The Aviary Soars to the Silver Screen

Photo by Abe LevyThe Aviary, the only film about flight attendants penned by an actual flight attendant, premieres at 8 p.m., THIS Friday, July 22 at the Lark Theater in Larkspur. The feature film was produced and written by Sonoma County native Silver Tree, a flight attendant on a major US carrier the past five years — and, in the interest of full disclosure, a pal with whom I’ve occasionally discussed the merits of our mutual friend Charles Shaw.

Directed by Tomales-raised Abe Levy (another buddy of Shaw’s and mine), The Aviary was shot throughout the Bay Area and stars Lara Philips (Road to Perdition) as Summer Pozzi, a flight attendant unwittingly stationed in San Francisco where she must live with a cadre of airline personnel that includes fashion chameleon Portia, catty malcontent Kate (Rachel Luttrel and Claire Rankin, respectively, both of whom currently appear in Stargate: Atlantis) and male flight attendant Lucas (Michael Gilio of the acclaimed independent film Quick Stop). Summer’s dreams of marrying a captain takeoff when she is pursued by hansom pilot Julian (Josh Randall late of NBC’s Ed, currently appearing on Scrubs). Matters get complicated, however, when Lucas also sets Summer’s heart aflutter.

The film features music by Santa Rosa-based musician Josh Staples of bands The Velveteen and The New Trust. Both Levy and Tree will be in attendance at the premiere to introduce The Aviary, which will be followed by a Q&A. Cast members will also be present at the screening as will I (look for the guy drinking from the brown bag and repeatedly telling ingenues “You know, baby, I am the co-producer”).

Tree began writing her script when temporarily furloughed following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“When I was a junior flight attendant I was really dazzled by the lifestyle — I read all the books, saw all the movies, bought all the tchotchkes. But after the initial buzz I realized that most of it was garbage. It in no way reflected the way life at 30,000 feet is. Especially the movies,” explains Tree. “The movies about flight crew up to this point have all been horrible caricatures that poke fun and ridicule. There’s a place for that too, don’t get me wrong, but reality needs to be represented as well.”

Levy, who directed the feature film “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Trying,” which premiered at the Mill Valley International film festival in 2000 and later went on to the Los Angeles Film Festival, was happy to be working locally, shooting in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sebastopol.

“The Bay area is a great place to shoot. People here aren’t jaded like they are in Los Angeles where I often work. Here, they still have a sense of wonder when it comes to the movies,” says Levy. “This is a great boon for productions that are flying under the radar, because everyone wants to help, and even if you get caught shooting where you probably shouldn’t be shooting, they’ll usually be nice and let you get away with it anyway.”

Indeed, the independently-produced film redefined the meaning of “guerilla filmmaking.” Shot with a shoestring budget, the production made use of the flight benefits Tree accrued as a flight attendant to shoot locations that would otherwise have been impossible to visit.

“We shot in so many locations it makes the head spin. We actually shot in Los Angeles and New York City the same day on one occasion. Not to mention a couple of shots on the way,” recalls Levy, who also clocked time in Chicago, New York and Hawaii while directing the film. Tree, who also served as production designer spent sometime behind the camera as well.

“There were times when I had to shoot some shots without the rest of the crew. Since I’m always flying around the world it made getting shots in certain places very inexpensive for us,” recalls Tree. “Abe taught me how to use the camera and I just strapped it to my roller bag. I did some pretty difficult shots in Paris where we needed my arm to be in the shot, but I had to operate the camera as well, plus I had only ten minutes to catch the Eiffel Tower while it sparkled for midnight,” she explains. “My crew bag has double zippers so Abe rigged a hidden camera in it for some of our trips. We got some amazing footage that way, things that would have cost us tens of thousands of dollars — we got for free.”

The filmmakers are excited about premiering The Aviary at a local venue.

Says Levy, “After all the globetrotting it took to make The Aviary it’s good to be home.”

The Aviary premieres at 8 p.m., Friday, July 22 at the Lark Theater, 549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur. For more information about The Aviary, visit www.theaviarymovie.com. For ticket information and additional screening times go to www.larktheater.net

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