Onscreen, James Bird’s Eat Spirit Eat is a story about missing fathers, ad hoc families and a tight-knit group of amateurs fumbling their way through a movie. Off screen, James Bird’s Eat Spirit Eat is a story about missing fathers, ad hoc families and a tight-knit group of amateurs fumbling their way through a movie. The film follows twenty-something orphan Oliver trying to meet his actor father by casting him in a movie staffed by a hastily-assembled, family-like team of film-amateur friends. It’s part screwball deconstruction of the film industry, part twee wish-fulfillment fantasy of a boy looking for a father but finding a family in his friends. Writer/Director Bird knows both well; he partially based the film on growing up with an absentee father and, like Oliver, staffed it with his own tight-knit cadre of under-experienced friends. Bright Wall/Dark Room spoke with him about families – real, fictional, natural and otherwise.
BW/DR: You are touring with two very different movies you wrote that shot within a year of each other: Eat Spirit Eat and the straight-laced Danny Glover romance, Chasing Shakespeare. Eat Spirit Eat seemed to be a lot more personal, which is an odd thing to say about a movie with a zombie robot. Is it strange to transition between the two?
JB: Well actually, I write so much now. I really love to explore all different genres. The first one I wrote was a sci-fi. And then Chasing Shakespeare, a love story, and then Eat Spirit Eat, a comedy. I just wrote an action one. They all kind of follow the same message, that what matters most is friends and family. But I love to explore all kinds of ways to tell a story.
BW/DR: Are you going to keep writing in the cameos? You showed up as a reporter in Eat Spirit Eat and in Chasing Shakespeare.
JB: I’m actually going to try, if the movie doesn’t suffer. I’m not going to just throw a reporter in there, but-
BW/DR: You just wrote an action movie. You can blow up.
JB: Yeah, action movie for sure. I’ll be reporting during a shootout and have my head shot off. I’ll definitely kill myself off in that one. Read more…