The Mental State is one of the most anticipated releases of the year. The Out of Shot film was led by director James Camali and cinematographer Ronnee Swenton, the company’s founders. The duo brought in Matthew Einstein of Tradition Pictures and Glen Trotiner to produce the picture. The film was shot in Syracuse, NY, and wrapped filming in an astonishing twenty-five days.
The film was based on Josh Adell’s play of the same name. It was inspired by the Sandy Hook shooting, December 14, 2012, in Newton, Connecticut. Camail wanted to tell a story that reminded the audience we need empathy for every party involved in traumatic events like these, and to understand how we can help prevent them from happening again. Two years later, after the horrific Sandy Hook shooting event, Camail shared his idea with his fiance, who introduced him to her former drama school teacher, Josh Adell.
James Camali is an accomplished filmmaker born and raised in New Jersey. James’s first foray into filmmaking came at ten years old after his close friend, Dom, hijacked his father’s MiniDV camcorder. That summer, they went on to produce a series of blockbuster heist movies aptly titled The Heist 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Filmmaking became a way for them to escape the banality of suburban life. Since he was fourteen, James has spent part of his summers volunteering at a camp for adults and children with disabilities. It is an experience that has become the foundation for his desire to tell stories about those often overlooked by society.
The Mental State portrays a mother and son duo, as the mother tries to help navigate her son’s mental health crisis. The film stars Jance Enslin playing Andy, who is known for featuring in the Apple TV & show Truth Be Told. His casting in The Mental State will be his breakout film role. The mother is portrayed by Carly Pope, best known for her roles in hits like Elysium and Demonic. The cast also includes Alyssa Sutherland of Vikings and The Mist as well as Bryan Greenberg of How To Make It In America and One Tree Hill.
For those who don’t normally watch horror films, Camail describes the theme for the movie as “it takes a village,” which he discussed with the original playwright, Josh Adell. It takes a village, a community, to help a kid going through this crisis from slipping through the cracks. And, it takes a community to keep it from happening again. The movie covers various social topics such as teenage mental health, access to mental health services, and gun control.
Camail noted that while the story was set in Eastern Kentucky, they had to relocate to Syracuse, NY. “We needed to shoot where we had the most resources with the best tax incentive – as is the case with most productions. I often visited parts of Kentucky for research and reference throughout the writing process. The original plan was to shoot in Kentucky. They had a great tax credit at the time, but they were lacking some of the filmmaking resources that an indie film of our size needed to be successful. One of our producers, Glen Trotiner, had many connections in Syracuse, NY.”
Camail stated what sets The Mental State apart from other movies is that the film “focuses on the events leading up to a school shooting. It’s not meant to generalise every scenario like this or our main character’s experience with his mental illness. I think we bring empathy to the shooter and his family, in a way I’ve never seen before. We try to portray a kid who had promise, but slipped through the cracks. We show a family desperately trying to help their child before tragedy strikes. We worked hard to express other students’ perspectives, faculty, and community involvement.”
Camali went on to explain how “When the tragedy strikes in our film, I think our whole team did a fantastic job at delivering a moment that strikes the audience in the heart. It’s a moment that really reminds the audience that these scenarios are extremely tragic for every person involved.”
The Mental State will have its official premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival circuit this fall of 2022.