Songbird Easter Eggs: 9 Things You Might Have Missed!

SPOILER WARNING - Watch the film before reading this post!

   By now, many of you will have seen Songbird - whether you caught it at festivals, ordered a copy via one of our two funding campaigns, bought a DVD or, most recently, watched it on Amazon Prime. Some of you have kindly told me that you've watched the film multiple times, and I'm really grateful for that. But there are some Easter Eggs in the film you may not have noticed, unless you are as geeky and meticulous as the filmmakers behind the project.

  When I came to make Songbird, I'd been chomping at the bit to make a straight fantasy for a long time, and so the film became full of inspirations from the other fantasy films that I love. The crew also had a lot of in-jokes, some of which had started on previous productions but rolled over onto Songbird, and a few of these were referenced in the film as well. The result of all these elements was a series of 'blink and you'll miss it' moments, which only the eagle-eyed of you would spot.

   And speaking of eagles, that brings me on to the first Songbird Easter Egg...



1) The Eagle (extended cut only)

   One of the most debated elements of The Lord of The Rings trilogy was the eagles; a lot of people questioned why the eagles didn't just fly Frodo and the ring to Mordor - even though that would've made for a very boring story! A lot of our crewmembers were big LOTR fans, so we couldn't help but make comparisons between the eagles and Mickey (Terry Palmer), a man who gives Jennifer a lift to Blackmoor Woods, but then tells her that he can only take her part of the way. To make this comparison even clearer, production designer Charlotte Ball got a little eagle pendant to hang from Mickey's rear-view mirror. This scene was mostly cut from the festival version of the film, but can still be seen on the DVD.




2) Familiar Faces

   When we knew that Songbird was going to be a sizeable production, we wanted to give jobs to as many of our friends and collaborators as we could - and this was reflected in our casting choices. The most obvious example of this is Therese Collins, who ultimately played the villainous Collector, and had also played Alice The Shopkeeper (another supernatural being) in Stop/Eject. Other actors who briefly returned to us were Oliver Park, who played Joel the music producer (and had also appeared in Stop/Eject, as Dan), and Michelle Darkin-Price, as Jennifer's Mum Irene, who we've worked with a few times. These actors only joined the Songbird set for half a day, but it resulted in some lovely reunions!

   (As a result of all these reoccurring faces, it's actually possible to edit together scenes from our films into one long scene. I kid you not - all you need is two scenes from Songbird, one scene from Stop/Eject, and one scene from The Dress. It would be a bit clunky, but I've made sure it's possible - because yes, I am that nerdy and lame, and I like to believe Triskelle Pictures films take place in the same universe!)

   Other cameos were less obvious, but we wanted to feature as many as possible in the crowded bar scenes. Nicky Paul Rollett, who had a starring role in one of our music videos, appeared in a deleted scene in the bar, and members of the crew can also be seen amongst the sea of faces - as well as Michael Muyunda, who appeared in The Chaos and the Calm. And the legs seen walking into the doorway at the start of the first bar scene? Those belonged to myself, DOP Christopher Newman and 1st AD Liam Banks!




3) Early Hints of The Forest 

   From the very start of pre-production, production designer Charlotte Ball and I discussed the idea of adding forest imagery in the 'real world' flashback scenes, to foreshadow the magical journey that Jennifer was about to go on. Some of these elements were more obvious than others, such as a Tree of Life pendant, which Jennifer wears in every scene. We also selected our locations very carefully - and so, for example, in the scene where Jennifer walks down a back alley (pictured above), you see a wild fern growing out of the wall next to her, which is the exact same plant which surrounds her in the showdown with The Collector at the end of the film.




4) We're The Millers

  On the business card Joel gives to Jennifer, you can see that his full name is Joel Miller. This is a reoccurring motif that some of you may have noticed, as it relates to the wider work of the film's writer, Tommy Draper. In almost every screenplay Tommy's written, there is a character with the surname Miller (and also someone called Lolli) - so Joel became a Miller, following the ranks of Mari Miller in Night Owls, Dan Miller in Stop/Eject, Miller the security guard in Lepidopterist, and many more!




