The Messenger premieres on documentary Channel May 31st

“Birds have something to tell us.” 

THE MESSENGER – A film by Su Rynard

Television Premiere  – documentary Channel – May 31, 2016 – 9 PM EDT

On the heels of a wildly successful North American tour, THE MESSENGER is coming to documentary Channel on May 31st 2016.

With over 100 screens and 25 cinemas in the USA and Canada respectively, THE MESSENGER is an international story with high stakes and global consequences, chronicling the struggle of songbirds as they survive the turbulent conditions brought about by humans. The award-winning film – accolades listed below – mesmerizes audiences with stunning slow-motion sequences of songbirds in night flight, providing a unique eye into the beauty of the songbirds and the messages they carry.

The Messenger is the most scientifically sound and beautiful film about songbirds I have ever seen. Your heart will be opened to their plight, and your brain to the action you can take to help save them,” says Steven Price, President of Bird Studies Canada.

Akin to the disappearance of the honeybee or the melting of glaciers, the film argues that the global demise of songbirds signals an uncertain shift in an already fragile ecosystem. THE MESSENGER explores our deep-seated connection to birds, while warning that the uncertain fate of songbirds might mirror our own.

In ancient times, humans looked to the flights and songs of birds to predict the future, now the songbirds are disappearing at an alarming rate, and this points to changes in our world. Now is a critical time for our climate and ecosystems.” Says Canadian director Su Rynard. “Today, once again, birds have something to tell us, and I wanted to amplify their message.”

The scientists, activists and bird enthusiasts featured in THE MESSENGER bring us face-to-face with the beauty of these airborne music-makers and with the remarkable variety of human-made perils that they face: the destruction of our forests, our lethal architecture, predatory pets, and the alarming use of pesticides. All of these are causing the disappearance of songbirds at a disquieting pace.

documentary channel logo 

“The Messenger is a beautifully crafted film with an important & urgent message. We are really pleased to be the broadcast home for The Messenger; it feels right on doc channel.” Says Bruce Cowley, Creative Head, documentary Channel.

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Accolades for THE MESSENGER include:

  • Best Conservation Film, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, 2015
  • Top Ten Audience Award, Hot Docs 2015
  • Special Jury Award, Visions of Nature/Voices of Nature Environmental Film Festival 2016
  • Special Mention for Best Documentary, CinemAmbiente, Italy 2015
  • Best Environmental Film Prize, Festival de l’Oiseau et de la Nature, Abbeville Cedex/France 2016
  • Winner: Best of Fest, International Wildlife Film Festival Missoula, Montana 2016
  • Winner: Best Theatrical Feature, International Wildlife Film Festival Missoula, Montana 2016
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography in a Feature Documentary, Canadian Screen Awards 2016
  • Nominated for Best Editing in Feature Documentary, Canadian Cinema Editors Award 2016

The Messenger is an international treaty co-production between Canada and France, produced by SongbirdSOS Productions Inc. and Films à Cinq/ARTE.

www.theMessengerDoc.com

To find out how the stunning footage of songbirds in flight was achieved, read Director Su Rynard’s blog post and view a behind-the-scenes video.

For a press kit,  still photography, or to book an interview with the filmmakers or any film participants, please contact Jesse Bondar (jesse.bondar@dotdotdash.ca) (416) 312-0428 or Joanne Jackson (joanne@songbirdsos.com)  (416) 801-1118.

Produced with support from the Ontario Media Development Corporation Film Fund, CBC, ARTE, Canal D and the participation of the Rogers Documentary Fund, Canada Media Fund, CNC, Telefilm International Co-production office, Rogers Telefund, Procirep, Angoa and the Documentary Organization of Canada.  Special thanks to the Canadian Film Centre Documentary Program, NFB, David J. Woods Productions, Hot Docs Deal Maker, Sunnyside of the Doc. International Sales Agent: ZED American Distributor: Kino Lorber, Canadian Distribution: SongbirdSOS Productions Inc. Promotion and  Marketing Assistance by Telefilm Canada.

