Indie Film of the Day: Wendy McColm’s ‘Birds Without Feathers’
Today we’re shining a spotlight on the incredibly talented Wendy McColm. The amazing creative is a Los Angeles-based Writer/Director and all-around expressionist, living and creating in light of authenticity. She had acted in shows such as Community and How I Met Your Mother as well as having work that ranges from collaborating with and helping to reinvent brands like H&M, Saks 5th Avenue, Coca Cola and &OtherStories. She’s created a prolific number of short films with over 50 being posted online. Birds Without Feathers marks McColm’s inspirational debut feature film.
Birds Without Feathers tells the story of six emotionally damaged individuals desperate for human interaction who risk self-respect and shed their disillusionment in a last grasp for happiness. In a cruel-world comedy populated by struggling Instagram stars, Russian cowboys and self-help gurus, lives collide and crash in astounding ways.
Still on the fence, here’s what people in the biz are saying about her work
(Wendy) “..makes awkward funny…uncanny…a fascinating exploration of the awkwardness of searching for identity in isolation. “
–Dan Metz, Downtown
“The central tension in Birds Without Feathers is brilliantly realized through its authentic portrayal of inauthenticity.”
“The structural genius of Birds Without Feathers plays out in the characters’ seemingly chance encounters with each other. The story moves forward through constant introductions and reintroductions, continually resetting the stage and providing the cast with a fresh audience to win over.”
“I felt immersed in every second of the film. Watching is the type of experience that invites you into a dreamy departure from narrative norms and never gives you a reason to look away.”
“In the end, the experience that moved me most about the film is how effectively it held up a mirror to me.”
— Nate Biehl – Medium
“…there’s a universal truth behind its eccentricities that makes it a compelling watch…McColm has something to say, and she says it clearly.”
— Ernesto Zelaya Minano – Screen Anarchy
“McColm possesses a keen sense of style, especially for a first time director.”
“There’s so much that’s relatable and revealing about Birds Without Feathers, it seems like it’s unnecessary to present the Feathers.”
–Charles Trapunski – Brief Take
“Quick cuts, repeated spoken phrases, a mix of handheld and more artfully composed stable shots, and a score that recalls the self-referential romance of the French New Wave all combine in a heady mix of cinematic innovation that feels fresh because it is.“
“It’s a wild ride. Embrace it.”
“McColm has a deft touch with actors (including herself), camera and editing.”
“McColm announces herself as a bold new director.”
“With evenness of tone and vision, McColm announces herself as a bold new director, and I hope this marks the beginning of many equally fascinating films to come.”
–Christopher Llewellyn Reed – Hammer To Nail
“Birds Without Feathers brings a subtle and dark comedic voice.”
“McColm’s direction stands out”
“Keep an eye out for more from this interesting group of content creators.”
–Kimberly Pierce – Geek Girl Authority
We were delighted to speak to the genius behind this new movie.
Tell us about your history as a filmmaker. How did you start your journey?
It all started on a VHS tape in Long Beach making fake commercials and talk shows- then plays, and then finally film at around the age of 20, when I met my first DP and discovered a lot of classic film. I had an overdrive to create and made over 50 short films and several commercials before doing the feature – which this story is a definite nutshell.
Who are your current influences?
Robert Altman, Elaine May and looking into Lynch more since people seem to compare our work- super honored about that one.
What five TV shows do you think everyone should watch this year?
I don’t watch… TV (sigh) the ocean is a good tune in though.
Cat or dog?
Kitty (that’s his name)
What was the one movie you saw that made you want to go into film?
I have to say there were probably multiple, but a huge memory I have is of Edgar Wright at comic con showing the Scott Pilgrim Trailer- it was like a camera dollying in on me saying “How did he do that?” And then I went deep into exploring more of his work and other filmmakers like Bergman
How was working on Birds Without Feathers? What did you learn from the experience?
I learned, do contracts first, always. And I learned that you really can make a movie with sheer will power. I also learned it’s okay to ask for help.
Tell us about your career before you found film.
I was a working actor, moved to LA (from Long Beach mind you) to pursue becoming a star. In that pursuit, I achieved many dreams, including being on television, but in that I found making films has always been in my soul.
Where did the concept come from for Birds Without Feathers?
Abuse. Being asleep my whole life then getting the rude awakening that I never truly knew how to respect myself or have healthy boundaries. So, in the midst of losing my soul, to try to grasp onto something, I made a feature film. It empowered me and let me speak artistically and with humor about losing one’s self. Of course, being disillusioned I also masked it with humor.
What music inspires you to create?
All music, typically Spanish or classical- words sometimes need to be lost to feel.
Talk us through your creative process.
My creative process always changes per project. If you get an idea or thought, write it down everywhere, anyway you can – don’t ignore it – this is your higher self-speaking, and I believe in that is a creation if you don’t block it with fear.
What tips do you have for new filmmakers?
Know you are a gift as you are always as you are now.
What part of filmmaking do you geek out about the most?
Ah! Haha when I can tell the director took a risk! God damn it can be the worst thing ever, but my soul jumps out of its chest when it happens.
You’re very hands-on with your projects. How hard is it wearing all the hats?
I love hats!
But really, hm, I think wearing hats is a protection for me as a human. So, it’s natural and not too hard- it’s actually harder for me to trust people. I would rather start trusting people and work with a solid team who I can allow to lift me too. I found a lot of those people on Birds Without Feathers and I’m so happy to know on the next project there will be that opportunity to grow and trust.
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’ll say two: Persona and Punch-Drunk Love
(ah and 3 Women!)
What’s your next project?
It’s called Fuzzy Head and it’s a psychological thriller about a girl who is running from the shame of killing her mother.
Starting production in December 2019. Investors come at me
Have you worked with mentors in the past?
Janicza Bravo and a few others. It really helped me as a filmmaker to see I wasn’t the only person who cared so damn much about a prop super far away in the background. Thanks to those directors and a Spike Jonze interaction saying to shoot all you can always- it’s now justified in my heart.
How would you recommend people go about finding them?
Well, I just messaged without shame on social media platforms
What has been your biggest failure?
I mean this is a sad question. Not standing up for myself and credit, because I wanted to be friends with a person. But I guess I had to learn to stand up for myself and not act from shame. So failure? I don’t know if I believe in failure. Just opportunity for growth.
What’s your filmmaking mission?
To create through radical vulnerability in hopes that others will know they are not alone.
Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your movies.
What has been your biggest success?
Living! And working past fears!
Can we expect to see any episodic television from you anytime soon?
I’ll put it in the universe- yes!
What’s your five-year plan?
To create past all fear. And live free of shame.
What indie filmmakers should be on our radar?
Numa Perrier – she directed Jezebel, and my sister Marian McColm. Duh.
What’s your favorite film of all time, and what did you learn from it?
Persona. Hard cuts.
Who would compose the soundtrack of your life?
Jon Brion, but like everyone says that right?