A Talk with Joanne Mitchell and Tracey Sheals from SYBIL 

We had the chance to speak with director Joanne Mitchell and co-writer Tracey Sheals about their new film Sybil.

So how did Sybil come about? 

Joanne Mitchell: Well it was all down to Tracey really, I had worked with her before on a feature film I had written and produced called Bait and we had seen Tracey previously in a short film and she was fantastic.

Then she contacted us a year or so later by email and said “Have a read of this, I really like the idea for a short film” and it was just a little treatment with a lovely twist in it and I thought this would make a really good short film. Dominic [Joanne’s husband and director of Before Dawn] said “Jo why don’t you do this one”. And then I contacted Tracey and we wrote it together, but the actual original concept was Tracey. 

So this was your first time as a director, what was it like for you? 

Mitchell: It was nerve-wracking but it was great to have Tracey there. She is just a brilliant, natural, instinctive actress so I knew she would be fine. So it wasn’t the actors I was worried about it was getting the actual shots I wanted in such a small period of time. I had too many ideas and I was probably running around like a headless chicken…

Tracey Sheals: An hilarious headless chicken!

Mitchell: [Laughs] …but the first day was the hardest, because we had to arrive and set up. I didn't want it handheld, which would have been a lot quicker I realise now. I wanted it on the slider on tracks which was a lot of setting up with a very minimal crew, so everyone was working very hard. I think the first day was about 14-15 hours long. Luckily we got enough but there was so much more that we wanted to get. 

So Tracey, how was it for you playing Sybil who is quite a strange character? 

Sheals: Strangely easy! [Laughs] I shouldn’t say that, should I? But because we had wrote the character I knew every step so it wasn’t like I was reading a script for the first time and I don’t know the character, we know Sybil inside and out so it was quite easy. 

When I was watching the film it did make me feel uneasy in parts especially the ending. Something just clicked and I knew I had just seen a really good film. 

Mitchell: That’s great — when you make a film you always want to make someone feel something. 

So do you have any other projects lined up together? 

Mitchell: Well we are actually writing the feature for Sybil, so that has to happen now as we have said it twice now. 

Sheals: Well I feel we have to as there is so much more to come from Sybil. There was so much that we couldn’t fit in to the short film that we have to go back and give Sybil more time. 

That’s excellent news, as when I was sitting there at the end I wanted to know what happens next…

Mitchell: Believe me it’s going to get a lot worse!