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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 filmmaker and artist 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 ‘unpredictable 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 humans create a clearing in an educational facility. They physically shift the environment through the transferral of energy. The project consists of conceptual and narrative aspects but is ultimately feeling based. Whether working through ideas in the mind, learning new processes and skills, constructing systems, 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. The challenge was to overcome this in earnest with a totally different meaning” – Mitch Stratten

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

Mitch Stratten: The room functioned as a vehicle for extracting performance. There had to be a lot of trust between the cast, myself and crew. All was synchronised so the performers could really engage spontaneously with the environment on a personal physical level. They became fearless. Towards the filming of the heads stacked below the diamond tip the atmosphere on set had almost reached a kind of primordial state!

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. Mining relates to the sense of extracting, refining and creating. The linguistic paradox in the title felt right for where this takes place.

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

Mitch Stratten: I did not intend on using three women – we cast men too, but it immediately became very clear when I saw the three girls working together in the casting. There's something strong in the image of three women mirrored through cultural heritage — like the Three Graces.

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. Sound. Philosophy and science. My partner. My friends. Play. 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. The challenge was to overcome this in earnest with a totally different meaning.

DD: What film effects did you use?

Mitch Stratten: Everything was kept in camera and only enhanced where necessary in post. Since there was only two days to shoot this in I kept all my focus on the performance as I knew this would be impossible to improve later. We mostly worked spontaneously without a definitive storyboard.

DD: Would you consider yourself a filmmaker or artist?

Mitch Stratten: Both and also just a maker.