Arts and Entertainment

Local filmmaker leading the charge for Renton in the movies | THE CREATIVE SIDE

Mitch Shepherd - Submitted
Mitch Shepherd
— image credit: Submitted

When Mitch Shepherd was six years old, his grandparents took him to see a movie at the old Parkway Plaza in Tukwila. It was an animated film appropriate for his age – yet he doesn’t remember it at all.

“But as we were leaving, I saw the door to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” open. In just a few seconds, I was completely captivated and wanted to know everything about that movie. The imagery, the sound, the music – it all drew me in!” he said recently.

Mitch spent his early years in the Seattle area and then studied filmmaking in New York City, followed by a film and television career in Southern California. Eventually, he moved back to this area so that he and his wife could be near her father who was dealing with cancer.

When they settled in Renton, Mitch feared there would be few opportunities here for him and that his career might be over. Instead, after creating his own video arts business, he is able to support his family while doing what he loves!

“Most of my work is freelance, but I am in the midst of launching a production company called AXOXIX,” he said. “Our focus will be on creating compelling and memorable commercial content for clients of all sizes and budgets.”

Mitch passionately talks about “capturing reality on film” and the “primal excitement of combining new wave cinema with a good simple story.”

At one time, the Seattle area was poised to become a film making Mecca in the northwest, but unfriendly tax laws forced film producers to focus their efforts on Canada, which since has been established as a giant in the industry.

However, The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) has been gaining a lot of attention and respect around the world, and Renton is sharing in the growth.

The following is an excerpt from an article printed by Washington Filmworks about Renton’s expansion in this field: “Renton has a diverse array of arts and entertainment, festivals, and events. Renton comes alive with film during May as site for a week of screenings of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) and October with the Renton FilmFrenzy, a 50-hour filmmaking competition. Renton is an innovative, creative and energetic community, filled with committed and caring people who work hard to make their city a great place.”

When asked about his passion for film, Mitch said, “I love how filmmaking is a perfect marriage of art and technology. It requires a mind that understands how to communicate a thought through captured imagery, as well as a mind that is capable of understanding the technology that is being used to convey that thought.

“I also believe that film is a powerful medium, because I think human beings in general are drawn toward seeing the world from different perspectives; be it escapism, be it curiosity… there’s something satisfying about viewing the world through someone else’s point of view. Most of all, I am passionate about telling a great story, which is something that the best movies do,” he said.

As a filmmaker, Mitch was a winner at both the 2011 and 2012 FilmFrenzy events and was a judge for the 2013 contest. He said he enjoys helping young aspiring filmmakers at the FilmFrenzy, passing along his wealth of experience and inspiring them in the creative joy of filmmaking.

“Our little town is catching the attention of major film festivals, and it is so exciting to see Renton carry the flame. I feel a huge swell of pride to be a part of it,” he said. “The newer technologies have luckily provided many more people with the ability to affordably create and edit their own films.”

When asked about what kind of movies he likes to create, Mitch said, “I generally tend to make films that focus on character as compared to spectacle. I love ‘a day in the life’ types of stories, in particular. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy spectacle films like “Star Wars” as much as the next person, but over time I’ve come to love just creating films that follow characters through an interesting moment in their lives.”

Mitch and his wife have a 4-year-old son with another one on the way, but he finds time to be a community volunteer and serves as an arts commissioner for the Renton Municipal Arts Commission.

I was part of the team who interviewed Mitch for this position and was impressed with his passion for filmmaking and for his desire to support and promote the creative side of Renton.

Last year, Mitch and I started a new project to build a collection of video interviews, profiles in the creativity of local artists. The first one we completed was a video interview of artist Mary Clymer.

Mitch said, “I believe in the critical importance of arts in society. In the short time that I’ve been back to Renton, I’ve found so many people who are contributing to our world through their art. I felt that the interview project provided an opportunity to let the artists express their feelings in their own words.”

Mitch is one example of someone making a difference in our community with his creative genius in furthering filmmaking as an art form here. And there are others among us in other fields of art who are also working hard to make Renton more and more recognized for its creative presence in our state.

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