A dangerous bird has escaped and is causing panic amongst the local community. Coerced by his friends, Michael sets out to capture the bird and return it to the authorities.
A short film written & directed by Daniel Harding, and stars Chris Clynes, Lindsay Bennett, Stewart Barham and Ingvild Deila. The film also features and welcomes back Steve Sipple, Kate Goodfellow, Steve Larkin and Neil James as The News Reporter. The original score was composed by Mathieu Karsenti.
Watch the trailer
Daniel started working on several ideas that would eventually collide into the story of Killer Bird in early 2014. The film was originally intended to be part of trilogy of short films which would play as a feature film. The script was written alongside the other two parts of the trilogy, and took almost a year to complete.
Killer Bird would be Daniel’s largest project to date – both in cast size and running time. Casting eventually began in early 2015 after funding was secured through a personal loan, and filming was scheduled for May.
Production lasted three and a half days, and used locations around Brighton and Sussex, including the University. Editing and post-production then took several more months, and the film was finally completed in December 2015. A trailer was released soon after, and from the positive feedback received, Mathieu Karsenti was commissioned to write a full score for the film.
Q&A WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR DANIEL HARDING
What was your inspiration for the film? The story centres around my interest in how people form and share opinions based on news stories rather than first hand experience. The dialogue was heavily influenced by conversations I’ve been witness to or over-heard, and opinions expressed by ordinary and innocently motivated people I know. The characters were also drawn from a number of key political figures and social groups associated with far-right agendas.
How did the film get off the ground? What was the process of getting the film made? It is the first part of a larger project and trilogy of short films, featuring three seperate stories that share similar themes. The original draft of the script exceeded fifty-pages, so it took several months of me trimming it down to a filmable size. My own savings covered the initial cost of the project, but I also acquired a loan. Because I work independently from any money-men, I am able to pick and choose my projects.
How long was the shoot? Where did you shoot? We managed to do it in three and a half days. Locations were chosen around the South Downs area and Sussex University, I know the area well. The script required almost a dozen locations, and one of the biggest obstacles faced by the crew and myself was getting to and from each location with enough time to film.
How much crew did you have? I originally planned to have a lot more than I ended up having. My AD dropped out a few weeks before the shoot, but I felt comfortable the rest of the team would work. Kate, who also plays Amber, helped out holding boom and was a general godsend on the first day. Amber Bayley did make-up on the first day, and a friend, Ashley, was a driver. But I operated the camera myself, as I like doing, and we ended up abandoning sound. I had several friends prepared to help out, but unfortunately I couldn’t use them.
What is your favorite scene in the film? My opinion changes from week to week, and for different reasons. I love the intimacy and performances from Chris and Ingvild during the car scene, but I am proud of how a scene closer to the end of the film is shot which features the four leading roles – but won’t give more details due to spoilers.
What was the most difficult scene to shoot? The whole film! The unpredictable May weather was determined to make the shoot as difficult and challenging as the scheduling had already made it – shifting between clear, sunny and warm to damp, cold and very wet in the space of a day. Fortunately, I was able to work out a way to incorperate the weather into the story and the turning point actually benefits from the rain. Unfortunately, the actor who was originally cast as Linda’s second-in-command, Steve, had to drop out on the second day of filming due to illness, so three out of the four days were largely improvised as Chris, Lindsay, Stewart and myself had to incorperate Steve’s dialogue seamlessly into the narrative. However, this had a surprising benefit as we had to discuss each scene before filming, everything was scrutinised for what it was. Rather than just filming what was in the script, everything become very deliberate. The difficult thing was making sure things made sense scene to scene as we were shooting out of sequence.
Describe the casting process and how did you manage to get so many familar names back? It is always a stressful part of the process, especially for independent filmmaking. My way of doing it has come from making mistakes on previous projects. I put a casting call onto a number of websites, wait for a response, work my way through the showreels, send a few the script and a link to my work, and then arrange to meet with my three favourites if they’re still interested. I then make a decision based on the vibe I get and whether I think they show signs of what I am looking for. Possibly the most difficult thing is casting the smaller roles, which is why I tend to rely on actors I’ve already worked with. I love working with the same people again.
What format did you shoot the film on? I’ve only ever shot digital. It’s a little annoying that I’ll probably be part of a generation of filmmakers that have never worked with film. I have my own kit, which is a Sony FS-100, and I shot Killer Bird on a 35mm prime lense – interestingly, it’s the first time I’ve gone handheld in a film.