About CBC/Radio-Canada

CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada’s national public broadcaster and one of its largest cultural institutions. We are Canada’s trusted source of news, information and Canadian entertainment. Deeply rooted in communities all across the country, CBC/Radio-Canada offers diverse content in English, French and eight aboriginal languages. We also provide international news and information from a uniquely Canadian perspective.

The Messenger Nomination for the 6th Annual CCE Awards

It was just over a year ago that we locked picture on The Messenger. Today we are so proud to share this news.

Congratulations to Eamonn O’Connor and The Messenger editing team, Sally Blake, Carole Larson  for their well earned Canadian Cinema Editors Award “Best Editing in Feature Documentary” nomination.  We owe a big thanks to our inspired Editing Guru Ricardo Acosta, our technical wizard Andrew Kines and Mark Alberts for the beautiful graphics and compositing work.

Read more about editing The Messenger in our Director’s blog.

THE MESSENGER Picture Lock: 120 hours of footage – One year later

GO TWEETLESS on April 12

We’re asking people to go tweetless for a #silenttweet hour on April 12th at 12PM EST, which is Bird Impact Reduction Day – show your support!

Bird Impact Reduction Day is part of National Wildlife Week, put on by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which runs April 10th through 16th.

Their theme this year is “Giving Wings to Wildlife Conservation.”

For anyone who has seen The Messenger, you are aware of the devastating number of birds that collide with skyscrapers across North America.

In Canada alone, 25 million birds die from collisions annually.

In The Messenger, we document the important work being done by FLAP in Toronto, to track collisions and improve commercial buildings in order to reduce them.

Michael Mesure of FLAP

Michael Mesure of FLAP

For Bird Impact Reduction Day, the Canadian Wildlife Federation has asked commercial buildings to turn off their lights for an evening to support the safety of migratory birds.

GO TWEETLESS!

On April 12 at 12pm EST, we’re asking people to go tweetless on Twitter with us for one hour for the birds. #silenttweet

What would Twitter be without its infamous songbird? The truth is, songbirds are declining at an alarming rate and indicating something much bigger for our planet. The TWEETS are at risk.

So join us as we recognize a moment of silence for our fine feathered friends.

What can you do to reduce collision deaths? See the full list here.

  • Turn off lights when not in use.
  • Draw blinds and/or drapes when working at night.
  • Urge your building manager to extinguish all architectural, landscape and roof-top lighting during bird migration seasons: March through May and August through October.
  • Apply visual markers to your windows.
  • Place bird feeders 10 metres or more from your windows.
  • Keep your cats indoors.

You can read more about the risks birds face from collisions, and how to reduce them, from the Canadian Wildlife Federation and from FLAP.

Join us for a tweetless hour! #silenttweet

Birdsong: The Forest Bird in Wagners’ Siegfried

The Forest Bird in Siegfried, not unlike today’s songbirds plays a role in warning Siegfried of impending danger.

Birds have something to tell us indeed.

I recently had the opportunity to see Wagners’ Siegfried, one of the four operas that combine to create the epic “Ring des Nibelungen” or Ring Cycle. Wagner took his inspiration for The Ring Cycle from Norse mythology and an ancient German epic called the “Nibelunglied.” The Ring Cycle took more than 20 years to write, and was first performed August 16, 1876.

While I had seen Siegfried ten years ago, the experience was more significant after making The Messenger. What made it so special this time round was the role of the Forest Bird.

The Forest Bird is an actual character in the drama and has its own musical themes. Much of the Siegfried score occupies a somber yet beautiful low, bass tonal range with the exception of the Forest Bird — a musical motif that soars beautifully over the dramatic, emotional music.

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In act 2 Siegfried takes in the tranquility of the forest around him. Here, the audience is treated to a series of birdcalls, which Wagner is said to have modeled on actual birdsong. The oboe plays the first and it is answered by a second on the flute. Next the clarinet takes up a melody. This melody on the clarinet later becomes incorporated into the soprano vocal lines of the Forest Bird character.

bird calls

Humans have been inspired by birdsong for hundreds of years, and there is evidence to suggest that music pre-dates language in humans. In The Messenger we playfully re-purpose the musical motif of Wagner’s Forest Bird. Framed within a scene featuring contemporary techno artist and DJ Dominik Eulberg we created our own unique operatic moment with real forest birds singing along with the symphony. You can watch a short excerpt of the scene here.

