Director Adam William Wilson turns to badminton for a film that highlights a surprisingly tragic occurrence
Over 25 million birds fatally collide with windows in Canada each year. This crazy statistic was recently delivered with the release of Canadian non-profit FLAP CANADA’s PSA 'Birdie'.
Raising awareness of the problem posed a creative challenge: how do you present the often gruesome reality of the birds’ fate without turning off audiences? Adam William Wilson, who wrote and directed the spot for FLAP, came up with a surprising take. Best known for his work as a commercial production designer, Adam used the sport of badminton - and shuttlecock 'birdies' - as a metaphor for his message.
LBB's Addison Capper chatted with him to find out more about his inspiration and the experience of directing his first film.
LBB> When did you first become aware of this project and why was it something you wanted to get involved in?
Adam> I had the idea for the creative during summer 2018. I was driving down the highway thinking about this badminton court interior that I loved. I knew there must be a story for that space, so I started jamming, Birdies turned into birds, rackets into glass, and then through a bit of research I found FLAP CANADA. I was blown away by the number of bird fatalities each year, and later by the impact of what the charity does. I decided to write the script and approach them with the idea. Micheal Mesure (executive director of FLAP) quickly warmed to the idea and gave me the approval to go ahead with the project.
LBB> Can you tell us a bit more about FLAP Birdsafe, their mission and how people can get involved?
Adam> The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada is the first organisation in the world designed to document bird collisions with buildings and to find solutions to this global threat. For more than 25 years, FLAP Canada has conducted building collision monitoring in search for birds that are victims of colliding with windows or lighted structures. Birds cannot perceive glass, which causes the illusion that they can fly into or through a reflective or transparent surface. FLAP and its subsidiary Bird Safe work towards raising awareness of the issue, but more importantly on ways to prevent this global threat. I think the best way for people to get involved is to become aware. We hope this PSA will make Birdsafe a part of the national vocabulary.
LBB> Demonstrating the issue in a non-gruesome way is a tricky one - what inspired the badminton metaphor? Were there any other ideas floating around?
Adam> The badminton metaphor was inspired by the space itself. Although we never ended up shooting in the courts that inspired the idea, the idea was more important than the space. I was told by a few people that we needed to see a bird at some point so the audience could further connect emotionally. I totally agreed with that but was sure we needed to come up with something that would work without gore. Our imaginations are so closely connected to our emotions so I wanted the audience to make that connection for themselves. I decided to have the birdie hit the ground and explode into feathers, this is an image that we’ve seen in cartoons.
LBB> Aesthetically, what were you aiming to achieve with this film?
Adam> I wanted to draw the audience in with the images, I knew if the audience was mesmerised then they would read the statistics. That is why we shot most of the film on the Phantom.
LBB> I imagine a fair amount of post was involved - can you tell us about that process? Who did you work with and what kind of challenges did you encounter?
Adam> Editor Dave De Carlo at Rooster Post took care of all of the post work on the project, and it was significant. Dave and I met months before we went to camera to chat about the creative possibilities. What he was able to bring to the project was huge, and really lead the way to many of the best shots in the film. Dave will humbly refer to himself as a "button pusher", but those buttons are nothing without his magic fingers. We were also lucky enough to bring on Andrew Exworth at The Vanity who brought us those beautiful blues in final colour grading.
LBB> You're more often a production designer - how did you find the challenge of turning your hand to direction? Is it something you practice often or was it more a spur of the moment thing?
Adam> Working as a production designer has given me the knowledge of what the process is. Writing a spot, creating a shot list, organising a production, that all feels second-nature. The biggest challenge for me was learning the language to communicate with the actors. Not only what to say but how to say it. This was my first opportunity to direct, and I look forward to doing more work like this in the future.
LBB> What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Adam> The biggest challenge for us as a production was getting our day. We only had one shoot day and a lot to cover and shooting with the Phantom Camera eats up a lot of time. So, our Kris Belchevski and I decided early on that we would use the court as a studio, we split the space up with some black and used one half of the badminton court for actor action and one for the Phantom studio. And then for 12 hours we ran - actually ran - back and forth between the sets. It was a great experience.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Adam> Make your windows Birdsafe! It’s super easy! As the father of one of our actors said, "I hope the day doesn't come to when I can't find a song bird to shoot.” He’s a nature photographer.
For more information about any of FLAP Canada's activities or BirdSafe® information, we invite you to visit www.birdsafe.ca.