Heartbreak and the ways in which we deal with it is a rich and well-trodden path, so it is always a treat when we come across a freshly delivered perspective, as shines through in comedy short ‘Pigeon’. Directed by Kiki Allgeier, founder of creative production company Go Parachute, the US-based filmmaker was looking for a new challenge and immediately felt a connection with the script written by acquaintance Elizabeth Hamilton. ‘Pigeon’, set at that time of year when we are told we must be full of glee, follows our protagonist Liz, deftly played by Larisa Oleynik, who is ploughing through the all-too-relatable slog of a heartbreak until she unwittingly finds solace and connection with a wounded pigeon. The writing by Hamilton is snappy and acerbically funny, and Allgeier masterfully guides us through a comedic portrayal of the ebbs and flows of the life of a woman in her forties, dealing with heartbreak, an absent father and the general challenges of adult life.
I come from documentary so the respect and importance of working with someone’s story is deeply ingrained in me.
I love the exploration of the loss and heartbreak in ‘Pigeon’. Where did the idea come from?
The film is a true story about our writer, Liz Hamilton. The experience she had with the pigeon named Liz moved her to write this film with all its parts; the humour, darkness, and raw humanness of it. When I read her script, I knew I had to make this film and we did.
How did you go about convincing Liz that you were the right person to direct the film?
Liz and I went to dinner and told her what I saw in her script. From the start, our ideas about ‘Pigeon’s’ meaning and tone were very in tune with each other. I used to live In NYC and this movie is a very New York story. In my mind, there is no way to make this film unless you are or were a true New Yorker, this was a very big part of my pitch too. The roll out of events that transpire in ‘Pigeon’, truly could only happen in that city. I mean, where else would a wild bird hospital be open that late, the night before Christmas Eve? I also created a visual treatment of how I would bring the film to life, and our film looks very much like it.
As this project was so personal to Liz, what was the collaborative working relationship like with you two throughout the project?
It was very close. I come from documentary so the respect and importance of working with someone’s story is deeply ingrained in me. This was no different, so having Liz by my side was crucial to the process.
How did you move into the production and how long was the process?
I believe that when a creation is ready to be realized, all things align – and they align quickly. The most important piece of this puzzle was finding the right actress to play Liz. One of my trusted collaborators suggested the idea of working with our mutual friend Larisa Olyenik. After speaking with her there was no doubt that she was who should play Liz. Once she agreed to come on board, things took off and we were shooting in less than a month. The film Gods were good to us and the rest of our puzzle fell into place. For post production, I have a team of creatives and friends that I’ve worked with for many years. We speak the same language of film and together the edit, music composition, and color grading emerged very organically.
From when I came on board to our premiere, the whole process of creating this film was a year. For Liz, this has been a much longer since this story is hers. Synthesizing it into a script and then trusting me and my team to come on and make it with her took years.
Larisa is just superb and perfectly embodies the tragedy, humour and lighthearted tone – how did you work with her to bring out this performance?
Honestly, I didn’t have to do much having an actress like Larisa in this role. We talked a lot before we shot about how the humor of this entire film was locked in it being real. Life is funny even when it’s sad and horrible. If we let it be real, then the rest would unfold. And Larisa is as real as it gets.
Did the film change at all during the shooting or post production form Liz’s initial script?
We made a few small changes from Liz’s initial script. Only one scene really became its own thing while shooting, but for the most part, everything there was there from the beginning.
The score, opening and closing sequences have a retro vibe to them which fits with the comedy – what was behind this decision?
My brilliant friend and editor Sean Leonard has a true talent for finding the right song to convey a message without hitting it too hard on the head. He puts an extensive amount of effort into this step, and we listened to a lot of tracks until we both couldn’t live without Keely Smith’s version of ‘I Wish You Love’. In my everyday life, I tend to have a retro vibe in a contemporary world. I also work with key people that share this sensibility, namely Sean and also our Costume Designer Vanessa Gonzales. I think that retro but contemporary style comes through in Pigeon’s costumes, and in New York itself. When shot right, New York is classic, existing right now in this moment, and also of another time. It’s threaded through, and the music really completes it and makes it whole.
What do you hope for your film?
I hope our film plays in as many festivals as possible. I hope that all the creative minds and gifted humans that participated are recognized for their great work. I hope that from this, we can all continue on to work together again and again because of our collective success in making a film that is meaningful, darkly funny, and real.