I’ve always wondered how Republican wives manage to smile so long on the campaign trail without losing their composure. How do they act when they’re not onstage? Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingmann’s 13-minute short The Mink Catcher investigates the inner world of one of these wives, as she loses her mind and bares her true self to a woman she barely knows.
The Mink Catcher takes place on a late November night in 1980s Texas, at a TV watch party to find out “Who Don’ It”–that is, who shot JR Ewing on Dallas. It tells the story of two party guests who don’t quite fit into the crowd; the aforementioned politician’s wife with a coat full of secrets, and a curious young gossip columnist intent on smoking out the truth. Neither of them seem to care about the show. The wife is Pete Pangburn (Susan May Pratt), a seasoned vet of the socialite circuit, and the columnist is Libby Smith (Anna Margaret Hollyman), a bright young thing who is largely ignored by the women she covers in her society column.
As the night goes on, the party guests forget about Pete, which is convenient, as she has slipped out of the limelight to perform low-key acts of sabotage. Libby–who has admired the older woman from a distance for quite some time–is the only one who notices. She covers Pete’s tracks and joins in on the fun, and in the process, she trades complicity for journalistic access. By the end of the film, Libby’s loyalty pays off, and she discovers what Pete’s been hiding.
At twelve and a half minutes (the perfect run time, I think), The Mink Catcher manages to be short enough to watch in one quick sitting but deep enough to get stuck in your head. On a technical level, it’s filled with gorgeous steadicam shots and period set design that creates the illusion it takes place in a world that is not entirely real. Also, it is delicate and masterful in its portrayal of this era, which has not been explored much in the cinematic medium. And though it is set in the 80s, it is imbued with themes from other eras (the 1950s, present day), and this strengthens its charm.
As for the shoot, the film crew worked for six nights straight in the heat of the [Texas] summer, and as Buck says in a statement, “If that’s not a testament to the persistence of our cast and crew, I don’t know what is.” As it turns out, their persistence paid off–this film is full of nuanced characters and societal satire, where a woman with everything (glamor, confidence, mystery) finds a worthy equal in a woman who has not yet reached “everything ” status. Buck and Schlingmann are currently developing a feature called The Big D, which will be “a much more expansive view on that same world, story-wise as well as visually.”