5) Record Player (extended cut only)

   This is from another moment which is available to view on the Songbird DVD. For the first scene in Jennifer's flat, we wanted to use set dressing to tell a little bit more about who Jennifer was as a character - a technique I'd used in other films with limited dialogue, such as Ashes. One item which appears is a record player, which was included in the set dressing for two reasons - firstly, it tied in with Jennifer's love of music, and secondly, I have tried to include a vintage music player in every film I've directed or produced since 2011! It's one of my (slightly dorky) visual motifs. This particular record player belonged to Boom Operator Johann Chipol, whose house we were filming in, and is also the exact same record player we used more prominently in Lepidopterist.




6) Dr Draper Will See You Now...

   During the writing stage of the film, we wanted to define a clear-cut moment when Jennifer decided to fight for her voice rather than giving in to despair (which ties in to the idea that the loss of voice was a metaphor for Jennifer's lack of self-confidence); this then leads to the discovery of the magical book, as a reward for Jennifer's courage. We wanted this moment to be brief and subtle, and so we went with the idea that Jennifer spots a poster with a poignant message on it. This poster also gave the opportunity for the crew to have a little bit of fun; Charlotte Ball was tasked with creating an advert for a cheesy self-help book, and she credited the book to a Dr Draper, which was obviously named after the film's writer.




7) Creatures of The Night

   When Charlotte Ball was filling Jennifer's flat with musical-themed set dressing, we saw an opportunity to reference the fabulous music of Janet Devlin (who played Jennifer) as well. In the above shot, you can see numerous framed pictures, including plectrums and other musical items - and the picture just to the right of Jennifer features a sound wave. This sound wave is actually taken from 'Creatures of the Night', one of Janet's early singles, and the most appropriate to the story of Songbird. Fun fact - the crocheted cushions you see in this image (which were available to buy in our second crowdfunding campaign) were actually hand-made by my Mum!


FINAL WARNING: Major spoilers ahead...


8) The Contained Voices

   Ok, final spoiler warning... right towards the end of the film, Jennifer realises that she can lessen The Collector's power by freeing all the voices she's stolen. She smashes the jars which contained these voices, and the sound of singing can be heard, with a different voice coming from inside each jar. Most of these voices were cameos too; the majority of them were artists who featured on the Night Owls soundtrack, including Scribble Victory, Emmie Chadwick and Mike Hardy, and one of the voices also belonged to my partner, Edward Harvey.




9) The Collector Defeated

  And the final Easter Egg brings us full circle, back to another Lord of the Rings reference. Because I was brought up looking at Tolkien-inspired artworks (my Dad had a lot of fantasy art in the house when I was a kid), I think I was subconsciously inspired by 'Return of the Shadow' by Roger Garland when I was storyboarding the final battle between Jennifer and The Collector. The framing of the above shot of The Collector is almost identical to the lower third of the painting, which features a dying Ringwraith in the foreground, with the heroes sailing safely home behind it. Due to the themes in that painting, I think it's a very appropriate influence.


   There were a few more Easter Eggs in the film which you won't have spotted. We had further cameos in the sound design, including the voices of sound editor Robert Brown and myself (sometimes speaking Old Mordor language!), which were heavily layered in the mix, and also the scurrying sounds of my guinea pig, Carlton, who is sadly no longer with us. Charlotte Ball also painted a triskel symbol in the magical book, as part of a page of symbols, in honour of Songbird's production company - but this never made it on screen.

   However, in spite of my love of Poison Ivy, I assure you that I never intended on referencing Uma Thurman when we captured this magnificent shot of The Collector:




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   What did you guys think of these Easter Eggs? Interesting or just plain geeky? Were you already aware of them, and did you spot anything else in the film I haven't mentioned? Either way, I hope this enhances the enjoyment of your next viewing of Songbird - available now on Amazon Prime and Reelhouse!


Sophie


All screenshots from Songbird credited to my amazing DOP, Christopher Newman, and his brilliant Camera Assistant Dave Mullany. Screenshots from Stop/Eject credited to the equally fantastic DOP Neil Oseman, camera assistant Rick Goldsmith and second unit DOP Christopher Newman (again!)

Comments

  1. Since writing this blog post, I've thought of another LOTR reference! This one was 100% subconscious, because I'd forgotten about this shot until recently, but the iconic moment in Songbird when Jennifer lies on the ground is framed very similarly to this shot of Frodo from the 'Flight to the Ford' scene in Fellowship of the Ring: https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v327/ShirelingUK/JOURNEY/CH34/flighttotheford33.jpg

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