Birdemic: Shock & Terror shouldn’t exist. Not that I wish it didn’t exist, I am totally glad that Birdemic got made. I just believe it shouldn’t exist, as in it isn’t supposed to exist. Its existence is naturally incongruous with the rest of reality surrounding it, it doesn’t fit in, it is an anomaly of film. Birdemic is a glitch in the cinematic operating system, a filmic dispatch from another reality where everyone is insane. The film portrays a completely new understanding of plot, dramatic structure, acting, character development, sound mixing, and the purpose of special effects, questioning the very nature of what makes a film a film.
I am not pioneering anything by discussing the strangeness that is B: S&T’s existence. I am not the first one to wonder at its being and attempt to unravel its mysteries. The film has been covered in the New York Times and other “real” news outlets. It has a Wikipedia page. It has been fodder for late-night dorm room viewing for around two years now. Birdemic: Shock & Terror is already legend.
So it is not breaking new ground to point out that the opening sequence’s music is like being in the most overdramatic elevator in the world, that characters do things with seemingly no motivation, and that its titular birds are explosive for some reason. It is adding nothing to the conversation to discuss the inanity of the title (the second half of the word “Birdemic” as found in words like “epidemic” and “pandemic” is from the root word from Greek “demos” which me means “people,” so “Birdemic” really means Bird People). All the commentary on Birdemic has already been made.
But last week Birdemic reentered the global consciousness in a big way: a teaser trailer for the sequel Birdemic II: The Resurrection 3D was released.
Excited, I got in touch with Alan Bagh, portrayer of Birdemic: Shock & Terror main character “Rod.”
Rod — as he proclaims in a monologue that would fit in well in an ITT Tech commercial — is a software engineer cum software salesman, and a successful one; at one point he makes a sale for exactly one million dollars (the entire company subsequently sells for exactly one billion dollars). Early on, Rod falls in love with a fledgling model. Their romance takes up the first large chunk of the film until birds start killing everyone, exploding, and vomiting acid.
Alan and I spoke over the phone as he was getting ready to attend ComicCon the next day.
Aside from Birdemic Alan will appear in Ghost Shark II: Urban Jaws, and was an extra in an episode of Parks and Recreation. See if you can find him in this image, hint: he isn’t Adam Scott…
My goal was to shine some light on what it was like making Birdemic, and to glean some Baghian insight into the film’s themes, production, and fame-related aftermath.
Portable: So, lets start off with some fun stories from the set.
Alan Bagh: I’ve got two actually. When we shot the movie it was all guerrilla style, and I remember one time we were shooting at Half-Moon Bay on Highway One, and you know all these cars are driving back and forth, and it’s this scene where we find these kids under the car and stuff, you know, and we’re holding guns and stuff like that, and people are looking at us in fright and like thinking it’s for real and stuff, and its really funny. We shoot there for like 8 hrs, and like after 8 hours, I don’t know how we got away with it, three police cars come out of nowhere, and they pull out their guns, and they’re like ‘Drop your weapon, drop your weapon!’ We all got scared and dropped our weapons like, “It’s not real, its not real! That’s a pretty terrifying moment from shooting Birdemic.
P: That’s great, I can’t believe they took that long to get to you.
Alan Bagh: Yeah, yeah. Then another time is when I — you know when the birds drop acid on the people at the bus? I got to be the guy that threw the acid on them. It was actually Sunny D and some dry ice. I got to throw it on the people.
P: Yeah, of course I remember that scene. Iconic. What’s the significance of that liquid? Why did they vomit that?
Alan Bagh: You know? I don’t even know, to tell you the truth. You gotta ask him [director Nguyen, whose interviews are way more enigmatic than this one] about that.
P: So did you and the cast have to double as crew like that often?
Alan Bagh: Yeah, me and Whitney did a lot of the crew stuff, there were times when we had to hold a boom between our legs when we’re doing a scene. We kinda did everything really.
P: Was it hard reacting to the to-be-added birds that you couldn’t see?
Alan Bagh: It wasn’t that hard pretending there were birds coming at us, but we weren’t expecting the birds to just be standing in one spot like that, I thought they were gonna come at us and we were gonna hit them and you know, knock them out or something, like they were coming at us but I guess he didn’t have enough money for the technology.
P: Yeah, how did you feel about the final product with regards to the “technology?” How did it feel watching the director’s cut considering the work you’d put into the film?
