The Birthday Player is a poetry movie based on a poem by Ksenija Pavlovic. It is the part of the new exciting Public Pool poetry project that publishes the best poets of today from Geoffrey G. O’Brien to James Franco.
Ksenija Pavlovic, Poet & Executive Producer
I am interested in searching for new forms of storytelling and turning poetry into movies. In my creative process, I take emotion as a point of departure. I consider a poem to be an emotion in a frame. The Birthday Player is sort of self-inscription: autobiographical in intent and documentary in form. The kind of poetry I am doing is “Autobiographical Fiction“.
The Birthday Player allows for cinematic symbolism. Elements that I have used in my poetry film allow for certain visual language that would not really work in a feature film unless we were shooting the specific scene in the screenplay. The protagonist in The Birthday Player goes around New York City with balloons. Who goes through the city with balloons? What is the point of these balloons? Poetry allows for that image. It is symbolic of the emotion and the tone and the persona I wanted to depict, and it is an interpretation of reality, it blurs the lines between fiction and what is real. In that sense, my work is contemporary but also experimental. I am very attracted to this form of storytelling and critics say that my poetry is very cinematic and it reads as a screenplay.
Filmmaker Catalina Ramirez Chavez immediately understood my vision and from writing down the first notes to scouting for locations to actual filming to post production, the whole process unfolded organically. I am an author with a very specific vision as to what I want to achieve and having a crew of strong and talented individuals pushed each one of us to give the best from ourselves to tell the poem in a truthful way to the way it has been written.
It was important for The Birthday Player to have an original music scores so I called the British composer, Rupert Cross. He was at that moment in L.A. very busy working on the Kanye concert at the Hollywood Bowl and we were on deadline. So he told me he will compose the music on a plane from L.A. to London which he did. Rupert perfectly understood not only my poem but also this eerie vibe of New York City where the protagonist played by Nevena Pavlovic is all the time surrounded by people but actually alienated and alone. Rupert is a spectacular composer, he immediately felt that the mood of night time New York felt best suited to the electronic world. Authentic narration of Stephanie Machado young actress of Yale School of Drama stroke the right tone and accurately voiced what I have written.
Nevena Pavlovic: Protagonist
The Birthday Player is a modern poem with the unique author’s voice, already cinematic in the way it has been written. It explores a new genre and a new form of communicating poetry with the viewer.
I enjoyed filming which was very challenging and demanding because of the location and unpredictability of NYC. Filming on the streets of New York was at the same time liberating and demanding to control which made it even more beautiful and special.
The Birthday Player portraits an isolation and solitude of a woman in a megalopolis. The protagonist is searching for meaning, love and connection while holding on the identity like holding on to balloons that can fly away at any moment if the wind blows slightly harder. It’s a constant battle between being secure and untamed and always on the splitting point between brute reality and fiction.
Nevena Pavlovic is an Opera Singer and a Principle Soloist of the National Theater of Belgrade. She holds MMus from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Pavlovic made her American debut in the summer 2015 in the National Opera Centre of America performing the role of the Countess in Marriage of Figaro under the conductor Benoit Renard directed by award winning director Louis Walker.
Alongside operatic roles Pavlovic has performed widely in concert and recitals in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Serbia. Some of the concert includes: National Opera Center in NYC, Burgh House in London, Lauderdale House in London , Christ Church Spitafields in London , St Giles Church in London, Hayd Park Chapel in London , Proms at St Mary church in Henley on the Thames and many other venues.
Nevena lives between London and Belgrade.
Catalina Ramirez Chaves : Director
“The first time I read the Birthday Player, I felt like I could instantly see the images coming out from my mind, like I connect so much with the emotions and suddenly I was visualizing every word and feeling every shade of it.”
Catalina Ramirez Chaves was born in Cali, Colombia. Winner for best director of the 48 hour film project at Colombia, she has been a director of many short films including, Being Carla, Los Segundos de Alicia, The Birthday Player and Galactic Love. She has direct many fashion films as wells with brands such as Zara, Polite, Armani, among others. She has been an editor for 4 years, working in projects such as Crossroads in Belgium with Lawyers without Borders and the miniseries Outpost with Univision Networks. She is currently working at the international sales department at Magnolia Pictures and focus on writing her first feature length movie. She believes in love, declares herself as a feminist, a red lipstick enthusiastic and Colombian coffee lover.
Rupert Cross : Composer
“When I compose for film I am always guided by narrative and character and this was no different. Here these elements were so strong, as was Ksenija’s clear instruction, that I found writing for The Birthday Player to be very straightforward indeed.”
Rupert Cross studied music composition at the University of Southampton with Michael Finnissy where he won the Lytell Prize, the Edward Wood Award and achieved first class honours. He received a scholarship from the Laurin and Arthur Glaze Trust and the AHRC for postgraduate composition study with Julian Anderson at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he achieved distinction.
Between 2010 and 2015 Rupert worked as an Assistant and Music Programmer for Patrick Doyle at both Shepperton Studios and 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles for the films Cinderella, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Brave, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Thor, La Ligne Droite, Sarajevo and Sir Billi the Vet, the documentary Jig and the concert pieces Impressions of America and Tam O’Shanter.
Rupert has written music for works at the Barbican, Pleasance Theatre, Arcola Theatre, National Theatre Studio, B.A.C., The Old Vic Tunnels, Silk Street Theatre, The Albany Theatre, Camden People’s Theatre, New Wimbledon Theatre, Ovalhouse, The Place: Robin Howard Dance Theatre, Resolution! festival, Latitude Festival, the New Music Festival and The City Of London Festival. He is also Composer-In-Residence for Sketty Theatre.
