Vancouver director takes Love Birds to Sundance

On the set of Love Birds. photo: Waimar Nyunt

Brian Lye is one of Vancouver's talented, up and coming, new film directors. After screening his short film at a number of festivals including VIFF in October 2010, Lye recently found out his film Love Birds, was accepted to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival: an honour seasoned filmmakers dream of.

I had a chance to talk with Lye about his film and what it means to him to be accepted into the big league of filmmaking.


Here's the plot:

A male and a female bird meet and fall in love. An egg is produced and all is happy in the nest until their love is tested and fate comes knocking.

Love Birds is a 35mm short film made by Brian Lye this spring with cinematographer Yana Rits at FAMU, the Czech Republic national film and television school. The film was shot with just 15 minutes of material.

WD: Can you tell us a little about your film and how you came to make it?

BL: The film is a love story set amongst three birds. It's a bit of a dark comedy.

I was at FAMU as a guest student and in my second semester I was approached by cinematography student Yana Rits to write and direct her 35mm final project. I was busy with other obligations but the temptation to make a film on 35mm, (up until now its all been 16mm) was too high so I agreed, and from that Love Birds was made.

WD: What were some of the challenges in making this film?

BL: I think time was quite tough. We had roughly just under two months, from the time I knew we were going to make it to the time we were shooting it, and so in that time everything had to happen: from writing it, to finding the actors, to finding our location, to organizing the gear, all the prep.

So it was tough to be script writing while at the same time figuring out the logistics of it.

I think the script wasn't actually finalized until a week before shooting it: it was mostly there but there were still a few little things to do on it.

Finding actors was difficult because because of the nudity. There were a few who were quite interested in the film but just didn't feel comfortable doing it naked. I think that was the biggest challenge: getting actors.

We cast one girl and the day before shooting, at about two o'clock, she cancelled. She's burned herself at a tanning salon and asked if we could do it the following week, which was quite a bummer.

I kind of thought my friend Maja (Kovac) would be best for it all along but hadn't asked because she was also a film student and busy making her own films. But she jumped in and did it and she did a fantastic job so it worked out for the best: that was pretty lucky.

WD: What were some of your inspirations?

BL: I have a lot of different inspirations. Animation films have been a big inspiration in trying to do like a reverse animation where instead of something like Mickey Mouse where you have an animal acting like a human, you have humans acting like animals to just sort of test what sort of physical boundaries we could push.

I thought it would be funny to have naked people dancing and running around. I just wanted to see a film where we had humans acting as animals. When you look at a group of animals hanging out and try to imagine what their world is like it's interesting to draw that connection to the fact that everything is alive and everything has got something going on in its life. Whether that all gets through to the audience, I don't know.

(Brian Lye and Yana Rits on the set of Love Birds. photo: Waimar Nyunt)

WD: Your film just got accepted at Sundance. What was it like when you found that out?

BL: That was nice! It was the morning of my thirtieth birthday when they called. It was quite a surprise and more so since then. We applied for it but I didn't really know whether we'd get in. I've heard about Sundance more since I've been accepted and it seems to be a bigger deal than I anticipated. The thing I think is best about it, is that for future projects I think it'll give a bit of credibility to me name. Now a lot of other festivals are emailing us saying they want it as well.

WD: What are you looking forward to most with this festival?

BL: I just want to have a good time. I'd like to meet Isabella Rossellini, I'd love to see how people receive our film, and I'd like to see the other films. Just to see how a major festival like this operates because I'm new to it all. I'll be curious to just experience it.

WD: Sundance is a huge stepping stone for anyone. What do you plan to do next?

BL: I'm trying to get started on a documentary on the Uganda skateboard union which is a group that I co-founded in Uganda about four years ago. We built the first skateboard park in the country. I'm just going through all my footage and hopefully... I would love to finish that documentary by the end of the year.

I'd also like to do another short film this year.

WD: Do you have anything in mind?

BL: I have a few ideas. I want to do a kid's story but something adults can enjoy. Something based around the internet, but hopefully something humorous.

WD: Do have a message you'd like people to take away from your film?

BL: I suppose I like the belief that everything is alive: humans, animals, plants, etc. and I'd like people to go home thinking that we all have an animal side in us and animals have a human side in them.


Love Birds stars: Maja Kovac, Bedrich Levy, Jiri Suchy, Karel Zima

For more information about Love Birds and to see a trailer, go to 

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