Bird swarms as an essay film

by Lutz P. Kayser


These aesthetic, almost meditative flight manoeuvres are art! In a poetic way, the film leed us to the exhilarating world of swarms of starlings, which have been documented from close up for weeks.

CHF 11’807

102% of CHF 11’500

102 %
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The «all or nothing» principle applies: The project only receives the funds if the funding target is reached or exceeded.

52 backers

Successfully concluded on 30/11/2018

Aesthetic swarm intelligence becomes a poetic intoxication in the short essay film

An existing, about 10 minutes long raw sketch of the short essay film still needs a lot of love and devotion for the fine tuning, so that I can correspond to the flying arts of the starlings with my film. Yes, the film also becomes a declaration of love.

For this fine-tuning, I’m now talking about license fees for the soundtrack, costs for digital mastering with exposure, color and sound design, as well as the very time-consuming viewing of the film material of the 300 or so clips that have now been produced, their selection, and the exact film cut. My goal is to make this short essay film so good that it is accepted at many film festivals and reaches a wide audience after only one year of work on it.

These swarmrs of birds are art! They manage without a boss starling. They are carried out by thousands and thousands of starlings, purely impulse-driven, chaotic and yet highly disciplined, supple, rapid and completely peaceful.

Many know these incredible flying skills of the starlings and admire them on TV or Internet. But please imagine, there are these works of art in the sky on your doorstep and nobody notices them! That’s what happened last autumn in Huningue, just outside Basel. Significantly, the starlings are also not perceived in everyday life. I.e. by ever fewer nesting opportunities and a shorter becoming food chain their existence decreased in Europe by approx. 30 - 70 % (depending on source) in the last 30 years - species extinction before the entry door.

Starling swarms land on Philip Glass

In the tradition of the authentic author film I already produced about 20 Super-8 short films at the end of the 1990s, mostly essay films, as an autodidact myself. That means idea, book, camera, sound and editing were mostly done by myself. Now I reach my limits with my ambitious short essay film about the swarms of starlings at the border triangle. First I was ready for weeks to study and document the habits of the swarms of starlings. Little by little I took up new positions on balconies of friendly neighbours and on roofs of the building shell in order to be as close as possible to the swarms with my cameras. In the course of the year 2018 I made numerous, very targeted time-lapse shots of celestial phenomena, which, in combination with the starling clips, complete the essay character. In the last 12 months I’ve also edited about 20 versions, initially without sound, as I haven’t had the opportunity to concentrate on the sound that I consider to be so important in the film. Until I became aware of a very special soundtrack in the summer. This track fits perfectly with my shots and my ideas of how the film should look. It comes from the famous composer of contemporary music, Philip Glass from New York, from the legendary essay and avant-garde film Koyaanisqatsi from 1982. I would hardly have dared to dream of using this music for my short essay film. I now have the final confirmation from the label in New York for the worldwide film rights to the track’s film festivals. Some of my film friends advised me not to use this track for my essay film, because it is so well documented by the original film, Koyaanisqatsi. But I free myself from it. Nor do I want to make a «little Koyaanisqatsi short film», but rather offer my essay film and the swarms of starlings the best possible.

Thank heaven ... and now I need you!

As a freelance photographer and as an independent artist and short film maker, I am used to conceiving my projects in such a way that I can handle them on my own. The photo exhibition «Schwärmen von Schwärmen» in the Stellwerk Basel Galerie at the beginning of 2018, for example, was of course completely financed by myself. You can expect that. The short essay film presents itself differently. Here I have an unexpectedly large number of high-quality clips that I have not even been able to concentrate viewing on until today. I am very happy that the film rights for this track were promised to me by Philip Glass, which is both an honour and a challenge for me. That’s why I want to put all my meticulousness into the post-production so that I can mount my recordings exactly to the track. Although I consider the license fees to be very friendly and comparatively low, and the management rates them as non-profit art films, they present me with new challenges in addition to the other posts. For example, the very time-consuming viewing of film material and the selection from the 300 or so clips that have now been produced, the time required for the conceptual preparation of these selected sequences, the costs of digital mastering in terms of exposure, color and sound design (in addition to the music, other elements such as original tones are included), subtitles and the image-accurate film editing. I also have to retrofit hardware and software.

In the wonderful case that I reach my goal here and receive further amounts beyond 100%, I would even get closer to my planned immersive installation from the starlings. That would be heavenly :)

So with every franc / euro you help me to realize this short essay film so well that it will find its way to film festivals worldwide.

Thank you so much for your support!