Sunday, 7 August 2016



3. "I like sales - it fits my personality"


"In Hollywood, nobody knows anything," said the screenwriter William Goldman, who knows better than most, having authored "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," "All the President's Men" and "The Princess Bride." In his books "Adventures in the Screen Trade," and "Which Lie Did I Tell?," you are left amazed that any film gets made at all, let alone be released, such is the insistence of everyone that they know best.

Despite this professional arrogance, everyone working in Hollywood had to get there first, having proved they know what they are doing. With very good reason, I don't get that feeling when watching "Birdemic: Shock and Terror" (2008).

"Birdemic" is the second feature film made by James Nguyen, a software salesman with no formal film training, and was made for $10,000 over a four-year period, in his spare time, using his own money. This chimes with how many people started their film careers - even Robert Rodriguez, a very well-known filmmaker that did not have the school grades to enter a film program at the University of Texas, worked in his own time to create short films, enter film festivals, and build a good reputation.

Meanwhile, James Nguyen, based on the evidence of "Birdemic," appears to be under the impression that if you can watch a film, particularly Alfred Hitchcock's. "The Birds," you can make your own. 

It is not beyond the ability of anyone with a smartphone to take a video of something, or follow someone walking, and use a simple editing program on a computer, or even their phone, to put what they shot into a particular order. Once the basics are in place, you can learn how to piece together a story, write a script, direct the action, and put together your own soundtrack. Importantly, you learn about creating your own verisimilitude, and making a world that is both believable and engaging.

Therefore, if I am watching the second feature film to be made by anyone, I should not have my ears blown by loud background noise on the soundtrack, wobbly camera shots, a first act that still hasn't ended by the half-way mark, and exploding GIF birds that have been literally posted over shots, rather than looking like part of them. All these problems could have been sorted by planning ahead, or even by knowing what you need to have planned for.

"Birdemic" is often though of in the same "so bad it's good" category as "Manos: The Hands of Fate". However, "Manos," within its own batshit world, works - the world it creates is believable within the terms it creates for itself. The amateurish way in which "Birdemic" has been made prevents you from making that connection, leaving you thinking that you could have done a better job, before you wonder why you haven't done so already.

It feels counter-productive to think that something as organic as creating a work of art, no matter what it is, involves a certain level of professionalism to be met, but being taken seriously requires work - if you have reached this sentence, I can only assume I must have succeeded.

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