‘Telephone Me’ dir. Michael Demetriou
The story of an unfaithful girlfriend, told from multiple view points through to its gruesome conclusion. It is a dark, atmospheric and honest look at the consequences of infidelity, and the intense emotions that come with it.
Writer-Director: Michael Demetriou
Producer: Michael Demetriou & Andreas Stavrou
DOP: Rina Yang
Key Cast: Lee Anderson, Daniel Rands, Ghaffar Ghoddusi, Jacob Stuttard, Stuart Cameron, Ana Valerio, Daniel Sormainis
C8: Where did the idea for Telephone Me come from and how long did it take you to write?
MD: The film was inspired by DMan’s ‘rap’ which is seen in the film. Daniel Rands and myself recorded the song with no intent or purpose, just two buddies making some music. Over the following weeks it was in my head as I was thinking of what to do for my next short.
We had recently shot an experimental skit video together called Nike SB Where’s Your P-Rodz (https://vimeo.com/64986446 https://vimeo.com/64986446), where we had managed to conjure up quite naturalistic dialogue and where Dan also ‘raps’, which led me to wanting to do a weightier, more narrative driven version of it (whilst continuing the themes I have already begun exploring in my other shorts). It was then I began reminiscing about some of the farcical stories young males would talk about in my University days and choosing one, Telephone Me began to form itself.
It took a few days to write. Then through rehearsals and improvisation the script was re-written a couple times. Furthermore, we shot over four weekends with two months in between. This gave us the opportunity to look back at parts of the film and see what was missing or what wasn’t clear, then rectify it.
C8: The film is very much a tale of two halves. Can you explain how these tales are interconnected and the reasoning behind your decision?
MD: They are interconnected in many ways. In the narrative, all the characters attend the same University, what I like to call ‘Rain City University’. This is shown in the film through Cameron’s jumper, which has the letters ‘RCU’ on it. He is part of a basketball team that both DMan and Jimmy are a part of. This team is called ‘RC Doom Riders’. This is shown in the film through Jimmy’s jumper and DMan’s flag above his desk. Young Adult, the lesser obscene dude of the two stoners, wears a t-shirt with a noose on and the letters ‘RCDR’. They all feature a noose, the emblem of the University. (I realise this is all quite hard to spot – but it’s there – and if the spectator does not see it, it does not matter too much as I think it’s fairly easy to guess these guys are all attending the same institution).
In regards to the films structure, the decision to have the two halves split so ruthlessly was mainly to add another layer to an already fairly linear story, and to take the spectator away from the Jimmy story – so that on return, the last shot would have a much more effective impact. It also heightens the ideas of love and longing, etc. Giving a much more existential and abstract reflection of these feelings.
We did try an edit where everything was chopped up together, but it didn’t work. The film was written in these episodic set pieces to allow the spectator time with each character. Each episode would build a world that would come together in the end.
C8: How did you work with cinematographer Rina Yang to achieve your cinematic vision?
MD: Rina was integral to achieving the look of the film. After meeting a couple times and talking about the project, it was Rina who suggested shooting it on film. I did not even know this was a possibility. New to film, Rina was extremely easy to work with and guided me through the whole process. Recalling the shooting of the scene where Jimmy is finding out the news over the phone, one of the first scenes filmed, ‘Clamshell’ in my hand I watched the playback freaking out that certain areas of the screen were not black and I couldn’t tell what was going on. Rina assured me everything would be fine – and it was. From then on Rina had my absolute faith, in turn allowing me to stop worrying about how it looks and focus on the performances – a huge step for me as a filmmaker.
We also had a number of references. One reference in particular was The Killing of a Chinese Bookie - particularly the scene in which Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) walks up the drive to the bookie’s house before the hit. Cosmo moves in and out of darkness, barely visible at times. This was a key influence for Cameron and Dman’s scene when they bump into Jimmy. We wanted the darkness to swallow them as they passed each light. Rina captured the visuals perfectly. We knew we would be shooting mostly indoors and at night-time, lots of tungsten lights, black shadows and silhouettes. Shooting film really accentuated the contrast between the light and darkness, integral to building this dream-like world.
C8: If you had the opportunity to go back and do the whole process again what would you change?
MD: At the time of shooting, I remember there being a couple things I wish we had shot differently – especially the Halloween party scene. Since completion up until now however, much time has passed and I’ve accepted the film as it is. The whole process was about getting that raw and honest performance. The excitement of shooting on film and not knowing what beautiful mistakes may have occurred was a part of the process. Shooting in that way, you have to give yourself a lot of room in your frame of mind for acceptance. The film will not be how you planned exactly and will inevitably take on a life of it’s own.
C8: In your opinion what is the essence of a good collaboration?
MD: A good collaboration, in my opinion, is everyone having a good time and feeling like they are playing an important part in the project. A good collaboration involves teamwork and everyone involved encouraging and inspiring each other to reach their full potential, trying to work with as much freedom as the project can allow.
C8: What’s on the horizon for Michael Demetriou?
MD: Currently I have two projects I am working on. The first project is an untitled short, this time around 30 minutes long, which I aim to shoot end of summer 2016. The second is a feature, titled Kokkinotrimithia, which I hope to complete over the next 3 years. Both are written. As we enter the New Year I plan to focus all my energy into applying for funding for both projects.