EXCLUSIVE: With the major studios still sorting through COVID-19 safety protocols with the guilds, they haven’t been able to get any feature productions up and running here in Southern California.
However, independent productions, such as Invisible Narratives and Catchlight Films’ pandemic thriller Songbird starring KJ Apa, Sofia Carson, Demi Moore, Paul Walter Hauser, Craig Robinson, Peter Stormare, Jenna Ortega, Bradley Whitford and Alexandra Daddario have by comparison, been easier to mount. The movie was shot in less than 20 days around Los Angeles in downtown, the Beverly Hills Post Office area and Bel-Air.
“I think it’s footprint is what makes it easier,” says Invisible Narratives’ co-head Adam Goodman about making Songbird fly.
“The physical production departments at studios are the single-best problem solvers of anyone in the industry. So, if anyone can figure it out, it’s the teams at the studios and streamers. They have all the resources, abilities, and creativity to do it. The problem is that they’re making movies that employ hundreds of people on any given day and independents films have the advantage, not because they’re more nimble, but they’re more nimble because of their size. And I think size is going to make the amount of productions be accelerated because everyone is experimenting, which is daunting,” adds the former Paramount Motion Pictures Studios president.
“Invisible Narratives as a business was already going down the road of figuring out how to have more agile productions with smaller crews that would really capture more authentic-style content. So, when the pandemic did hit, we were in a really good position because we used what we already identified what would have happened outside the pandemic to get this production up and running during the pandemic,” adds Invisible Narratives co-head Andrew Sugerman.
Development and pre-production for Songbird started at the same moment on the sci-fi-natured movie which takes place a number of years in the future during pandemic.
Told from street level through the eyes of the characters, Songbird takes place two years into the future, as a lockdown has been re-implemented after a more serious virus continues to mutate. In a feeble attempt to keep the sickness contained, the city has been bisected into haves and have nots. Songbird follows an essential worker (Apa) who has a rare immunity, a delivery man who delivers goods and hope throughout the city. Like the vast majority of the population, his girlfriend (Carson) is locked within her home, and the couple have no ability to physically be together. To be with the one he loves, he must overcome martial law, murderous vigilantes and a powerful, well connected family, helmed by a matriarch (Demi Moore) who will stop at nothing to protect her family and maintain her way of life.
“Adam Mason and Simon Boyes, our director and writer, came in with an idea and it just felt so urgent and so compelling and weirdly possible to make during this time simply because it was about capturing the moment in time that we’re living in,” Goodman tells Crew Call.
The shoot separated the crew into three zones, A, B, and C with cast and ADs, and cinematographer falling in the first zone. Testing was more frequent for those in zone A –3x a week– with zone B being 1-3x a week, and zone C, which was largely those working in trailers and base camp, being once a week. The crew at any point in time was no bigger than 30-40 people daily. Listen to our conversation with Goodman and Sugerman below on how they shot this movie under COVID-19 safety guidelines:
STX recently picked up North American and UK rights to Songbird.
“The movie is a story about Los Angeles, during these times,” says Goodman.