Songbird (2020 film)
Songbird is a 2020 American dystopian science fiction thriller film based on the COVID-19 pandemic. It is directed by Adam Mason, who wrote the screenplay with Simon Boyes, and produced by Michael Bay, Adam Goodman, Andrew Sugerman, and Eben Davidson. The film stars KJ Apa, Sofia Carson, Craig Robinson, Bradley Whitford, Peter Stormare, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Walter Hauser, and Demi Moore.
|Directed by||Adam Mason|
|Edited by||Geoffrey O'Brien|
|Music by||Lorne Balfe|
The project was announced in May 2020, with screenwriters Adam Mason and Simon Boyes having come up with the idea in March, shortly after the pandemic stopped all film production. The cast joined in June, and filming took place around Los Angeles over July and August. It was the first film to have production following the shutdown.
Songbird was released through premium video on demand on December 11, 2020, by STX Films. It was overwhelmingly panned by critics, who considered the film fear-mongering propaganda and said it did not take advantage of its premise, although Stormare's performance was praised by some.
By 2024, the COVID-19 virus has been mutated into COVID-23 and the world is in its fourth pandemic year. In the United States, people are required to take temperature checks on their cell phones while those infected with COVID-23 are taken from their homes against their will and forced into quarantine camps, also known as "Q-Zones" or concentration camps, where some fight back against the brutal restrictions. In these camps, the infected are left to die or forcibly get better.
Nico Price, a motorbike courier with immunity, due to the fact he was infected with the virus, is in a virtual relationship with Sara Garcia, a young artist living with her grandmother Lita whose lockdown prohibits them from physical contact. Nico works for Lester, who specializes in delivering packages to wealthy individuals. One of their biggest clients is the Griffins, Piper and William, whose daughter Emma has an auto-immune disorder. William is a former record executive having an affair with May, a singer who makes a living online selling covers of classic songs. May develops a bond with Michael Dozer, a disabled war veteran who works for Lester as a drone operator to keep track of their couriers.
One night, Lita begins to show symptoms of COVID-23 while the "sanitation" department, led by Emmett Harland, is forcing Sara's neighbor Alice out of her apartment after she becomes infected. Harland warns Sara that their apartment building has seen a rise in infections. Sara informs Nico about Lita's condition, leading Nico to spend the night by Sara's apartment door. In the morning, Sara passes her temperature check, but Lita fails hers. Nico promises to keep Sara from being taken.
Nico contacts Lester to let him know that he's aware they are transporting illegal immunity wristbands. Lester tells him the Griffins are the ones selling them. When he goes to their house, the Griffins give Nico the phone number of their supposed supplier. Nico ends up meeting with Harland at a warehouse, revealing it to be a trap which Nico escapes.
As Sara is waiting for Nico, Lita dies. The "sanitation" department arrives to bag Lita and detain Sara. Sara knocks out one of the members and takes his hazmat suit before escaping the building. Harland and his team ultimately catch up to Sara, where he notes that Sara has yet to show symptoms of COVID-23 despite her exposure and is therefore immune. Sara is detained shortly afterwards.
William demands to see May again, but May continually refuses, claiming she recorded him offering her an illegal immunity wristband. Piper overhears William's phone call with May and kicks him out of the house. William leaves to silence May, which Piper calls her to warn her about. May asks Dozer if she can stay with him, which he agrees. When trying to leave, May's car won't start. William arrives and tries to kill May, but Dozer uses a weaponized drone to kill William and save May.
Nico returns to the Griffins and confronts Piper, who says she was concerned Nico was trying to expose their illegal business. When Nico says he's only interested in saving Sara, Piper finally agrees to help and gives him a wristband for Sara. Nico returns to Sara's apartment to find Harland, who tries to attack Nico but is ultimately killed by Nico in self-defense. Nico finds Sara's cell phone with a picture of the containment van and its tail number. With Lester and Dozer's help, Nico races to the Q-Zone before Sara can be taken in and is able to slip her immunity bracelet on her in time to be scanned, saving her from quarantine. As they embrace for the first time, Sara tells Nico she is truly immune.
