The Making of ‘As Small Birds Play’ Film

Composer Corrina Bonshek and film-maker Rachael Jones teamed up in November 2012 to create the music film As Small Birds Play for Centennial Park’s 125th Anniversary.

With support from Centennial Park, Rachael flew down from Byron Bay to Sydney and created the short film over 7 days.

This is how they did it.

First came the music…

Corrina: I wrote the music for As Small Birds Play back in 2010 as tribute to one of my favourite walks through Centennial Park, where you can listen to the birds singing and watch the play of dappled light through the paperbark trees. The music mimics the movement of little birds, but also took the point of view of a person relaxing, watching the birds, and falling into a state of deep relaxation.

Back then, I had no idea of it being the basis of a film, or even being performed in Centennial Park. The piece was commission from Sydney bassoonist Sophia Rhee. Later, I arranged it for Sydney clarinettist Sue Newsome who premiered the Clarinet and Bass Clarinet versions in 2012. Her beautiful rendition of the clarinet version formed the basis of the film.

Then came the film…

Rachael: Before I even touched the camera, the music had instilled me with beautiful imagery that I then had to work out how to capture. The park did the rest. I found those moments of playfulness with the birds, stillness and meditative beauty that being in those surrounds can give you.

Corrina: It was so important to me that Rachael come and experience being in Centennial Park before she planned her shoot. Centennial Park is a place that is very special to me – I go there regularly to appreciate nature and think up new musical ideas. I knew that she’d get visual ideas just by being there.

Rachael: At first, I was apprehensive about completing a whole film in seven days (shooting and editing) but deep down I knew that Corrina, a fellow creative, was 100% correct in saying “wait till you get here”.

Rachael: It was because Corrina’s music was so evocative of her moments of reflection and bird watching, and generally just being in the park, that along with her guidance (which she was reluctant to give too much of), that I knew exactly what to do with the camera. In my mind, the visual had already been created the moment Corrina played As Small Birds Play, I just filled in the gaps! I think that a successful film clip makes it seem like the visuals were conceived at the same time as the music.

Corrina: At first I was surprised at how central the music was to Rachael’s creative process. But in retrospect, it makes perfect sense – Rachael has directed and edited a number of music videos (for indie musicians Luke Yeaman and Scarlett Affection) and is very experienced at coming up with a visual narrative that complements an existing piece of music. Often with film, things work the other way round. The film comes first and the music is written to go with it. It was a real privilege to watch Rachael come up with a visual narrative that really honoured the musical one. What was especially wonderful for me was that her strong appreciation of, and understanding of music, meant that we had a common language with which to bounce around ideas! A composers’ dream!

On the screening in Centennial Park…

Corrina: There is something lovely and very appropriate about having a work that was inspired by Centennial Park premiered inside Centennial Park! I feel like the audience is getting a chance to see and experience the source of the work’s inspiration at the same time as they experience the final work, all on the same night!

Rachael: It’s been an honour to absorb myself in Centennial Park’s beautiful surroundings, to watch the birds play around me and to bask in the stillness of a park that is in the middle of a large city. To have the final product shown there is like coming full circle, and it’s really an honour in itself.

Happy 125 years Centennial Park! May future generations enjoy relaxing amongst your trees for many years to come.

To watch other films by Rachael Jones visit her vimeo showreel.