Behind the scenes of Mitch Stratten's OCP

The South African “maker” discusses shooting the visually complex OCP in a mere two days


South African ‘maker’ Mitch Stratten built a 3.5 ton moving set in a hangar space over 3 months in order to shoot ‘OCP’ in only 2 days. In order to create the visually arresting scenes, the set shifted at ‘4 x 70cm intervals as the girls run at the wall. In order to synchronise to the ‘random movement of the performers engaging in their own independent universe’, the choreographer/puppeteer would assess the walking speed of the actors and so trigger the enormous set to move from one button. Stratten even composed the score himself under his music moniker ‘Nodern’ and then released it on online art platform Sedition.  The single-minded director is interested in finding new platforms for distributing brave work that sits just beyond definition...

Dazed Digital: What's the idea behind the piece?

Mitch Stratten: Three women create a clearing in a classroom environment. They physically shift the dead space through the transferral of energy. The project is narrative and conceptual and is about physical processes and created systems. Whether working through ideas in the mind, learning new skills, constructing, performing or experiencing the film – there is the reality and surreality in the project that bleed into one another.

“The wall idea is a total cliché in itself. My challenge was to pull this off in earnest with a totally different meaning” – Mitch Stratten

DD: How did it come together in rehearsal and shooting?

Mitch Stratten: There had to be a lot of trust between the performers, myself and crew. Rachel Santoro - the performer I work with was a crucial pillar in this. During the filming of the heads stacked below the diamond tip the atmosphere on set was completely primordial. Creating the iconic diamond was a construction task in itself, but needed as the pinnacle of the film because of it's overused context within the world and the art world; and it's relation to the creation of value.

DD: Talk us through the title?

Mitch Stratten: OCP is an acronym for Orifice Conditioning Plate which is a device used in the mining industry. It takes the asymmetrical flow of liquid in pipes and turns it symmetrical to speed up and monitor transport time. The idea of mining relates to the sense of extracting, refining and creating. The linguistic paradox in the title works for where it takes place — in an educational facility.

DD: What drew you to use a trio of women?

Mitch Stratten: I did not intend on using 3 women – I cast men too, but it immediately became very clear to me when I saw the three girls working together in the casting. There is something strong about the image of three women and it's cultural heritage— maybe it's an evolution of the Three Graces. (For some reason there's a lot of three's in this project, like the three act Hollywood structure the narrative is based on.)

DD: What were your influences?

Mitch Stratten: The mining town I grew up in South Africa. England where I've been living for the last 7 years. My partner who saved my life. Science and philosophy. My friends who skateboard and know what it takes to do something. Understanding how things work. Thinking for yourself to create a universe. Nature and love. 

DD: It seems quite emotionally charged – what is the significance of them walking into the wall?  

Mitch Stratten: The wall idea is a total cliché in itself. My challenge was to pull this off in earnest with a totally different meaning. The room becomes a vehicle for this extraction process of physical rinsing through the transferal of energy. 

DD: What film effects did you use?

Mitch Stratten: I like to keep everything in camera as much as possible and then enhance in post where necessary. Since I only had 2 days to shoot this in with a proper crew I kept all my focus on the performance as I knew this would be impossible to improve in post. Everything was there in camera with elements tweaked or cleaned in post, like the continuity line on the furniture. The shoot was intense and I mostly worked spontaneously without a proper storyboard.

DD: Would you consider yourself a filmmaker or artist?

Mitch Stratten: I think both, or maybe just a maker for now.

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