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Interview with 'Birdemic: Shock and Terror' director James Nguyen

One of the animated birds from director James Nguyen's film, "Birdemic: Shock and Terror."
One of the animated birds from director James Nguyen's film, "Birdemic: Shock and Terror."
James Nguyen

When James Nguyen found out a story about his movie "Birdemic: Shock and Terror," was going to be on the front page of the New York Times last month, he was more than surprised.

"I was shocked. I was happy shocked," he said in an interview last week.

That's because "Birdemic: Shock and Terror" isn't the kind of movie that makes it into the New York Times.  If the title didn't give it away, it's not exactly Oscar quality. 

But in the past few months "Birdemic" has been praised in the Times, Entertainment Weekly, and on the BBC, for being so bad, it's awesome.

It's being compared to Tommy Wiseau's "The Room," another film that hit cult status for the same reason.

"Birdemic" is selling out midnight screenings across the country, and will make its Denver premiere this weekend at Landmark's Esquire Theatre.

Nguyen, a software salesman in the Silicon Valley, spent four years and ten thousand dollars of his own money making "Birdemic: Shock and Terror." He wrote, directed, and produced it.

It's the story of what happens when a small California town is terrorized by a flock of homicidal vultures and eagles.  At the heart of the movie, a young couple who tries to fight back.

"My movie 'Birdemic' was partly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock cinema and 'The Birds,'" Nguyen said. "It's a romantic thriller. Tippi Hedrin from 'The Birds' is even in it."

If Nguyen sounds sincere, that's because he is.  And sincerely nice. He didn't set out to make a movie that got attention for being bad in a good kind of way.  And right now he's truly grateful that it's found an audience.

"It was never my intention to make a B movie. I wanted to be considered an indie filmmaker who made a movie that got distribution," Nguyen said. "If it's a cult classic so be it. It's something that just came to me."

"Birdemic" was rejected by the Sundance film festival in 2009.  But that didn't stop Nguyen.  He showed up anyway, screened the film in bars, and tried to find a studio that was interested. He knew it was a long shot.

"It was the equivalent of the Hail Mary in football.  I went to Sundance, decorated my car with blood and a giant bird and drove up and down Main Street blaring bird noises out of a loud speaker.  I got a lot of attention in town.  Three different policemen pulled me over."

He also got the attention of of Severin Films.  The studio bought the movie and decided to market it as a cult classic.  They've already spent more on advertising than Nguyen spent making the entire film.

"Thousands of indie films get made every year and most never get national or worldwide press.  Right now a major Hollywood studio is looking to pick it up for wide release, just like Paranormal Activity," he said. 

"I did it because I love to make movies and I got lucky and it's just evolved and now people like it.  The audience is willing to forgive its imperfections.  I think there's a sincerity to the story and people see it."

According to Nguyen he's also in talks to make a 20-million-dollar sequel in 3D.  He plans to call it "Birdemic the Resurrection."

"Birdemic: Shock and Terror" plays April 23 and 24 at midnight at the Esquire. Nguyen will make a special appearance on Saturday to meet his fans and talk about the film.

For all of the latest pop culture news, please subscribe to the Denver Pop Culture Examiner, and follow me on Twitter @DenverPop.

The theatrical trailer for "Birdemic: Shock and Terror." You won't believe your eyes.


  • bob 5 years ago

    Now here is a total waste of your time. The scene where they fight their way out of the Motel using coat hangers to fend off the attacking birds.
    Stupid movie.

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