A story with heart and a smartphone can be all that’s needed to make a feature in 2021, according to James Demitri.
The photographer-turned-writer/director used an iPhone 11 to shoot Misplaced earlier this year, and has since been successful in entering the black-and-white film into a host of festivals, both domestically and internationally.
So far, it has been selected to screen at events in Budapest, Barcelona, Rome, Kosice, and Montreal, and was also crowned Best Feature Film at the Paris Cinema Awards and the Masters of Cinema Awards in Moscow.
Filmed predominantly in Sydney’s inner west, the story follows a man who loses his ability to speak after the death of his mother, having been consumed by grief.
As his life begins to fall apart, and he detaches from the world around him, he seeks the help of an unconventional doctor, leading to a dreamlike, reflective, and often beautiful odyssey as he tries to come to terms with his loss.
The Frederico Fellini-inspired project stars Matt Levett in the main role with a supporting cast that includes Taylor Buoro, Maximo Montgomery, Kate Box, and Lady Medussa, as well as voice actors John Stretton and Azaleia Bradley.
While Misplaced is the first completed feature for Demitri, who also produces via his company Showbox Productions, he is also writer and director on Sunset People, a yet-to-be-released film that began production in 2016 and also stars Levett.
The idea for his newest project came about through discussions with the actor at the start of 2021 about how his own view on life had shifted since starting a family.
“Having had a child, my perspective on things has changed a lot – I think about life and I reflect a lot more,” Demitri said.
“I was having a coffee with Matt one day and I said it would be great to have a film that was really reflective, like a visual poetry piece.
“I wanted to do something that felt like a piece of art, as opposed to the normal structure of a film.”
Having had a taste of a larger production, Demitri said the decision to shoot the micro-budget film on an iPhone was motivated by a desire for greater control on set.
“I wanted to make something that I could do myself without relying on a whole group of people, just because it can take a lot of time for anything to move when there are a lot of people involved – there are a lot of cogs in that machine,” he said.
After watching other content that had been filmed with iPhones, Demitri began what would be a six-month shoot in March, taking breaks to negotiate some of the city’s harsher lockdown restrictions.
As someone with a background in photography, he identified the limited depth of field as the only constraint of the device, which he said was otherwise easy to use.
“I know the 13 now has the ability to do depth of field – it fakes it and then you can adjust in post-production,” he said.
“Who knows what they are going to come up with in the next model or two – it’s completely insane.
“I’m already thinking about a film concept that I can do with the 13, which will really lend itself beautifully to this film.”
While no distribution has yet been secured, Demitri said the fact the film had been included at festivals alongside larger-scale independent features was encouraging.
“What I love about it is that a lot of the things it has been selected for and has won is stuff that is outside of the mobile phone category,” he said
“I don’t think people are realising it was shot on an iPhone.”