They say that one should avoid shooting a film involving animals and children. We have done both to great effect. First of all, our 10 year old star, Connor O’Hara, was a dream to work with. So the myth about the difficulty of working with kids was completely dispelled. Secondly, we had a number of major sequences involving birds: the raven of the title of the film is a significant feature in the story and we have a number of scenes involving budgies.
We were very fortunately to find Marvo and his owner and handler, Richard Cooper. And for the budgies, the prize winning budgie breeder, Barrie Shutt, stepped in and specially bred and trained 3 budgies for the film. We had two days of shooting dedicated to scenes and shots with birds – one raven day and one budgie day. The raven day in particular was a crucial day as it involved shooting some key scenes in the film involving the raven and rowing on the lake at Ullswater. This first Vlog 15 documents what was quite a magical day of shooting by the jetty and on the lake.
Shooting the budgie scenes was much more controlled. The birds were either in their cage, were being handled or were confined to a single room. Nevertheless, having to pull off dialogue scenes involving the handling of budgies was a very interesting challenge.
Working successfully with animals is possible and we had great results. It involved careful planning and realistic expectations. There are other animals that feature in the film, but the birds are most prominent. We were fortunate that we were able to involve Richard and Barrie from an early stage of the project and gain some understanding of the behaviour of the animals. I was then able to build that into the shot planning and the development of the performances and the result will hopefully be a seamless interaction and presence of the birds, characters and landscape.
They say that ravens are the wisest birds. They appear in the mythology of cultures from across the world. I, for one, am very drawn to them and I found it quite an evocative experience working so closely with one.