Dimitri Logothetis has written and directed in a wide range of genres, including action, thriller, horror, and sci-fi. His latest film, Jiu Jitsu, is about how Jiu Jitsu experts face an alien invader in the fight for Earth. According to the promoter, the film “aims to satisfy the millions of martial arts, comic, and science fiction fans across the globe with world-class martial artists joining Cage for formidable, no-holds-barred fight sequences set in Burma”.
Picture This Post (PTP) talks to director Dimitri Logothetis (DL) about his new film Jiu Jitsu, which stars Nicolas Cage.
(PTP) Can you tell our readers about how this project—Jiu Jitsu— came to be? What were your inspirations?
(DL) After I delivered Kickboxer: Retaliation, a friend of mine said, “Hey, have you thought about science fiction and martial arts?”. I thought that would be a really neat idea. When I was a kid, I’d watch The Day the Earth Stood Still on TV. That kind of inspired Brax. And, of course, I love martial arts films. I was a martial artist myself. So I thought about coming up with a story, and the first thing that I did was call my writing partner.
Who would you say is the target audience of Jiu Jitsu?
When I write and make a film I don't think about a target audience. I think about a story and making something fun in the martial arts genre that I would like to see. And I hope that most of the audience will feel the same way.
What do you hope the audience takes away from Jiu Jitsu?
A good time, have some fun, and enjoy some incredible martial arts athleticism. We all need some escapism right now.
Some of your recent films all center on martial arts. What is your background/connection to martial arts?
I did about twelve years of martial arts and got two black belts. I did some competitive fighting at the time. One of the belts was in Kenpo from Master Ed Parker and the other one was Tangsudo from Howard Jackson.
How has the pandemic influenced Jiu Jitsu, such as its release?
Of course, the pandemic has stopped most theatrical work around the world, but we were very fortunate with Highland Film Group to set up a division through Paramount and they’ve done an exceptional job pushing the film out there on digital platforms and the film is doing really well.
How has acting informed your directing experience?
I think it’s critically important for a director to understand actors and what they need to be motivated and I feel lucky that I spent my early career as an actor. I worked with some amazing coaches and I know how to communicate with actors to help them find a character that moves the story forward.
Circling back to Jiu Jitsu—How was it your experience working with Nicolas Cage? Any notable moments to share with Picture This Post readers?
Besides being an incredible actor, Nick Cage embraces genre. He also happens to have trained in Jiu Jitsu with some of the best masters. So he could really pull off stuff. In addition to that, he’s the heart of the film. He lays out the exposition and the story so that you can believe the entire setup. If you didn’t have somebody who was doing that, you wouldn’t buy into the myth.
What inspired your camerawork decisions for Jiu Jitsu—e.g. some scenes having a shaky unstable camera?
Since my actors are also highly skilled martial artists, I allow them to do an entire action sequence without cutting the camera, therefore, in one particular sequence when Toby Jaa comes to rescue Alain Moussi’s character, the director of photography, the stunt coordinator and I had to design an extremity complicated camera sequence with the series of camera handoffs from one operator to another and ultimately to the stunt coordinator who was mounted on a crane that flew him and the camera over several rooftops. That sequence gives the audience the impression of a first-person video game, however, during the sequence, the audience notices that these are not computer-generated characters in a video game but our martial arts actors performing incredibly difficult stunts.
Jiu Jitsu uses comic book imagery as transitions. Why?
It’s a science fiction martial arts story and I felt I wanted to keep the audience in that mindset occasionally using chapters to move from one story point to another.
Any comments for our readers, aspiring filmmakers, and actors, you would like to
convey about this film and filmmaking in general?
Be patient; don’t lose the childhood imagination; tell your story and make sure you have a lot of fun.
About the Author: Nichole Gould
Nichole Gould is a senior at Oakland University, studying creative writing and advertising. She has been published in the Albion Review, Unbound Journal, and has had writing recognized in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She loves reading experimental literature, learning about the craft of writing, and writing fiction and nonfiction. In her free time, Nichole enjoys hiking, swimming in the Great Lakes, and visiting as many bookstores as she can.