“Birdman”: An Experiment With Sky-High Results


By Connor Dargan

After a successful performance as the superhero Birdman, fading Hollywood star Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) tries to create a Broadway play. His struggles and the occurrences around him are boldly presented in the film “Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” “Birdman” is directed, produced, and written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who tried something no director has ever done before.
The film “Birdman” was released in 2014 at a runtime of 119 minutes. It received nine nominations at the 87th Academy Awards and won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.

“Birdman” was filmed in a sequence of long shots to give the illusion of being filmed in one take. The long shots show the viewer multiple events occurring in rapid-fire succession. A scene flips from Riggan working on a play and walking through the halls of the studio, to the producer on the phone with a critic, and so on.

Not all of the producers supported this “one take” style at the start of production. Several of the coproducers claimed that this experiment sounded insane. Coproducer Alexander Dinelaris told Creative Screenwriting Magazine, “You have to be an idiot to do it all in one shot. You have to be an idiot to attempt it. It takes a great, great deal of ignorance to not pay attention to the difficulties and to think you’re going to do this. ‘Birdman’ looks like a good idea now, but a year and a half ago we did not know how we would land.”

The experiment of Birdman required a good deal of fund-raising. After being turned down twice by producers, Iñárritu finally settled on $16.5 million.

Iñárritu selected an all-star cast who capture the viewer’s attention and made the audience empathize with each of them. In addition to Keaton, the cast includes Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and Zach Galifianakis. Emma Stone plays the daughter of Riggan Thomson. Edward Norton plays a famous and arrogant actor. And Zach Galifianakis plays Riggan’s lawyer and friend
Each actor delivered a stunning performance and Iñárritu’s experiment quickly became one of the most successful movies of the year.