Earlier this year, on the first day of the COVID-19 lockdown, writers Adam Mason and Simon Boyes spent the day crafting a 12-page outline. The eventual picture that would be born out of the 2020 pandemic would become the action-thriller Songbird, which chronicles the lives of people just trying to survive the film’s near future scenario. But it wasn’t always supposed to be that way, at least according to co-writer/director Adam Mason. In fact, the struggles of this Michael Bay-produced film were going to be much more monstrous. Literally, there was going to be a monster in the world of Songbird’s initial premise.
As I was speaking with Adam Mason on behalf of CinemaBlend, he revealed this fact to me during the press day for Songbird, and at first it was in passing. When someone tells you a “Cloverfield-style monster movie,” you think that maybe they’re talking about a found footage thriller with people in hazmat suits being the menace. But as Mason further clarified, he was literally talking about some sort of creature being involved, as laid out below:
Originally we were going to do it as kind of a Cloverfield-style monster movie, set during a lockdown and pandemic. … it started out as a monster movie, where we kind of turned the virus itself and this thing that literally all of us are going through worldwide, simultaneously, into the metaphor of a physical monster, roaming around Los Angeles.
So instead of the COVID-23 virus, and the bureaucratic fright/commentary it inspired in Songbird, what was actually going to be stalking the streets of LA wasn’t Peter Stormare’s slimy villain and his Department of Sanitation goons. It was literally going to be a monster that could stalk around and pick off its victims. The prospect, as interesting as it sounds, eventually wasn’t meant to be. The original idea soon changed through a fast and furious outlining process, and Adam Mason eventually shifted to the version of Songbird we can see today. This happened mainly because Mason decided he wanted to tell a very different story, which was spawned through this thought process:
It very quickly became apparent to me that … I wanted to make something that was cathartic. The movie itself is extremely hopeful, you know. It’s a love story, almost like a Romeo and Juliet type story between two people who want to be together, but can’t. So in that sense, it’s the virus that’s just the canvas that the painting of the movie is painted on. It’s not the painting itself. But for me, I’ve been living through all of this just like you have, and everyone else has, and I wanted to make something that was really, really hopeful and really about the triumph of the human race. So yeah, as far as I’m concerned it’s an extremely cathartic movie that is very very positive in its message.
So faster than you could say, “Help us,” the Cloverfield angle was dropped from the picture. In its place came the world of K.J. Apa’s Nico, Sofia Carson’s Sara and all of the other denizens of Songbird’s near future LA, with a more reality-based saga in the offing. Going back to hazmat suits and biological terror as the driving force, Songbird would go on to become a lean, mean Michael Bay-produced thriller, in a script that was written over three days and shot in 17 days.
It’s amazing how fast a movie can come together when people put their heads together. Through Adam Mason and Simon Boyes’ writing prowess, and with some help from Michael Bay’s hands on approach, Songbird became the first film to be made in the new normal. The results are amazing, as it looks like it could have been done before the pandemic, just waiting for the right moment to be released. Which brings us to this weekend, when you’ll be able to see Songbird take flight through video on demand. You might not see monsters roaming the streets of Los Angeles, but you’ll definitely get your share of thrills. And if you’re looking to see what’s coming to theaters or on-demand throughout the rest of the year, you can head to the 2020 release schedule and see what’s ready to entertain you before the arrival of 2021.