Web series, computer games, and on demand streaming platforms are changing what it means to be a director in the 21st century. Bird Box by Susanne Bier was exclusively released on Netflix in December of 2018 to mixed reviews, a generation of its own set of memes, and its very own viral Internet challenge revealing, both within the content of the film and its reception, a world controlled by what we see.
The story of the film is set in the post-apocalyptic aftermath of a society where earth has been invaded by creatures who kill anyone that looks at them. In this world we follow the blindfolded Malorie (Sandra Bullock) as she attempts to navigate this new hostile environment with two young children. Intertwined are various flashbacks of the start of the invasion, where a pregnant Malorie seeks shelter with a group of survivors.
But whilst psychological themes of impending motherhood and mental illness were prominent, and an important reflection of the society we are currently living in, the majority of the audience seemed much more interested in comparing it to films of similar premise and genre, creating memes, and essentially turning Bird Box into a viral sensation. The irony of the film is that in its themes it explores a society where we must be blind to a world of inescapable media to survive, yet the film is solely distributed using the exact media it seems to be cautioning us away from.
What Bird Box has crucially made apparent is we are in a 21st century world of media on demand. In its opening week on Netflix over 45 million accounts streamed the film. It is becoming more apparent that box office is no longer the only way to dictate the success of a film. One of the excuses production companies have used to not hire women to direct their films was that it wouldn’t make any money. Patty Jenkins soon put that myth to bed, but what Susanne Bier and Bird Box have done is highlight these new distribution pathways for filmmakers. With far lower stakes than big budget Hollywood films, women can really sink their teeth into making great content: and despite what critics may say, Bird Box definitely is great content.
McKenzee Scrine is an aspiring film director that is currently working full time doing admin for a film school in Sydney, Australia. In her spare time she writes her blog The Women’s Direction, which aims to share the work of female filmmakers from around the world and hopefully one day bridge the gender gap in the film industry.