In the aftermath, Piper and May frame William and Harland as those responsible behind the sale of illegal immunity wristbands. May and Dozer begin a virtual relationship. Nico sends Lester his own immunity bracelet as thanks while he and Sara ride up the Pacific Coast Highway.
- KJ Apa as Nico Price, a motorcycle courier.
- Sofia Carson as Sara Garcia, Nico's love interest.
- Craig Robinson as Lester, Nico's boss.
- Peter Stormare as Emmett Harland, the head of the Los Angeles "sanitation" department.
- Alexandra Daddario as May, an aspiring singer.
- Demi Moore as Piper Griffin, William's wife and Emma's mother.
- Paul Walter Hauser as Michael Dozer, a drone expert who uses a wheelchair.
- Bradley Whitford as William Griffin, a former record executive who is Piper's husband and Emma's father.
- Lia McHugh as Emma Griffin, Piper and William's daughter.
- Elpidia Carrillo as Lita Garcia, Sara's grandmother.
- Michole Briana White as Alice, Sara's neighbor.
On March 19, 2020 Adam Mason received a call from Simon Boyes, who had an idea for a film based on the COVID-19 pandemic. The pair spent the following weekend plotting out the film, pitching their idea to producer Adam Goodman near the end of March. On May 19, 2020, it was reported that Michael Bay, Goodman and Eben Davidson would produce a film about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, titled Songbird. Mason, who co-wrote the screenplay with Boyes, was set to direct.
In June 2020, Demi Moore, Craig Robinson, Peter Stormare and Paul Walter Hauser were cast. In July, Bradley Whitford, KJ Apa and Sofia Carson joined the cast. The cast were remotely trained in preparation for the shoot.
Principal production commenced on July 8, 2020, in Los Angeles. Filming was initially halted by SAG-AFTRA, who granted the production permission to proceed a day later. The film wrapped on August 3, 2020. It was the first film to shoot in Los Angeles during the lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions. The production adhered to safety protocols including regular testing, a maximum crew size of 40 per day, and keeping actors separated. Bay, who was one of the producers, directed the film's action scenes.
In October 2020, Lorne Balfe confirmed to score the film. The soundtrack album was released on December 11, 2020, by Sony Classical. The song "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley, was featured in the film's theatrical trailer. The film's end title, "Kingdom" was released on the same day alongside the film. Performed and written by artist Røyale, who is former lead singer, Roseanna Brown of The Rua.
In August 2020, STX Entertainment acquired distribution rights to the film. The film was released through premium VOD on December 11, 2020, and is planned to be released on a major streaming service provider in 2021. It was the fourth-most rented film on FandangoNow in its debut weekend.
The trailer was released in October 2020, with a poor response from critics and audiences. Criticism was aimed towards the production and timing of release due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as romanticization of the topic, being compared unfavorably to Romeo and Juliet.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 9% based on 71 reviews, with an average rating of 3.5/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Muddled, tedious, and uninspired, Songbird's gimmick never coalesces into a meaningful story about pandemic lockdown." At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 27 out of 100, based on 12 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."
Alonso Duralde of TheWrap wrote "It's not inherently misguided to use a current tragedy as the jumping-off point of a genre movie, but any filmmaker who decides to do so had better create something provocative or interesting or at least competent to justify it." Writing for IndieWire, David Ehrlich gave the film a "D" and said, "For all of its gimmicky appeal, Songbird is bad enough that your entire neighborhood will be able to smell it streaming onto your TV, and it gets worse faster than your nose can adjust to the stench." Korey Coleman of Double Toasted found Peter Stomare's performance humorous, but criticized the overall message of the film, calling it "irresponsible", and noted the numerous plot holes imbued by the love story which overtook the entire premise.
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The SAG Low Budget Agreement applies to films with budgets between $700,000 and $2,500,000
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