Only the young, it seems are immune to ageing. And it’s the effects of ageing and capturing those life changing moments that is at the heart of the new film Songbird, which was shot in Cornwall.
Directed by Cornwall-based filmmaker Jamie Adams, and starring Cobie Smulders, Songbird is going on an exclusive release, along with a few Q&A presentations with the director.
The Filthy Dukes
Songbird follows Cobie Smulders as Joanne Skye, lead singer of once popular 90’s indie-rock band The Filthy Dukes. They’ve been on the road since 1996, and find themselves struggling to sell out 150-capped venues. The band falls apart and so does Joanne. She bumps into an old friend, Sara (Jessica Hynes) whilst drowning in her sorrows, and the night ends with Joanne drunkenly applying for university. University isn’t quite what Joanne expected – far less wild partying, and a lot more yoga and kale.
It’s an experience that echoes with the director, Jamie Adams, who has shared a few words with D&CFilm.
“I moved my family to Falmouth – it was an easy decision as we love Cornwall and I knew the Head of Film School at Falmouth University. I was planning on taking a year or so out of making films and get involved with the guiding of the next generation of filmmakers. What actually happened is that they guided me straight back into making my next movie.
“I loved my days at university – it was the late 90’s and everyone was mad for it. This was the most time I’d spent in a university since then, and something was different. It took me a few weeks and then I realised that hardly anyone was hungover… And instead there was a Falafel van and a lot of Kale on offer in the cafeteria. This is 2018 and not the 90s – students love kale, yoga and smoothies. Gone are the days of lager, lager and ‘eating is cheating’.
“I was feeling old. I didn’t understand the new generation; they were alien to me. The Head of the Film School, Chris Morris, who I’d known since my own film school days said that I should keep exploring that feeling. It took me to thinking about ageing and about arrested development – adults growing up in an environment that keeps them young, in mind anyway.
During this period, I’d been in touch with some of my Britpop heroes, and those experiences led me to imagining what they would do if they had to stop touring. Some of these musicians just can’t stop the routine of heading out on tour a few times a year – even while their audiences are getting smaller and smaller.
“It was amusing to me that if a Britpop star was told enough is enough by the other members of the band that they’d freak out and be at a loss as to what to do with their life. And that an interesting scenario would be for them to consider heading to university in search of another three years of partying without consequence! Except of course when they are there they find out the reality is rather different. And that this leads to forming a new relationship with someone of the same age, giving a sense of maturity in their time there.
“The idea struck a chord with Jason Maza of Unstoppable; he was literally the first person I went to with the idea and our joint enthusiasm led to a pretty quick turnaround from idea through to production. Falmouth Film School also got behind the development of the film, with initial discussions leading to casting.
Rock star charisma
“I’d recently watched Results, the Andrew Bujalski movie. I loved Cobie’s performance in that movie. I really didn’t think that she’d be interested in coming to Cornwall for 5 days to shoot an improv-feature film. A big cardboard cut out of her and Tom Cruise was in the foyer of the local cinema, and then I saw her again in the Intervention and knew it had to be Cobie. She has that rock star charisma, she is an incredible actor and she has a natural wit and intelligence. I also noted that she had roots in England and hoped she appreciated Britpop.
“I got the email that she was intrigued and her team set up a Skype call. We had a conversation in the early hours of the morning – 3am to be exact – whilst Cobie, in a hotel room in Shanghai, was being prepped for the day of promo ahead as part of The Jack Reacher 2 World Promo tour which was in full swing.
Cobie on board
“And then it happened – Cobie jumped on board.
“Two months later we were in production – the Songbird shoot was one of the most collaborative and fun shoots for me. Working with a new DOP in Bet Rourich was a great new challenge; we hit the ground running and made the most of the locations and available light within the very tight schedule.
The ensemble cast were just so gracious, smart and funny; it really was a joy to work with this talented group. I felt as though Cobie brought a level of craft that raised the bar for me. My improv-led process continues to develop with each new film and working with Cobie Smulders truly opened my eyes to what can be achieved with the right pacing and rhythm of performances during the shoot, as much as the edit.
“Songbird is about a successful artist in their mid-thirties having to come to terms with the end of an era, but looking to the beginning of the next. In many ways, my own growing pains as an adult are mirrored in this journey… To have arrived in Falmouth (and Penny) and become a part of the university life there, led to a crisis of confidence – that I’m getting old, out of touch even! Songbird is an awkward, endearing, funny exploration of that stage in someone’s life when they reach a certain age and stop to look around, and notice that they don’t recognise much about Youth Culture anymore. That they are focusing on other things now, are grown up and there’s no turning back. But that this is okay because acknowledging this means they can engage in the present and not keep looking to the past for glories. They can now make the best version of themself, making sure the experiences they now have are savoured.
Outside the bubble
“In the end, Joanne and Pete are going surfing in the US. They have fallen for one another and want to spend more time with each another, without any huge declarations of love and marriage. Acknowledging that they both need to get out of the university bubble and continue to spend time hanging out together.
“It’s such a pleasure to have created a movie that has this concept at its heart, but ultimately plays as a story of taking time to really know yourself… Of engaging in meaningful conversation with those closest to you from time to time. It’s about self-discovery and self-esteem, yet Songbird is also a very funny buddy movie!”
top image of Cobie Smulders in Songbird. Courtesy of Andrew Wright
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