David Reviews

 "You're not an artist, Peggy. You solve problems." Don Draper.

IVAN BIRD'S NEW MOXIE PERCH.
21 January 2020

Ivan Bird has had two overlapping careers in the world of filmmaking, and they've both been highly successful. Nonetheless, he's such a modest and unassuming man that the idea of being interviewed put him a little out of his comfort zone. When DAVID sat down with him a while ago to talk about his career and his move to Moxie Pictures, we ended up talking about anything and everything else before finally making him the centre of the discussion.

Ivan Bird was such a successful and happy cinematographer that he initially resisted the opportunity to direct. It was Donnie Masters at Serious Pictures who eventually persuaded him to give it a go, but only after a lot of persuasion: "I kept telling him, 'I've got the best job on the set' but he was quite insistent and he kept that thread going."

That conversation came at an interesting moment in Bird's career. He had recently completed cinematography on Jonathan Glazer's 'Sexy Beast' and that created opportunities for him in Hollywood. But working on a feature film had taken a lot out of him, and helped him recognise how much he loved working on commercials: "When you're on a film, it's three months and the politics are quite involved." While the world of advertising is hardly without its political machinations, at least those difficulties – when they arise – are short lived, and Bird clearly enjoys bouncing from project to project.


I kept telling him, 'I've got the best job on the set' but he was quite insistent.

 ”

Even as a cinematographer, Bird had enjoyed the interaction with actors… often providing a conciliatory contrast when working with directors who favour a robust approach: "sometimes the director would be beating them up and it would be like 'good cop, bad cop'!"


While he knew what to expect on set, the big surprise was the realm of "pre-pre-production". Naturally shy, he was horrified to routinely find himself sat in front of twenty expectant agency and client personnel eagerly awaiting his breakdown of storyboard. It didn't put him off… but it was a close run thing.


When we go abroad, I'm quite a cheap bet. One room. One restaurant bill. Two jobs!

 ”

Having worked a great deal with Danny Kleinman and Ringan Ledwidge as a cinematographer, it was easy to accept their offer when they invited Bird to join Rattling Stick's roster of directors. And there he remained for twelve years until his 2019 switch to Moxie Pictures.


While at Rattling Stick, he would still occasionally light commercials for Kleinman or Ledwidge. Like other directors with his background, he almost always does his own cinematography. DAVID puts it to him that this makes him exceptionally good value and he laughs in agreement: "When we go abroad, I'm quite a cheap bet. One room. One restaurant bill. Two jobs!"

Like all the best directors, he's still learning... and, these days, that's often about operating on a shoestring: "I did a Land Rover thing for the Red Cross, which absolutely was an eye opener. It was a tiny, tiny little budget. I had a 1D. It was a 4K, but it's still an SLR. You know, bag of lenses. Nothing. Nothing, and you just live on your wits. I enjoy that!"


Bird feels that his shyness is a useful tool when it comes to directing performances. For the second time, he mentions how ruthless some directors are in their treatment of actors, and you can almost feel him cringing at the memory.

This is not his approach at all… as a shy man, he has great empathy for the self-consciousness of acting. He mentions a famous footballer who – despite a lot of time in front of the camera – remains extremely shy. Working with a director who understands that, as Bird does, is much more likely to yield the right outcome.

It's also about respect… Bird mentions an A-list actor whom he has worked with: "You don't turn round to him and tell him that you didn't like the way he did it. Apart from anything else, the way he performs is what they're buying into in the first place. It doesn't make sense to try to change it."


It was clearly a wrench to leave Rattling Stick and he plainly still has huge affection for everybody there. But twelve years is a long time for a director to stay at any given company, and he is relishing the opportunity to prove himself all over again at Moxie Pictures:

"They're just a great little company. They're very tight, a small little unit. Very small office. No pretences. No big presence at Cannes or the Soho Festival, or whatever's going on. There's no big presence anywhere like that. It's just the work."

Speak to Monica Bertei for all things Moxie on 07889 704892 or via email on monica@moxiepictures.com.

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David Reviews - Lovely Lenzie Ltd, Woodbourne House, Seven Sisters, Lenzie, G66 3AW. Telephone: +44 141 776 7766. Editor: Jason Stone.