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Interview: Theodore Bezaire on The Birder

June 20, 2015

By John Corrado

The Birder DVDThe Birder is one of those films that I feel like I have a long relationship with.  I’ve been championing the independent comedy for a while now, having first made note of it at the 2014 Canadian Film Fest, before offering a full review when the film opened in theatres this time last year.

So when I found an unopened email regarding the May 12th DVD release buried in my inbox a few weeks ago, I was disappointed to have missed the opportunity to have more coverage of the film.  I immediately wrote back apologizing for my delay in responding, and what happened next was a pleasant surprise.  I got a personal response from the director himself, Theodore Bezaire, offering an interview.  Now that’s pretty impressive.

So I coordinated sending over a couple of questions for him to answer, which are included below.  This whole exchange left me with an even deeper appreciation of his work, and be sure to pick up a copy of The Birder on DVD, which would coincidentally also make a great last minute Father’s Day gift this weekend.  Enjoy!

I would love to hear more about the inspiration behind the film.  Do you have any personal experience with birding?  I personally don’t have any experience birding, but growing up in Windsor and Essex County the birding culture was always present.  Point Pelee National Park (which the park in our film is inspired by) is a world famous birding spot it was on my radar.  Mike and I thought that the birding subculture was interesting and at the time we started writing, it hadn’t really been seen on film.  Then we paired it with another idea I had about looking into the the personal life of a teacher, and THE BIRDER was born.

How long was the whole process, from writing the script to the actual production?  After our first film THING TO DO premiered at Slamdance, that opened a few doors for us.  It was distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media and it also caught the attention of some people at Telefilm Canada.  Telefilm brought us in and asked us what we were working and we pitched them the idea of THE BIRDER.  They liked it and we started development.  Overall the writing process took about 3-4 years.  Then the packaging/financing phase took another 2-3 years.  It was definitely a different process than our first film which went from idea to premiering in Park City in literally 1 year.

I was really impressed with the look of the film.  The cinematography feels very polished for a small independent feature, which I found very refreshing to see.  Can you tell me a little bit about some of the technical elements behind the production?  Thanks for the compliment!  The cinematography is definitely one place we wanted to focus.  We were really lucky to get Arthur Cooper on board as our DOP.  He’s shot a bunch of great movies including ONE WEEK, WHO LOVES THE SUN, and YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING.  We were going for a bit of a classic look, using a dolly, no handheld,  really thinking about composition, etc.  Since our main character is stuck in the past we wanted that to be reflected in the way we positioned and moved the camera.  I really wanted to shoot this on super 16mm, again to give it more of an old school feel, but ultimately for various reasons we ended up shooting on the Arri Alexa.  It’s really a great camera and allowed us to move a little bit quicker, which was very important on our tight schedule.

All of the actors were perfectly cast for their specific roles, particularly Tom Cavanagh and Mark Rendall, who have some really great chemistry together.  I would love to hear more about how they became involved in the project.  We couldn’t be happier with the cast we were able to assemble.  We sent the script to Tom’s manager and within a few days we heard that he was interested. I had an initial phone conversation with him to discuss the project, tone, that sort of thing, and we immediately were on the same page.  Tom really understood the kind of film we were trying make and jumped in with both feet.

As for Mark, he was an actor I had been keeping track of.  I’d seen him in a few films, and really liked his energy.  He was mainly doing more dramatic work but I knew he could pull off the comedy we were looking for.  Mark tells this great story about the day he received our offer to be in the film.   His grandfather, who recently passed away, was an avid birder and actually met his grandmother at Point Pelee.  On the day that Mark’s mother sent him an email telling him that they were spreading his grandfather’s ashes at Point Pelee, he also received our offer to be in the film.  Mark said that he had to do the film.

I was also impressed with the song choices.  How did you select the music for the film?  Music is very important to me and I really wanted to find the best songs to be in the film.  I was lucky enough to work with 2 great people.  David Hayman was our Music Supervisor, and it was his job to go out and find all the songs featured in the film.  He would send me a bunch of choices for a certain cue and they were always spot on.  I also worked with Richard Pell and his team who handled the score.  I was a fan of Richard’s previous work, so it was a real pleasure to be able to work with him on this project.

And what’s next for you?  Any upcoming films or projects you can talk about?  I have a few features I’m developing along with a TV series, but nothing official to announce just yet.  I’m also looking into getting more directing work so we’ll see how that goes!

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