His work was also performed at the Festival Internazionale della Musica in Milan by Jarvis Cocker, Badly Drawn Boy, Marianne Faithfull and the London Sinfonietta. He orchestrated the song ‘Learn Me Right’ by Mumford & Sons for the closing credit sequence of Brave. In 2015 he orchestrated the entire Kanye West album 808s & Heartbreak for full orchestra with Rosie Danvers for a concert with Kanye at the Hollywood Bowl.
Since 2013 Rupert has regularly collaborated with DJs Tim Paris [Marketing Records] and Ivan Smagghe [Kill The DJ/Les Disques de la Mort] on albums, singles and remixes. His first album with Tim Paris, entitled Music for Film, TV & Radio was released on Magnetic Records in 2016, while a second album is to be released on the Village Green label in the summer. He will also be releasing an album with Ivan Smagghe later in the year under the name Smagghe & Cross.
His remix of Manureva by Alain Chamfort with Ivan Smagghe was used in the Chanel Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2016 by Karl Lagerfeld. He has also composed for films and collections of the designer Brooke Roberts.
He has written original scores to the films Some of Us directed by Toby Clarke and Calm directed by Kwame Lestrade.
The Birthday Player
Tonight, J is sleeping alone
In the tallest building on Manhattan.
Whether he likes it or not, whether I like it or not
He will make up my next big American thing
Fancy terrible, fancy raisins terrible
Yet a huge hit
We were not quite as good a fit
But novel makes everyone sink
And my life is just that
One true American story
American Psycho and the Oscar winning glory
The zero sum game
His shares fell 30 percent last week but then, who cares?
Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him
What’s gonna be J: “off a cliff, in your new Maserati?”
I don’t remember who invented what
Oh, remembrance is so unnecessary
Wharton, Dartmouth, Columbia, Yale
I am yesterday to him as he was to me
And yet, I am still writing
The American novel Bob Dylan dictated on the velvet floor
Rock and Rolla is my smart
Who cares about the genre?
It could have happened even in the tallest building on Manhattan.
“It’s two minutes to closing, K. What do you want to do? Decide.”
There are lots of buildings
I usually notice the one on 75th Upper East
How I wouldn’t when Hank Moody was there
Witnessing the scene his screenwriter would have wished to have
But I’ve forgotten the scene
I’ve forgotten everything
It was quite striking how I deleted everything that made up
It was a brutal act of detachment,
The future congressman with a hairdresser from LA
Well done, JFK
See you in a campaign
With fake boobs and T.J. Maxx discounted Chanel purse.
But you know I’m sorry.
I could not handle you loved me that much.
I know how to detect when someone is not strong enough
J is strong
Maybe too strong
But J proved to me he has a heart too
It is always the J
Oh please excuse my American predicting
That’s another story
I just know I was animated by him
I don’t get excited about anyone ordinary
High achievers-that’s just what life serves me
Liam and Liam and Rock and Roll suite
The family Forbes
Everything I could not be
We saved the world from the headlines
Can I just keep on being me?
So J, J is peculiar
He could be easily taken for a bully
The manhood and extortion
Quite separating, don’t you think?
“It’s all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation.”
J lives on fucking Manhattan
Oh sorry, this was not indicative enough
J lives in the tallest building of Manhattan
He likes to call girls to visit him in his glass wall apartment
New York beautiful
I am sure Trump tower would have been a strong aphrodisiac
If I haven’t seen it all
If I haven’t had Mark Rothko on the wall
Picasso, Goya, Francis Bacon
Some guy on the match dot com told me I have an expensive taste
But I don’t know if there’s such thing at all
Pi has always been an irrational number.
And J has always been a letter I should avoid.
Still, everyone knows I will soon become a millionaire
I’m going to make you rich, K
I don’t really know what it means, but apparently something huge
And when it’s huge, most likely won’t interest me
But it’ll buy lots of Champaign
Sheep get slaughtered
So let’s just jet away
Happy Birthday to Miss Extraordinaire!
It was quite amazing to know
Valentino and I, we have the same muse
What to tell you world, I always had a good taste in men
Even if they were gay
So let’s go back to J
If I go
If I went out with him, he must be having something astounding
If I am rejecting him, then he must be super absorbed
I managed to ruin a prospect of happiness
But this time it was not only me
J was a complicit in crime
Then he said we were not a good fit
Wish you well and all that crap
Oh, how happy I was to hear that
One new mischance prevented
But who would want to look for a superior enlightenment.
Pi called yesterday to see if I am well and in a need of anodyne
Never before Pi used the word anodyne
Pi knew where I was getting
But J was smart to save me from it
J was in fact very honest
So I told him I appreciate it.
Yes, I mean it,
I learned this from the Forbes Man
“Dad isn’t on the Board of Directors of *that* company”,
“I’m hot on this stock. It’s ready to take off.”
“Having sex with her was like reading the Wall St Journal”
”We are not here to indulge in romance and fantasy”
“We’re all just one trade away from humility”.
Oh well, Oh well
So it’s the day of my Birth
If I was less of me I would be celebrating with J
But I took a good care it won’t happen
He took a good care it won’t happen
Why to celebrate life in the tallest building in Manhattan
I already burned down the one in Spain
But I’ll change
It’s time to change
No one would want to be alone on his birthday
Life is making copy of everything
I am this transformative force
I change wonders in people
You know, sometimes I miss you.
But free market doesn’t match sentimental
“If you want a friend, get a dog”
“You can call him Greed or Nostalgia”
“I showed you how the game works, now school’s out.”
My way or the highway: is that an American saying?
I keep him out of the abyss.