of the episode in Georgetown mesh with the end result?
“We were actually talking about that very thing after we finished up with everything, how we didn’t just have the idea and let it pass, but we actually came up with a plan for it, and executed the plan,” said Mitchell. “As we were driving down there, we were all pumped, but I did have my worries. I kept wondering, was this a good idea? Are we even going to be able to FIND the stairs? But fortunately, we did have a plan for filming, we had a script, we had our lines memorized.”
Initially, Mitchell said the stairs eluded them. But after asking for some directions, they were able to locate them. However, the delay also gave them no time to rehearse before darkness descended. Then there was the matter of filming in public. A group of tourists took interest in the stairs and essentially hijacked the site from the filmmakers. Mitchell and company regrouped with plans to return to the site the next day.
Fortunately, when they returned, Mitchell said they were well-rehearsed. The weather was perfect. The spot was quiet, except for a stray jogger. “You couldn’t ask for better conditions.”
“We were all set to power through, no matter how long it took us. Even if it took us all day, we were going to complete this filming without even taking a break. The surprising thing was, we got everything we needed in just a few short hours. By 10 a.m., we had completed all of our shots.”
When they returned to Connecticut the next day, Mitchell went to work prepping the episode for upload to the web. Her goal was to release it by July 4, which was what she promised the fans. And she did not stop editing it until the finished product was ready.
“The response was fantastic,” said Mitchell once the episode hit the web. Some people said it was the best episode of ‘Women of the Day” yet. Emboldened by the response, Mitchell said she even sent it to the Sundance Film Festival for 2013. “It’s worth a try,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell and Clarke are now headed out this weekend to the Indie Gathering International Film Festival in Hudson, Ohio from Aug. 16 to 18. And on Saturday, “Jane, Lyd and the Exorcist Stairs” will be screened. The characters also will take the state in a live performance.
Individually, Mitchell will be going to the Indie Gathering to screen “SWAN Day CT: The 5th Year,” which won an award at the event. The film follows the organization of the SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day CT held in 2012.
This will be Mitchell’s third year attending the Indie Gathering to pick up an award for her entry. “It’s a great festival to be a part of, because it’s one of the top 25 film festivals in the national for networking… To win an award for my film is huge,” said Mitchell. “It’s an honor to be recognized by a festival that is a meeting ground for filmmakers all across the country, many of whom have been in the film industry for decades.”
This isn’t the first time Mitchell has turned SWAN Day CT into the focus of a documentary. She filmed the third year of the event in 2010. The film got a good response from those who saw it, but Mitchell felt she could do better. The filmmaking lessons she learned in the ensuing years were put to the test for the latest documentary about SWAN Day CT.
For instance, she collected more raw footage this time around but cut the interviews down, to make them punchier, to better keep the audience’s attention. “Less really is more.”
After Ohio, Mitchell said she is making plans to bringing “SWAN Day CT: The 5th Year” to Connecticut for a screening. “I spoke to Jennifer Hill (the organizer of SWAN Day CT) last month and we talked about how we need to have a true premiere for this film. So although a date has not been set yet, during the fall, we will have a real premiere for ‘SWAN Day CT: The 5th Year.’”
To see “Women of the Day,” go to YouTube.com/WomenOf TheDay