 

Once we believed that birds were messengers between humans and the supernatural world. We would interpret the flight and songs of birds to foretell the future.

The Messenger opens with the voice over quoted above. Herein lies another interesting connection between The Messenger and Wagner’s Ring Cycle – as the Forest Bird does indeed have something to tell Siegfried. Like today’s songbirds, who in their very decline warn us of the environmental dangers we all face, the Forest bird warns Siegfried of danger, and by listening to the bird he is saved from a betrayal that would have cost him his life. Birds have something to tell us indeed.

Watch an except of The Messenger with Dominik Eulberg on Youtube.

Sneak Peek Preview: Dominik Eulberg

 

The Messenger nominated for Canadian Screen Award for Best Cinematography in a Feature Length Documentary

Su Rynard, Canadian cinematographer Daniel Grant,  Joanne Jackson and a very stoic (cardboard cut-out) of CSA host Norm Macdonald

The most popular question we get at screenings of The Messenger is how we managed to capture these small and incredibly agile songbirds on camera. The simple answer, if you dare to call it that, is that it took years of planning and an incredible team of hardworking cinematographers. Collaborating with director Su Rynard to bring their shared vision for The Messenger to the screen were Daniel Grant, Amar Arhab, Laurent Charbonnier, Chris Romeike, and Joshua See.
This week, The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television recognizes that work with a nomination for The Messenger in the Best Cinematography in a Feature Length Documentary category at The CSAs.

Messenger Cinematographer Amar Arhab, draining the water out of the water jugs we used as counter weights for our high angle shots, while at the same tie trying to squeeze in a smoke break. That’s the truth of our shooting schedule — we never really stopped moving.

Messenger Cinematographer Amar Arhab, draining the water out of the water jugs we used as counter weights for our high angle shots, while at the same tie trying to squeeze in a smoke break. That’s the truth of our shooting schedule — we never really stopped moving.

Sometimes we had more than one crew filming simultaneously in different locations. Joshua See camped out in the Boreal forest, trekked to Costa Rican coffee farms and managed to capture footage of birds in Toronto, while the main crew was elsewhere.  Check out a previous blog post revealing some of his photography secrets. 

“Filming wildlife, tiny songbirds included, takes a special set of technical skills, nature-knowledge, and patience.” – Joshua See 

 

Camera Assistant Lori Longstaff and cinematographer Daniel Grant filming with Phantom camera inside the wind tunnel at AFAR

Camera Assistant Lori Longstaff and cinematographer Daniel Grant filming with Phantom camera inside the wind tunnel at AFAR.

The task of capturing The Messenger’s songbirds in flight for the film couldn’t have been accomplished without the work of our talented cinematography team, but we also have the scientists and staff at Western University’s Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) to thank. Without access to their expertise and hypobaric climatic wind tunnel we could not have captured The Messenger’s stunning slow-motion sequences of the birds in simulated night flight.

The 800-frame-per-second footage, captured with a Phantom camera by lead cinematographer Daniel Grant and his team became the unifying force for the many stories in our film, and even provided the beautiful photography for our movie poster. You can watch The Messenger documentary crew filming in action at AFAR in our amazing short “behind the scenes” short documentary and read about it here.

And don’t forget to tune in to The Canadian Screen Awards on CBC, Sunday March 13th at 8 pm to cheer on our talented team!

The Messenger is an international co-production between Canada and France.  

Produced by SongbirdSOS Productions Inc. and Films à Cinq.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television has been celebrating Canada’s talented film, television and digital media professionals since 1945. Founded by the academy, The Canadian Screen Awards (Formerly the Gemini and Genie Awards) celebrate Canadian productions and talent who excel in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes. The awards have evolved from humble, pre- beginnings at Ottawa’s Little Elgin Theatre to the star-studded red carpet event taking place at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts Sunday, March 13th at 8 pm (ET).

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