A New Script from Andrew Mudge
Andrew’s new project is a feature length thriller called STRANGE BIRD. The story is about a teenage drone enthusiast who, with the help of his outcast classmate, reluctantly embarks on a mission to rescue three friends who’ve been kidnapped by the deranged caretaker of an abandoned insane asylum.
The idea of STRANGE BIRD came to Andrew in 2015 when he was flying his quadcopter drone past the boarded up windows of the abandoned Medfield State hospital. The idea that struck him was simple: what if I saw something horrifying through those windows, and then crashed my drone on the roof, and had to figure out a way to get it back?
The Logline: A teenage drone enthusiast, with the help of an unlikely love interest, reluctantly embarks on a mission to rescue three friends who’ve been kidnapped by the deranged caretaker of a long-abandoned insane asylum.
The Synopsis: Kenny Pitts, president of his high school’s remote control drone club, accidentally crashes his quadcopter on the roof of a derelict insane asylum, just moments after the camera captures a few frames of a mysterious and sadistic ritual occurring within a top floor window. After his heedless friends vanish while trying to investigate the peculiar happenings, a terrified Kenny begins to receive hostage videos that seem to reveal the scheme of a deranged night watchman. With the help of a misanthropic yet alluring girl named Neera, and her lethally customized drone, Kenny finally musters the courage to return to the scene of the crime and bring down the lunatic kidnapper.
Writer/Director’s Statement: A few years ago I purchased a quadcopter drone, the Phantom 2, and went looking for a place to practice flying it. I found myself at the abandoned Medfield State Hospital in Massachusetts, its eerie campus sprawling with overgrown lawns and vast empty parking lots. Watching the drone first lift off the ground, with its feverish vibration, and hearing the incessant whine from its propellers, I was struck by something: what an unnerving little robot this was!
Diabolical, you might even say. A character that belonged in a movie. Strange Bird, I thought.
Later, while I was flying the drone alongside one of the buildings, and looking at the camera feed in my monitor, I was struck with a thought that sent a chill down my spine. What if this drone allowed me to see something horrific — truly nightmarish — through one of the top floor windows. And what if, moments later, I crashed the drone on the roof, and I had to go inside that building to get it back…
I envision STRANGE BIRD with a PG-13 rating, with an intended audience of primarily teenagers and young adults. First and foremost, it’s supposed to be fun. In this regard, it fi ts the comedy/horror model in the purest form. But while many films of this genre balance the scary with screwball (SCARY MOVIE, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, GHOSTBUSTERS), STRANGE BIRD’s comedy is darker, more situational. It exploits the minefields of teen angst in a John Hughes/Stephen King sort of way. As in Stephen King’s IT, the innocence of our young protagonists is ruptured by The Boogeyman. Adults don’t help much (Kenny’s parents are never on screen). The kids must face the demons head on. Their ultimate triumph over evil parallels a coming-of-age theme that is reminiscent of such classic films as NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE GOONIES, or more recently, Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS. (However it should be noted that STRANGE BIRD’s characters are older than the aforementioned examples).
At the same time, STRANGE BIRD plays with a contemporary cultural ill; society’s obsessions with social media and the measuring of our value by our accumulation of likes, views, shares, and tags. The subplot stabs at this undercurrent playfully; balancing horror with comedy in a tone similar to BLACK MIRROR and GET OUT. There are also traces of FARGO in this movie, best exemplified by a pair of eccentric middle-aged men who own the local drone repair shop. On some levels, STRANGE BIRD might be what would result if the Coen brothers worked in the horror genre.
STRANGE BIRD will scare the hell out of you. Yet, at the same time, it winks at you with a certain nostalgia surrounding its ghost-story-told-around-the-campfi re premise — a demented groundskeeper at the local abandoned insane asylum who digs up corpses.
When Kenny mentions this to people, nobody believes him, a nod to the audience that we’re playing with clichés here. And yet when violence happens, we don’t hold back. As if to say, don’t get too cozy with this, we’re about to show you what a man’s face getting chopped up by drone propellers looks like.
Medfield State Hospital (Massachusetts)
The Medfield State Hospital is the precise location Andrew Mudge had in mind as he wrote the script. It has an ideal three story building with a flat roof. The location also has large, cracked-asphalt parking lots and a sprawling, dilapidated campus.
The abandoned Windsor Insane Asylum is so prominently featured in STRANGE BIRD, it could be considered one of the main characters.
Shooting in Massachusetts brings the added advantage of its Film Incentive Program: A Film Tax Credit that is both transferable and refundable and includes production spend above and below the line with a minimum spend of $50,000. That’s hard to beat. Having said that the writer/director has also scouted other locations in the Commonwealth as well as in Connecticut, New York, Georgia and Kentucky where he has identified abandoned hospitals that could be suitable.
Andrew Mudge is a Massachusetts native (grew up in Sherborn), whose student short fi lm, CHICKEN POX PAL played at the Sundance Film Festival. He went on to make other shorts, including THE PERFECT GOOSEYS, which was shot in Fairhaven and Ipswich and features actor Will Lyman. The film won top awards at the Hamptons Film Festival and the Los Angeles Short Film Festival, and was later sold to HBO. It can be seen here.
Andrew’s debut feature film, THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM, was filmed in South Africa and Lesotho. It won awards at over a dozen international film festivals (including Woods Hole, where it won the audience award), as well as three awards at the African Movies Academy Awards. The film’s trailer can be seen here.
Andrew Mudge has created a STRANGE BIRD Look Book where he has additionally outlined the characters along with their relationships to one another. It’s spooky. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.