An interview with :

Joanne Mitchell

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Joanne Mitchell is a multi-talented actress, writer, director, producer and voice over artists (among other things) who has kindly agreed to take part in an interview for this website.

Known for her roles in TV soaps such as Emmerdale, Waterloo Road, Holby City and Coronation Street, she has also starred - and helped write and direct movies such as Before Dawn and Bait and with her latest movie set to be released on July 9th (2018) I had the good fortune to have a chat and talk about her career so far.

  I guess the first question has to be what initially got you interested in acting?

JOANNE:  I’m not sure if I can pin point a time or a place, but like a lot of little girls I was interested in the stage - singing and dancing primarily. I tried all that at a young age and realised compared to the other children I wasn’t any good and if I’m honest was quite self conscious, two left feet and a husky voice!. So that kind of got shelved. However, I still harboured a passion, particularly for the theatre and when I was 18 years of age I did the rounds of auditions for all the major Drama schools.

I didn’t get in. In fact it took a few attempts and I ended up going to The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which I absolutely loved. I went there at 20 years of age and it was perfect timing, any younger and I don’t think I would have coped.

It was really hard work - there were only five girls and ten boys in our year, and I kept thinking they’d got me muddled up with someone else.

Luckily I got away with it for three years and graduated. I can honestly say it was some of the best years of my life. I’ve continued to work since then.

DGE:  You also write and produce as well as act. Being multi-talented must be great (haha) but seriously, do have a preferred choice or do you like to do all three as much as each other?

JOANNE:  Well, to be honest I think it’s more of a case of ‘having' to do other stuff rather than being multi-talented or having a choice, ha!

What I’ve realised since being in this profession is that if you are just an actor there is a lot of time out of work (unless you are very very lucky), so you need other strings to your bow. That’s where the writing and producing came in.

I love acting but I’ve had some lean times over the years and realised I just couldn’t keep waiting for the phone to ring. I also think that when you are a creative person, you need to keep creating so I had to take some action and be pro-active myself.

I started to think of stories and write them down, which I loved doing.

Before Dawn came from a friendly row between myself and Dominic (my husband) and I wrote the story to that, then handed it over to a script writer. Since then I have written the stories to other features and had a hand in producing too.

It’s wonderful to be at the start of a journey creatively and see it through to the end. Something that as an actor you don’t always get that opportunity to do.

So, I guess writing, producing and acting all have their own difficulties and opportunities - but I love that variety, fear and excitement…and you know, I love to keep learning, trying new things and in this profession each time you take on a new job you feel like a novice, and I think that is no bad thing.

DGE:  Your acting career is not only in movies but also on the small screen in shows such as Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Heartbeat, Waterloo Road and a few others. Obviously there are differences in TV work and that of the movie world but do you have a preferred choice? Tv or movies?

JOANNE:  Do you know what, I really don’t have a preference. I love all the mediums - TV, Film, Radio, voiceovers.

Each have their different challenges, but each are all so enjoyable. TV is usually a faster turnaround than film, particularly soaps, but I’m just grateful for whatever I can get!

DGEBait is a dark movie in many ways. Did you do much research in the ways of loan sharks and how they operate and how difficult was it to get into the role of Dawn?

JOANNE:  Yes it is a dark movie and yes I did do research. It’s a pretty sordid world and I read and heard some awful stories of loan sharks and what happened to vulnerable people - young and old. Very upsetting.

It also felt like an important story to tell, a comment on the society we live in and how much people really do struggle.

As I wrote the story and thought up the characters of Bex and Dawn it actually wasn’t that difficult to get into character, also Victoria Smurfit who played Bex is one of my best friends so it was easy to have that onscreen relationship - she’s a joy to work with and be around, lots of laughs were had amidst the bleak story telling of it.