Alan Bagh: You know what? For how much money we put into it, I thought he did a pretty well job. I mean it’s his first time editing anyway, so he did a pretty good job, and I’m still shocked on how well its doing and how people are reacting to it, and how much they enjoy it, and finding it very entertaining.
P: So it was a surprise to see how well it’s done, how popular it’s become?
Alan Bagh: Yeah it was a surprise! I didn’t know there was that kind of niche, for people that liked that kind of movie. I was always used to watching big blockbuster hits and I didn’t really pay attention to the independent film genre area. I was really surprised how big it is, especially overseas too.
P: What niche would that be? What kind of movie?
Alan Bagh: Its cult-classic followers, you know those kinds of people.
P: So if you had to compare director Nguyen to another director, who would that be?
Alan Bagh: (laughs) No comment.
P: Come on, there’s no one you think he works similarly to?
Alan Bagh: Oh, actually? Alfred Hitchcock. Yeah.
P: How did the casting process go for this thing? Was it very competitive?
Alan Bagh: To tell you the truth I got lucky, he just called me one day, he found me online, I had an online profile at nowcasting.com, and he called me out of the blue like, ‘Hey man wanna audition for my movie?’ So I said, ‘yeah’ and I came and auditioned. It was kinda weird ‘cause I auditioned at a high school. I just did a monologue and two hours later he called me back and said ‘Hey, you got the job.’ I was really excited because it was my first time being the lead in a film.
P: How did you feel when you first saw the script? What did you think of it?
Alan Bagh: You know what? It was kinda weird. He didn’t actually give us the full script, he’d always give it in thirds or like the night before. He was just afraid. He was trying to keep the movie and the plot a secret. So he never actually gave us the whole script. I guess he didn’t want the plot to leak out. I think he was afraid because he had other actors before us, and they flaked out on him, so he were probably afraid they were gonna steal his idea or something.
P: Did Nguyen use the same method in producing the sequel?
Alan Bagh: They actually gave us the full script this time, so it was a little bit easier, but same style of writing, so you know… (sighs).
P: Birdemic has a great environmental message: the birdemic is caused by global warming and pollution. Are you worried about those things?
Alan Bagh: You know global warming is coming, it’s getting hotter every day, the sea is rising, there’s a lot of environmental issues happening that didn’t happen 50 years ago, and due to us with you know greenhouses and other stuff is causing it. Yeah we should limit what we do with greenhouses and other things like that, so that you know…
P: So if global warming did cause a birdemic in real life, do you think you’d survive?
Alan Bagh: In real life? Yeah I would actually. Yeah, I’m a pretty strong and casual guy. And I definitely know how to use a gun.
P: I loved the trailer for Birdemic II, but it was just a teaser. What can we expect from the actual film?
Alan Bagh: Expect a lot of suspense, it’s gonna be exciting and entertaining. It’s gonna be awesome. I like it very much. A couple of old characters are back, such as Damien Cotter, and you know he’s got a new song so it’s gonna be pretty awesome. I can’t talk too much about it because you know…
P: Of course, of course. But how about your future? I know you recently appeared in Ghost Shark 2.
Alan Bagh: I already shot it, I’m not sure, I guess they’re in post working on probably the CGI or something. I’m not sure, haven’t talked to them in awhile. I know they’re almost done with it. I already shot my scene. They liked Birdemic, and they asked me to be in the movie.
P: So what are some dream projects of yours? What would you like to get involved in?
Alan Bagh: Oh thats a good question. I wouldn’t mind being in Hunger Games 2, or 50 Shades of Gray would be cool. Actually what would be really awesome — man I should’ve told my agent! — would be Top Gun 2. I just saw that was in development. That would be an awesome movie to be in.
P: Any dream directors you’d like to work with?
Alan Bagh: Martin Scorsese. He’s always got some cool movies. Yeah Scorsese would be awesome.
P: Did Scorsese’s work influence your decision to become an actor?
Alan Bagh: I’ve always wanted to act. I’ve always had a passion for it, and I just decided to do it, and I guess I’m doing really well with it.
And thus our interview concluded, and I am now able to watch Birdemic with new eyes, and with a new understanding of what goes into the making of a film of Birdemic’s calibre.
Alan asked me to advise readers to follow him on Twitter, @alanbagh, but I don’t know if he needs the extra followers, he seems content: “@alanbagh: Today is a gonna be a great day. Got over 800 followers. What next?”
What next indeed, Alan. What next indeed.
Sean is a freelance writer and Birdemic fan in New York, you can find him on Twitter, @snmrrw.