Private Project

Dead Bird Don't Fly

Forced into an American high school by her parents, an isolated foreign student becomes attracted to her only friend, her female English tutor.

  • Charlie Sporns
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  • Charlie Sporns
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  • Jason Lawton
  • Noviandra Santosa
  • Charlie Sporns
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  • Chen Chen Julian
    Key Cast
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  • Lee Chen
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  • Eli Jane
    Key Cast
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  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    14 minutes 58 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 18, 2014
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    Chinese, English
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Cannes International Film Festival Short Film Corner
    Cannes, France
    May 13, 2015
    World Premiere
Director Biography - Charlie Sporns

I am a Canadian writer/director based in Los Angeles, where I recently received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in filmmaking. My last short film, "Dead Bird Don't Fly", which I wrote, directed, edited, and scored, is debuting its festival run at the Cannes International Film Festival's Short Film Corner and my upcoming feature film "Dad's Letters" is set to be shot in China in late 2015.

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Director Statement

My initial image for "Dead Bird Don't Fly" was that of an immigrant family struggling to become American and of a child from that family asking his parents "is it American?" as if to say "is it good enough?". I was drawn to this image because of its naivety and how it portrayed immigrants being at the mercy of the American dream.

The image unfolded into that of a quiet Chinese girl, Mei, who develops strong feelings for her English tutor, Ms. Newman - an impulse linked to Mei's need to identify herself amidst a cultural rupture between herself and her family. Feeling betrayed by her mother and suppressed by her father, Mei, alone, seeks affection from her only friend, Ms. Newman.

"Dead Bird Don't Fly" became about identity versus personality - 'who you are perceived to be' versus 'who you actually are'.

Looking back at all these choices, I sometimes wonder how I - a 25 year-old, Caucasian, straight man - ultimately wrote a story about a 16 year-old, culturally-conflicted Chinese girl exploring her homosexuality.

An obvious fascination with Asian culture and cinema explains my attraction to the foreign aspect of the film. Residing in the United States as a foreigner, I have grown up with the sentiment that the American dream was the height of all accomplishments. I therefore relate to Mei's family, seeking what is best for their daughter. I also understand Mei, who is relatively unaffected by the superficiality of the American dream, and who rather chooses to cling onto her Chinese roots, because that is how she learned to identify herself.

As for Mei exploring her homosexuality, I was drawn to it mainly because of how impossible her love fantasy would be to fulfill within her environment and native culture.

Finally, the title "Dead Bird Don't Fly" reflects Mei's inability to thrive within American culture ("flying") because her sense of identity has been shattered ("being dead"). The deliberate misspelling is intended to evoke detachment with regards to Mei ("the bird") from an onlooker's point-of-view. Because Mei does not fit into the culture she is in, a judging onlooker from this culture can very bluntly describe Mei's misfortune without feeling compelled to word his sentence properly. She is no one without her identity.

I hope you enjoy "Dead Bird Don't Fly" as much as the team and I did making it.

Thank you very much for your time,

Charlie Sporns