DGE:  There are some quite brutal scenes in Bait - such as a pensioner being beaten, the attack on Victoria's character Bex and then the finale involving yourself, Victoria Smurfit and Jonathan Slinger. Whilst its only acting, how difficult is it to be in those kind of scenes and are those scenes just as hard to write?

JOANNE:  Of course some of the scenes were pretty physical and emotional, but they are also very technical - we had choreographed and rehearsed them. Particularly the end scene with Vicky and myself in the bathroom, sinks flying about etc.

It’s all about safety, so you’ve got one eye on all the technical aspects being right and another on your character. I wouldn’t say it’s hard, it just takes a degree of concentration.

It is actually a lot of fun to do and create, to make them into what you want them to be and for others to feel the intensity of the situation.

In regards to writing them, well, I would say that yes that really is hard. What I found out that these real life monsters are capable of was really appalling and upsetting, so it felt important to tell that story.

Of course we have to remember that Bait was a thriller/horror too so the end finale had to be just that and we really went for it!

DGE:  In an earlier movie, 'Before Dawn', you work alongside Dominic who is your real life husband and in Bait it was with Victoria Smurfit, a lifelong friend If I’m correct in saying - but can I ask, but what makes a good screen partner?

JOANNE:  I would say ultimately it boils down to trust, like in any form of partnership. In both those cases I completely trusted Dominic and Vicky.

I have a deep respect for both their talents and I know them very well.

The familiarity always helps and the bond of friendship is strong so we really did feel comfortable with each other. Infact both Vicky, Dominic and myself were at Drama school together (although Dom was in a different year) so we’re all three really close pals, in this case it really helped.

DGEBefore Dawn and Inbred (another movie you where involved in as executive producer) I guess are horror movies in every sense of the word but some would argue Bait and indeed White Settlers are thrillers and yet I personally see Bait as a horror movie as it deals with real life situations and shows the true `horror` or what people are capable of? Would you agree or disagree?

JOANNE:  I would definitely agree. Before Dawn deals with a very different kind of monster to Bait, which although scary, doesn’t exist.

In Bait the monster is very real, and could be living a few streets away.

To me that’s far more terrifying than any zombie!

DGE:  Another movie you starred in was 'White Settlers' where you were cast for the role of Flo. How did that role come about?

JOANNE:  Well, Before Dawn and a short of ours, Shellshocked, was shown at Grimmfest in Manchester, a great Northern Horror Film Festival.

Because of that we got to know Simeon Halligan and Rachel Richardson-Jones who run it and we have since become good friends. Simeon is also a director and Rachel a producer, so they asked me to read the script of White Settlers and if I could do a Scottish accent.

I do a lot of voiceovers, so although I hadn’t done a Scottish one before I thought I should give it a go. I do have Celtic ties, but more on the Irish side.

I was only on the shoot for a couple of days but It was fun and great to work alongside Pollyanna MacIntosh too, a lovely and very talented person.

DGEAttack of the Adult Babies! I haven't yet seen the movie but its about to be released on DVD/Blu Ray and VOD around June 18th?  I've read many positive reviews and the movie (from the trailer) looks absolutely insane! Again, where did the idea for this movie come from?

JOANNE:  It is actually now being released on the 9th July, and yes it is totally insane!

Dominic came up with the title, and it was just too good to pass on.

My imagination went into overdrive and inspiration was drawn from a mixture of events and inspirations from the world we live in and society at large including a social commentary that is evident (should you wish to see it)running throughout the film.

The Adult Baby image was just such a great one and at the time we weren't aware that it had been used or done before within a movie – it was an interesting platform to tell a story and a brilliant way into class system satire.

Fat rich old men that are part of the ruling class in our society dressed as Adult Babies, with murderous intentions was a wonderful juxtaposition. I had also spoken to a fascinating woman who was a Dominatrix whose clientele included men from the upper echelons of society and her stories were a total insight into how certain men of a certain status have an absolute need to regress and be dominated to escape their incredibly stressful lives.

