Strength and fragility are explored in a new short film A Summer of Birds. Inspired by lockdown, it’s not a lockdown story, but one that explores the ways we start to see things differently when we slow down.
A Summer of Birds, which will premiere at the Plymouth Fringe Festival, is a co-production between Devon-based writer Laura Horton and Cornwall-based director and digital producer Heather Pasfield. We caught up with Laura as they were finishing off their editing and preparing to incorporate the music by Stefan Fletcher.
“It’s our first film and I think we were being a bit ambitious to make a 20-minute film,” Laura told D&CFilm. They’d finished filming the previous week.
Pre-pandemic, neither the story nor the early dive into filmmaking was something Laura expected. Initially, she had submitted another piece of writing to the Plymouth Fringe Fest, but that was before it changed into its new post-pandemic format.
“The original monologue that I’d written was 65 minutes and wasn’t going to be quite right. I came up with another idea and thought that film was the best way to do it,” said Laura.
“I’d always wanted to make a film, but I thought that was something I would do 10 years down the line, not at the moment. It’s a new process for me, and it’s been incredible. I’m really glad we had such a short time to write it and to film it. Making mistakes as we go has been really useful. I would definitely like to make another film and there are so many things that I’ve learnt about collecting sound.
“The way that we’ve shot things and writing the script – it’s a very different way of writing between film and theatre – it’s all been a very steep learning curve.”
With the film crewed by Heather and Laura, they found locally-based actor Holly Kavanah for the role of Kitty.
Filming took place safely under social distancing conditions and was shot where the story took place, in the South Hams, where Laura stayed with her parents during lockdown.
“A seagull started to come up to where we were living,” said Laura. “Mostly the seagulls had disappeared because there was no one else around. And she just couldn’t open her right wing. Over a period of two months she would come up and we would feed her – either at breakfast or dinner time, and she would sit and watch the sunset and then toddle off.
“It became really poignant. It had an emotional impact on all of us. I think that’s because it was about fragility and during a pandemic you’re really aware of your own fragility.
“It’s a lockdown story, but I didn’t want to directly talk about lockdown – I wanted to write a story to reflect what it felt like.”