Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Lost-at-Sea Saga 'The Disappeared' a Metaphor for Personal Trials

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Lost-at-Sea Saga 'The Disappeared' a Metaphor for Personal Trials

Article excerpt

'The Disappeared' traces horrors at sea


TORONTO - When novelist-turned-filmmaker Shandi Mitchell began writing her lost-at-sea saga "The Disappeared," she had no idea whether she'd even finish the script, let alone see it hit the big screen.

At the time, the East Coast writer was battling a mysterious illness that locked up her shoulders and arms, and made it virtually impossible to walk.

She poured her anguish into a story about six fisherman adrift in the Atlantic, desperate to find their way home despite the unforgiving elements. She saw it as a fitting metaphor for the trials of life.

"You can surrender, you can give up, you can fight, you can try to find something to hold onto and (you can) find some kind of acceptance or peace in it even as you're going through it," the 49-year-old Mitchell said in a recent interview from Halifax.

"The story is of six men in two boats on the ocean, but for me, we're all in these boats. We're all in that ocean and the question is: How do we choose to live? For me, it's a film about living."

"The Disappeared" centres on six mariners struggling to survive when their fishing vessel goes down. Shawn Doyle stars as brawny harpoon striker Pete, Billy Campbell is first mate Mannie and Brian Downey plays Captain Gerald.

The actors essentially spent the entire shoot confined to two dories while the crew balanced film cameras on a raft that bobbed nearby. Everything was shot far enough from shore that no land could be seen on the horizon

With a modest budget of $1 million, Mitchell, who also directs, says she was forced to get creative.

The film couldn't afford special equipment to stabilize the footage from bobbing waves so her grip and crew devised a contraption made from an iron frame fitted with "bungee cord webs in them" to hold the camera.

Mitchell called the shots from a five-by-seven metre raft, essentially made of two docks screwed together. Up to 20 people would be on it at a time, she says.

"It was certainly physically gruelling, you're always fighting time out there, but we had the elements to contend with, we had the light shifting," she says, noting that a simple task on land could be a nightmare at sea. …

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