BIRD DRONE SOARS ACROSS THE SEAS

September 16, 2023

In by Dov Kornits

Bird Drone, an animated short film from Western Australia has spread its wings, securing a World Premiere at the Academy Award Qualifying Warsaw International Film Festival before soaring in quick succession to South Korea, Indonesia, Spain, Italy, and spanning the globe back home to Australia.
Bird Drone, an animated short film from Western Australia has spread its wings, securing a World Premiere at the Academy Award Qualifying Warsaw International Film Festival before soaring in quick succession to South Korea, Indonesia, Spain, Italy, and spanning the globe back home to Australia.

Alongside Cannes, Venice and Berlin, the Warsaw International Film Festival is one of 14 events in the world recognised by the International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF) as an international competitive film festival. Bird Drone has been selected to screen in the festival’s Short Films Competition in October, where it will compete for the chance to qualify for consideration at the Academy Awards.

Funded through Screenwest’s Elevate+ initiative, Bird Drone follows a lonely seagull looking for love, who struggles to accept that his newfound object of affection is a human-operated drone with a limited battery life.

A love story that crosses the boundaries between the fabricated and natural worlds, the nine-minute short is directed, animated and edited by Oscar-qualified and AACTA-nominated filmmaker Radheya Jegatheva (The Quiet, Pacing the Pool), produced by Hannah Ngo (Latecomers, Iggy & Ace), and writer Clare Toonen (KGB, You, Me & Karen).

Set on Wardandi Country in Australia’s South West, the story was conceived when writer Clare Toonen considered how drone-flying was impacting the natural world, specifically, what the birds thought about it: “The concept was sparked by the single image of a seagull and a drone flying together through the sky, I was intrigued by the drama and emotion that could emerge from this unlikely romance. I knew it had potential as a short, wordless piece that looked Australian but also felt universal and could be understood by all audiences across age, culture and language.”

Producer, Hannah Ngo loved the idea. “The concept reads as so simple – what would happen if a bird fell in love with a drone? And yet the longer the idea sits with you, the joy but also the heartbreak sets in.” As long-time friends and collaborators, Bird Drone is the pair’s first foray into animation. “We couldn’t imagine another way to do it. Trying to wrangle a real-life seagull would be crazy so we really had to think about the team and methodology. It’s been such a rewarding journey to collaborate with all the kind people who have made this possible. I’ve really loved working with them all so much – and learning a lot. It’s been special to see the team transform through this process too. Especially the director, Radheya Jegatheva, who we could not have done this without.”

Director, animator and editor Radheya explained that “Bird Drone centres around love, in both the story itself and the three-year-long creation of the film. A labour of love over the last few years, it is a heartfelt story about the human emotions connected with unrequited love, explored through two peculiar and unusual entities – a lonely seagull and a human-operated drone.”

This is the fifth animation directed by Radheya, following in the footsteps of his highly successful short films – including The Quiet and live-action documentary Pacing the Pool – which put together have literally more than 1,500 official selections spanning 65 countries and every continent in the world (including Antarctica’s Davis Research Station).

Naturally, music and sound play a pivotal role in the beating heart of this no-dialogue film. The original score is composed by Wil Hughes (Still Life) who was inspired from the earliest rough cuts. “The heart and genuine sweetness in the characterisation and storytelling were immediately evident, a testament to the exceptional talent and clarity of vision behind its creation. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it musically from the outset, playing the romance completely straight, from Sammy’s perspective, and hoping to draw people into emotionally investing in their love story.”

Sound Designer Keith Thomas (Mary & Max) then took the reins and put the finishing touches on the sound design, setting up with his trusty Zoom F8n recorder and Rode Ambisonic microphone to capture the sounds of waves from Victoria’s Balnarring Beach and seagulls from Kananook Creek.  “When recording the birds dialogue, I found it’s amazing how much seagulls will say for a few slices of bread. It was so wonderful to be able give our hero bird their own emotionally expressive language, and also a language that evolved over the film.”

Bird Drone screens at the Warsaw International Film Festival on 11, 13 and 15 October. It has secured 7 Official Selections thus far.

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