Birdemic!

Dazed Digital meets the man behind cult film sensation Birdemic...

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When we received an invite to the London premiere of Birdemic: Shock and Terror and noticed that it was being plugged as the “Best Worst Movie of All Time”, we checked out the trailer. Speechless, we sat through some hapless actors fending off crudely animated eagles and vultures with coathangers, and a jaw-dropping scene in which homicidal birds divebomb a picturesque town while inexplicably exploding on impact. All set to a thrash metal soundtrack. When we then read that director James Nguyen shot and funded it all himself over four years with money from his day-job, and secured a distribution deal after driving around Sundance in a van plastered with fake birds and blood, and loudspeakers blasting out the sound of eagle attacks, we decided he must be either a lunatic or a genius, and hopefully both, so we called him up to find out.
 
Dazed Digital: We’ll definitely be coming to the premiere on Friday, what can we expect?
James Nguyen: Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a romantic thriller, during which a platoon of eagles and vultures attack a small and beautiful town. So, the synopsis is: why did the eagles and vultures attack? And who will survive?

DD: Why did you feel a romantic thriller required a surprise attack by homicidal birds?
James Nguyen: I went to the film school of Hitchock cinema. Everything I learned about movies was from watching Hitchcock cinema, and my favourite Hitchcock was The Birds. So I thought, what if I made a film inspired by The Birds, but made it contemporary?

DD: Some of the critics who reviewed it have given your film ten stars, others have given it one. There’s nothing in between. Why has your film provoked opinions like this?
James Nguyen: I’ve sat through sold-out screenings in Hollywood, New York and Austin, Texas. What I can say is the reason Birdemic became a hit is because there’s a sincerity to this story about mankind and what it’s doing to planet earth, despite its imperfections. After screenings, people want my autograph. Look, I’m very happy. I think the majority of the audience are laughing with the film. But there are always perfectionists, where things like the animation have to be perfect or it’s no good!

DD: Talking about those “imperfections”, the birds appear to be animated GIFs. What limitations did you face making this film and how did you deal with them?
James Nguyen: We had a film budget of $10,000 and I think we went as far as we could with the animation of the eagles and vultures. I think they look pretty realistic. From a distance, they look like a $100million Hollywood production. They’re both shocking and terrifying.

DD: Why eagles and vultures?
James Nguyen: That’s a good question. Cinematically, they look more terrifying than seagulls and crows, the original 'Birds'. Eagles and vultures did attack man, they would swoop and peck cavemen’s eyes in prehistoric times. So, this is based on historical fact. But the main reason is that it’s a metaphor. It could have been Hurricane Katrina. Or those giant jellyfish in Japan. It’s a metaphor.

DD: For what?
James Nguyen: The forces of nature, and what might happen to man if we keep on wrecking planet earth. And what might happen... if other species turn on us.

DD: How should readers protect themselves in the event of eagle or vulture attack?
James Nguyen: Use a coathanger! If you’re stuck in a hotel room and attacked by eagles and vultures, get your closet hanger out and defend yourself.

DD: What’s next for Birdemic?
James Nguyen: I am working on a sequeal. It’s called Birdemic: The Resurrection. It’s going to be in 3D, and it’s set in Hollywood. Why did the eagles and vultures attack Hollywood? And who will survive?
 
Birdemic: Shock and Terror will be getting its first UK screening at the Curzon Soho on Friday 28 May. Who will survive?


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