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1st July 2019
Winging it
Title of film: Butterfly
Director: Mackenzie Sheppard
Mackenzie Sheppard's intrigue with man's alienation with nature leads him to the nursery of Monarch butterflies in Mexico

The narrative follows on from your Moth film – an exploration of modern man’s relationship with technology although this film, Butterfly, feels more abstract. What was behind your decision to write this particular scenario?

As we were making Moth, we had a particular scene that didn’t make the cut. The cut-scene was shot China in between a commercial shooting job, and it was meant to be part of Moth.

The scene was one of the characters of Moth covered in Butterflies. You can see flicks of it in Butterfly.

We were moved to write the scenario after several conversations of how the Moth story could grow outside the world we built, and how we could explore a more emotional film through one character.

This is where the idea began to take shape.

And is there an intentional parallel between the kaleidoscope of butterflies and crowds of commuters?

There are many intentional parallels, as well as parallels that were found on the go and happened to be synchronous with how we were feeling. The best ideas came in the moment on set, and since we were such a small crew we were able to accommodate them on the fly.

Did you have the narrative completely detailed before you started shooting?

We knew our ending and actually shot that first–(the ending being the climax in the butterfly forest).

When you have an ending, the middle, and beginning all fall into place. You know where you are ending up, and it’s easy to write backwards from there and understand how the character might have gotten there.

With Moth too we shot our ending shot first as well, and from that result, we had the right feelings about the potential and we were ready to commit to it.

Where were the locations – and why was Mexico one of them?

We did two blocks of shooting.

The first block was in Mexico. We travelled there during a narrow window in which the Monarch Butterflies were migrating to their nursery in the Mexican mountains near Zitacuaro. They travel over 5000 miles from Canada.

We spent four days up in the forest, riding up on horseback several hours each morning, and waiting for a two hour window in which the sun would come out and MILLIONS of butterflies would take flight.

It was phenomenal.

Three weeks later, in Japan, we shot the beginning and middle of the story.

Unlike Moth, which was a much more walk and discover in the night approach…dare I say, a “a moth-like approach”…for butterfly we scouted all the locations in depth beforehand and knew exactly what each scene was doing in the story.

There are a few very complex shots – the crowd scenes for instance – how did you film these?

A lot of people have asked about that…and really it’s just good timing, a good steal, and being polite to not get in the way of people.

The opening shot was a steal. Two-man team. No production support. That was the only shot that was guerrilla.

What were the main challenges of the production?

The production was free flowing and fun. We never felt under pressure or stressed. It was a three-man team with all of us picking up the weight in certain areas.

The main thing was securing locations which our Mexican team did an amazing job of, and Anna our fixer in Japan did for us. It was very easy to be creative.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Butterfly is a film that people can interpret how they like. I watch it and it means many different things to me. Sometimes I see new connections that I hadn’t before.

The project has been a very meaningful series of realizations, connections, and personalisations about Who We Are and the World we are living within in this moment.

Director Mackenzie Sheppard Director of Photography Oliver Millar Cast Kai Hoshino Sandy Rei Nelson Sandy Hitomi Yoshimura Yusuke Nakagawa Yukiko Takayanagi Ameno Andrew Shingo Kazuki Kawakami Naoki Sakamoto Seiichi Mukai Jin Kusanagi Japan Production Anna Liu Japan and Extras Casting Ko Iwagami Mexico Production Maritza Carbajal Nosha Sauma Music SCHALLBAUER Thomas Suess Mix Daniel Muller Special Thanks Kumata, Prizz, Beary, Mitz Ko Iwagami Rotoscopy Root VFX butterfly conservation Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas