As a film maker its always amazing to have you film screened and to add to that hearing peoples thoughts on your work (at the WILDsound Festival) is great and invaluable. I opened your email late after a hard day and was touched by the openness and observations of the audience. The film at its heart is about love and hope and so people might talk easily about hard subjects and feel less isolated. Its magic what people pick up from seeing the movie. One of the specific comments about the tap being left running in the early scene was great because Robin and I deliberated over that on more than a few occasions.
– Birds Fly South Director Wade Bayliss, on his reactions from the WILDsound Film Festival (Review)
Birds Fly South was the WILDsound November 2014 Film Festival winner for Best Performances, and Best Cinematography in a film. It’s a truly remarkable piece.
Watch the Audience Feedback Video from the Festival:
24 hours in the life of two brothers. The elder, a diagnosed schizophrenic, travels monthly from his sheltered accommodation to see his cool headed younger brother, a struggling musician in London.
Q&A with Director Wade Bayliss
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film? It seems like an extremely personal film, would that assessment be correct?
Wade: My brother was diagnosed schizophrenic some 20 years ago. i had always had a kernel of an idea to show some part of how his world might feel to him in a short story or a radio play. The idea of a radio detuning and static was always central. I had never written anything before so the idea was by way of a pipe dream.
Many years later I had just finished a favours/ low budget music clip to one of my songs Mr White. (That Birds Fly South co- producer and editor Robin Pigott directed. His first video.) I had for me an epiphany. I saw a possibility … that I might be able to pool together some of the people involved from the video to make a film from the idea. I chatted with Robin and he was interested in the idea so i started writing.
MT: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
Wade: Had to look back through some notes. looks like putting things on paper started Nov 2010. I wrote it up until May 2011. i had some shooting dates, but these fell through as the Cinematographer and lead actor got well paid work. One of the big scenes in the script in my head at least. was that the brothers would talk under a cherry tree, with the blossom blowing like snow etc etc around. Had to can that ! A window came up with a fantastic new cinematographer an old friend of mine Trevor Forrest that I knew before he picked up a camera and we began shooting in a quiet week before xmas. I finished the film June 2013.
MT: Talk about your cast: The actors who played the two brothers. They were exceptional. What was your creative process to get them to the acting heights they reached in your film?
Wade: I was very lucky to have Nabil Elouahabi and Daniel Rabin as my leads. I had known Nabil many moons ago when he was at Drama School. We lived in the same neighbourhood, so had stayed in touch whenever I saw him I was always nagging him about being in the film. When I eventually finished the script he agreed to read it and put his name to the project. We cast for brother Jake but I couldn’t get quite the right tone. Fortunately Nabil recommended Dan.( I had originally thought to cast two brothers in the short ) Nabil and Dan had been been in a play together, ( The Great Game) so as well as being skilled at their craft, they already had a relationship. We workshopped the scripts twice pretty briefly and met a few other times to chat character. I also introduced Nabil to my brother Steven so he could gain any extra insight he might need. While writing and organising pre production I took a year of acting classes, which helped me gain perspective on the actors role. The editor Robin and I sat for some long hours tightening the piece, so if I had been slightly off in directing or the dialogue I had written wasn’t quite working off paper we got the best we could from what was shot.
MT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Wade: My editor, co producer Robin, took the longest two week vacation( seven months) after we shot so the editing process was held up. I found a couple a couple of editors to keep the piece alive, with the first we had a big stand off about how to cut the piece I wanted to have the film show hope and he wanted a darker piece.so he left the project The second was crazy busy working on Skyfall so gave me what time he could but got another great contract abroad. I tried to cut the thing myself, but each ten seconds was taking ten hours in my unskilled hands so I was happy when Robin came back. Stylistically in any case I preferred his work and our working energy. Another obstacle was being on such a low/ no budget meant working on favour time which slows up all processes. But I am forever grateful for all of those that gave their time when they could to complete the short.
MT: The use of sound design was done in such a brilliant way to showcase the point of view of the older brother. Was that always your intention, or did this idea come out in post-production?
Wade: The use of sound was always very important. I had helped put on some shows in 2010 and 2011 with The Experimental Sex Tape, friends of mine who are some of my favourite musicians in London ( they formed 3/4s of Amy Winehouse’s band and were lead by Martin Slattery( the Hours) and Jim Hunt ). The live shows were completely extemporized and this spirit captured the fluidity of Adams world. They very kindly let me use the music from these shows. Infact I wrote the script immersed in their music, so when Adam was on the screen the music described totally his world inside and out . I wanted to show the speed with which his reality altered and was lucky to work with Dan Donovan ( Big Audio Dynamite) to create a world that could warp and manifest in an instant.
MT: There was debate with the audience about the title. Why Birds Fly South?
Wade: Birds Fly South was a working title for the film named after an ethereal song I wrote which I didn’t put in the film. I guess I liked the sentiment and that it was ambiguous and ethereal and described movement beyond our control and searching for the warm heart of existence, but apart from that it just stuck as a title. Once the film is made it exists differently for everyone so it was lovely hearing the explanation of the title at the end of your recording.
MT:. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Wade: Good question. Not sure. I go through phases. I do love stacking, watching an evening of a director or actor. A film I have watched three times this year Jorge Michel Grau’s Somos Lo Que Hay.Staggeringly beautiful piece of film making. Another I saw this week What we do in the shadows directed by Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement laughed and smiled the whole way through. I definitely will catch that again.
MT: What is next for you? A new film?
Wade: Looking at the above maybe a Vampire project! I’ve started working with Portobello Film festival in London. Its their 20th year in 2015 so looking forward to help bring some super interesting new work and talks to the Festival. I’m working on a few script ideas. I’m a musician too so gig when i can, hopefully I can find more time to chain myself to my lap top during January when it gets a bit quieter and get on with them. I better had because perhaps my biggest production yet, my first child is due early February.
All Best to you guys . keep doing the good work… Wade
Matthew Toffolo, Interviewer BIO
Matthew Toffolo is the current CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival. He had worked for the organization since its inception in 2007 serving as the Short Film Festival’s moderator during the Audience Feedback sessions.
Filmmaker of over 20 short films and TV episodes. Took over full reins of the WILDsound Festival in May 2013. From then to the end of 2014, he’s presented over 90 movies at the monthly FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto, plus has had over 60 screenplays and stories performed by professional actors at the bi-monthly Writing Festival.
Go to http://www.wildsound.ca and submit your film, script, or story to the festival.
Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com and watch recent and past winning writing festival readings.