What films influenced Killer Bird? I rewatched Children Of Men recently and realised I’ve totally ripped it off. But too many influences to name. I love the unlikely hero who doesn’t actually become the hero you expect. Maybe it should be called the sort-of-hero.
Any fun facts or trivia? Erm, the biggest thing is that the scenes are largely improvised. People tend to miss one important one I can’t mention for spoilers – it happens very quickly during the checkers/tent scene. Also, the dude-like dressing gown features once again (Ring Ring, That’s Not Me). The SD card broke on the first evening, is that fun enough?
Q&A WITH ACTOR CHRIS CLYNES
Can you give us a brief overview of your acting career to date? As with most actors, my background is in theatre and I have appeared in a number of productions including pantomimes, classical plays and contemporary pieces. I have just finished playing the title role in Hamlet at The Rose Playhouse in London – probably the most important theatre role of my career so far. My screen work has included films, music videos and commercials. I played the lead role in short film SoMe, a sci-fi drama predicting the future of social media, which won the Audience Choice Award at Zero Film Festival in New York. Most recently I was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at Portsmouth Film Festival for the award winning LGBT drama Crossroads, which is set for a release through Shorts TV later this year. I also have a four-part drama coming to Channel 5 and BBC Worldwide later this year.
What interested you about the script and specifically Michael? 23½ had been on my indie film radar for a while after Daniel had responded positively to my showreel online. I was impressed by his drive to make quality short films and grow his company. The role appealed to me as it had such a ‘coming of age’ feel to it. The subject matter was very topical and the feel of the film mixed subtle humour with dark undertones, resulting in a powerful and interesting adventure in which Michael encounters some colourful characters.
Did you do any preparation for the role? Or have any influences for your performance? Essentially Michael is the everyman, an unlikely hero who makes mistakes and learns from them. Having said that, he is also mysterious. His eccentric but well-meaning behaviour allows him to be liked, an important factor for the lead role and one which I strived to achieve. I drew upon elements of my own personality, to always do my best, be helpful and not be afraid to have my own views. From leaving my home city of Leeds, studying at University and living in London for 10 years, I have evolved politically from someone who adopted the opinions of others, to forming my own opinions – a journey which in many ways mirrors my character in Killer Bird.
What would you do if you encountered an actual killer bird? I’d like to think I could diffuse the situation intelligently but in reality I would probably run!
And what are your hopes for the film now it has been entered into festivals? With any short film you want recognition for the film and the creatives involved. As the lead actor I feel very attached to the film, and hope that it gains the exposure it deserves. Awards and distribution deals are always welcome too! I hope I can make it along to some of the film festivals that it will be appearing at and look forward to following it’s journey.
“This is one of those short films that although made in present day, is timeless and may end up having far reaching implications, despite being filmed in, and being about England specifically. At the very least, this film will get you thinking and will stick with you long after it’s done, which is the hallmark of a great film in my book!”
“It’s the kind of film that challenges you to think about your own beliefs and the rhetoric of those around you. It’s also incredibly compelling. There’s not a dud moment or unnecessary scene in the entire film.”
“Providing a uniquely executed story combined with both subtle hilarity and straight-up satirical punch, writer/director Daniel Harding’s “Killer Bird” delivers exactly what it’s chosen nomenclature suggests, and does it with a distinct and unmistakable wry sense of wit and intelligence.”
“Judging by the opinions of the friends in the film and the flow of the story, for me this film seemed to set out to provoke the viewer into changing their perception of how they interpret influences on their lives particularly as it relates to media and peers.”
“We start with a group of friends doing normal every day things. Drinking, playing pool, bitching about the news on the radio… It’s a very normal scene to see in most bars/work places. People discussing their views on the current events. Well shot, comfortably dialogued to the point where you feel that these are your friends having the conversation around you.”
OFFICIAL FESTIVAL SELECTIONS
BLOW-UP Chicago International Arthouse FILM FEST, 2nd-7th November 2016
TMC London Film Festival, 21st-23rd June 2016
Move Me – Short Film Festival, 16th-17th May 2016
Los Angeles CineFest, 14th-21st March 2016
Selby International Short Film Festival, 30th July 2016
UK Screen One International Film Festival, 8th-12th February 2016