So there was all those ingredients and inspirations but we also wanted it to be Horror Comedy and totally different from anything else we had done. So there are nods to various other B Movies in the film, Benny Hill, Carry on Films, and 1950's EC comics. I think it's fair to say that it's pretty colourful on many levels!

DGE:  There are some familiar faces in Attack of the Adult Babies - Sally Dextor and Nicky Evans for two. When casting for the parts do you already have in mind the actors/actresses when writing or does that come after?

JOANNE:  We love working with people we know and who will commit 100% to the projects we do. I think it is so important on any set but particularly on Independent films.

So it was wonderful that Nicky Evans was available and up for it too. Sally Dextor we hadn't worked with before, but knew her work and just thought she would be outstanding as Margaret.

She read the script and loved it. And of course she was a delight to work with too.

Kate Coogan (Sandra) we knew too and is a wonderful actress, Seamus O'Neill again we knew and is brilliant. We also had two days of auditions which was great fun too and got the cast we wanted.

Everyone on this set was totally up for it, and it's fair to say we had a great time.

DGE:  I read somewhere that you do love a good horror movie. What is it that seemingly draws you to this genre and could you see yourself writing or starring in something different, say, a comedy movie in the future?

JOANNE:  I do love a good horror. I like to be scared and love it when I don't know where the story is going to take me.

The journey and the characters are so important. I think that's why Horror is so can literally go anywhere in your imagination and there are so many different types within the genre : supernatural horror, slasher, thriller, comedy etc

The challenge is to come up with something original I guess, and not feel suppressed by boundaries.

In saying all that I have done a fair amount of other work and some comedy too on stage in the early years of my career after leaving Drama school. I really enjoyed it, and of course should the oppportunity arise would always be up for more!

DGE:  Speaking of horror movies, do you have any favourites you could share with us?

JOANNE:  I am asked this question a lot, and it's so so hard.

There are so many great ones and I do think the ones which I would favour most are the ones that have had an impact on me at various stages in my life. No. 1 is The Exorcist. That literally scared me for years, it all seemed so possible; I was at that adolescent stage where I thought that could happen to me, ha! I couldn't bring myself to watch it again until a few years ago, and I just thought what a brilliantly constructed story/film it was.

There is also The Shining, which again had a big impact on me and is such an interesting film that I never get bored of, and recently The Babadook. At the time I watched this I had two young boys who never slept, so I could relate to the lead actress's stress and tiredness – and the questioning of reality and imagination, the fairy tail/horror aspect too. That confusion I could relate to and thought was so well acted, written and directed.

DGE:  So what next for Joanne Mitchell? Do you have any features in the pipeline you could share or are they top secret for the time being?

JOANNE:  We do have a feature film script that we are in the process of raising funding for, so fingers crossed that happens in the next few years. I have just finished directing a short Horror film which is in post production at the moment and will hopefully be finished soon.

DGE:  And what about conventions? It’s that time of year when all the cons are on. Do you and Dominic ever attend them as a guest or as a fan? I know you both love Frightfest with a passion but do you do any others on the circuit?

JOANNE:  Dominic has recently attended Sheffield Horror Con which he really enjoyed. We do try to go to as many film festivals as we can.

Obviously we love going to FrightFest and try to go every year, they have always been incredibly supportive.

We also really like going to ones up North too: Leeds International Film Festival, Grimmfest in Manchester, Celluloid Screams in Sheffield to name but a few.

There are some fantastic film festivals up and down the country, but due to work and kids etc it's not always easy to get to them all – but we really love going to them and supporting them.

They are a vital springboard for independent horror movies.


Well, a huge thank you to Joanne.  It's great that she could spend some of her valuable time to answer a few questions that I'd been burning to ask her for a while and as soon as her latest movie hits the shelves in July I will hopefully be back with another interview with not only Joanne but also her husband and partner in crime, Dominic Brunt!


Attack of the Adult Babies (2018)

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