Short of the Week

Early Birds

12-year-old Mila has a secret crush on her 40 year old neighbour and coach, Sam. When she finds out that he’s moving away to Italy for at least a year, she conceives a plan to go with him.

Created whilst studying MA Filmmaking at The London Film School, Jeroen Bogaert’s understated short Early Birds is a film that challenges its audience to ask the difficult questions, instead of providing them with easy answers. Focused on the unusual relationship between a 12yr old girl and her 40yr old coach, as the neighbourhood in which they live starts to scrutinise their connection, Bogaert’s well-judged film cleverly touches on a sensitive subject without ever stepping into controversial territories.

In an age where people are afraid that any interaction with a child, not of their own, may get you labelled a pedophile, Early Birds taps into this heightened state of anxiety with a restrained and thought-provoking narrative. Inspired by actual events surrounding pedophilia, the director admits his story was influenced more by how a nation responded to these media reports, rather than the actual details of these incidents. Allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions about the relationship between Mila and Sam and why the latter plans to leave town, Bogaert knows exactly the right amount of information to present his viewers, so they can form their own opinions. Speaking to Short of the Week the filmmaker acknowledges just how important this equilibrium is – “Right from the beginning, I knew the film needed a subtle balance between what the audience is presented with and what they fill in. Too much of one or the other would break the tension that we were trying to create.”

As you would expect from a film scheduled to play in our #longshort Saturday slot, Early Birds is over 20-minutes in duration and adopts a more leisurely pace than you would usually find in the films we showcase on our site. Discussing how he felt his film would translate to an an online environment, Bogaert was keen to stress that his approach to the pacing and content of Early Birds was strongly impacted by what not only what he feels works in film but also what he appreciates. “I enjoy films that are set in a compressed time and space. Even features. It gives you the possibility to truly focus on the here and now. I like the silly things people do, the awkward moments. The moments of silence. My true enjoyment watching a film is seeing a relationship develop between characters, not necessarily huge plot twists or set pieces. Although there are filmmakers that I admire and who do this very well. We were making a short film, with all it’s limitations of time and money. I thought we could best use this to our advantage by hinging the whole film on one pivotal moment in these characters lives: the morning of Sam’s departure. The challenge was to keep this interesting. Keeping the world and the scope of this story very small, I believe helped us to create a lot of ‘value for money’ so to speak. I would assume the internet is far less patient and more fleeting. We’ll see. Maybe the festival run has given the film a certain amount of ‘credit’ which in turn will draw new audiences to come and see it online. Let’s hope so.”

Whilst we agree that many films of a longer duration and slower pace don’t automatically work online, we also feel that if you devote the time and attention to these engaging and sometimes challenging pieces, like Early Birds, you can often get the same rewarding experience as you would at a festival. You might not have anyone to share your immediate reactions and interpretations with…but heh, that’s what Short of the Week is here for.

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Editor on Short of the Week | Cohabiter on Directors Notes | Communicator at @kung_fuelvis
  • bob the moo

    (SUGGESTIVE SPOILERS) For me it is the ambiguity that works best…so we start to think about why Sam is leaving etc, then we start to make assumptions about that based on nothing more than the fact that an adult man and a young girl seem to have a friendly relationship despite not being related….so we become part of the thing that has probably led to Sam leaving. I liked that it left it almost totally open – although it didn’t need to drop ‘that’ word in the middle…it was clear enough without having it spelt out by the use of that word.

  • Angus Bell Young

    It’s an interesting film.
    Really well shot, indeed. What it’s lacking is the protagonist’s clear goal; what does she want. Mila doesn’t get what she wants- which is the man? turning this into a tragedy where our protagonist doesn’t change. This is a french expressionist film and for that in itself, it’s well done.

  • Jeanette

    I agree, this film is undoubtedly interesting. As per your comment, I don’t see the connection to how the film is made and french expressionist film. Would you mind elaborating a bit?

  • Angus Bell Young

    Strictly not French Expressionism in the traditional sense of the term, however the film homages the structure of that style. Especially considering it’s a European film and not an American film.

  • Jeanette

    It seems to me the film exhibits traits of Realism. I’m having trouble understanding what it is what you mean by French Expressionism in regards to the film. What qualities does the film possess that leads you toward that conclusion?

  • kung_fuelvis

    Couldn’t agree more Bob, it’s definitely the ambiguity that works best in ‘Early Birds’ – I think how we read the on-screen situation and pace of the film provides a good opportunity for us to reflect on how we view we people in real life.

  • Drew Maitland

    Very interesting short. Congrats to the crew and cast on the results. I don’t think it should be labelled as bluntly as it is being labelled. It does ask all the right questions at a time where most of us would feel uncomfortable in that situation or would draw the same conclusion if we saw a man in the company of a child who is not his own. I understand the French vibe from the film. It is structured around dialogue and long takes that give the viewer time to draw conclusions or attempt to predict possible conclusions. However, maybe he was exposed as having an inappropriate relationship with Mila and shunned from being a coach that forced him to leave town. Who knows?