Windsor rolled out the red carpet Thursday night at the Capitol Theatre & Arts Centre to celebrate the premiere of the locally-shot revenge comedy “The Birder.”
Starring Tom Cavanagh, Jamie Spilchuk and Mark Rendall, with appearances from Fred Willard and Graham Greene, the film takes a look into the world of bird watching while showcasing locations from Windsor and Essex County.
Director Theodore Bezaire, a University of Windsor graduate, began writing the film with Mike Stasko almost eight years ago after Telefilm Canada took an interest in their 2006 Windsor comedy “Things to Do.”
“From day one we’ve had this area in mind for shooting just based on the story and we wanted to tell a story that took place in this region,” said Bezaire, who cited writer-directors Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne as influences on the film.
The birding scenes were shot mostly around Ojibway Park, but Windsorites may also recognize the Sandwich Town area, Fogular Furlan Club & Banquet Hall, Optimist Park and those “Parks & Rec”-stencilled garbage bins located across the city.
Bezaire said the birding world hasn’t been explored very much in films and it can lend itself to some interesting themes and comedic elements.
“Birders are very focussed people. They could be talking to you and they see a bird, you don’t exist anymore,” said Bezaire. “We thought that was kind of a cool thing to kind of lend to our main character of Ron Spencer (Cavanagh) where he’s very focused, but kind of on the wrong things in life.”
Cavanagh’s Ron is a divorced bird enthusiast and high school teacher who is turned down for the head of ornithology position at the fictional Pelee Provincial Park. He teams up with janitor and former student Ben, portrayed by “Childstar” actor Rendall, to tarnish the reputation of Spilchuk’s Floyd Hawkins, the young man who accepted Ron’s dream job.
“I’m the antagonist with a heart of gold and he’s like an impenetrable wall of positivity,” said Spilchuk, known for his appearances in Rogers Wireless commercials. “It was actually an incredible part to play because he is the antagonist, but Tom Cavanagh’s character Ron, he slowly realizes that, ‘Wow, you aren’t the bad guy.’”
Rendall said everyone on set was very passionate about the project and he was able to add some of his own experiences to the film.
“I had been bird watching with my grandfather when I was a kid, so I already sort of knew the stereotypical wearing the vest with the Tilley hat and the binoculars,” Rendall said. “My grandfather was to a T the image of Tom Cavanagh’s character Ron Spencer in this film.”
“The Birder” will premiere in theatres at Lakeshore Cinemas in Tecumseh Friday and run until April 17. Screenings are also expected at Southpoint Cinemas in Leamington.
“Films like ‘Captain America (The Winter Soldier)’ are going to be there for weeks and months,” Bezaire said, “and if people don’t support an independent film like this, ours might not be.”