Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle Completes A Wildly Unlikely Trilogy With True Passion [Exclusive Interview]

Every year, there are more bad movies made than anyone could ever watch in a lifetime. Between what is released directly to VOD or the many, many ultra low-budget flicks that make their way to Redbox via companies like The Asylum, it's overwhelming. But every once in a while, some of these B-movie exercises manage to break away and actually get through to people in a meaningful fashion. Such was the case with 2010's "Birdemic: Shock and Terror," director James Nguyen's ultra-low-budget creature feature that gained so-bad-it's-good cult status in the way few films can ever hope to achieve. It is probably near "The Room" in that regard.

Despite the cult status and midnight movie reputation, it seemed unlikely that it would spawn an entire franchise. And yet, here we are, in the year 2022, with "Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle" having recently premiered at Fantastic Fest, one of the premiere genre film festivals in the world. With that, the journey of one of the most unlikely trilogies in history has been completed. But how did we get here? 

"We started [production] in late 2020," Nguyen explained to me in an interview I conducted at the fest with the filmmaker and much of the cast, including Alan Bagh, Ryan Lord, and Julia Culbert. "Alan and I met with the producer David Greg at Severin Films, and we were sitting there going to start production. I think it was the end of 2019, and 2020 we were supposed to start. Then the pandemic, COVID, came. We had to postpone, shut down everything."

Even a pandemic couldn't stop Birdemic

It had already been seven years since "Birdemic 2" by the time production was finally slated to begin on the capper to the trilogy. Thanks to the pandemic, it will be close to a decade between installments. But Nguyen takes this all seriously and persevered through the delays. To illustrate how seriously everyone takes this, the whole cast, as well as Nguyen, were dressed to the nines for our interview, looking like they were ready to walk the red carpet for a Hollywood blockbuster. But this is no Hollywood blockbuster.

Like its predecessors, "Birdemic 3" is a low budget affair that sees a gerontologist and a marine biologist falling in love as global warming ravages the planet. And then yes, another Birdemic comes calling. With sea eagles this time! But the pandemic was just the beginning of this film's production setbacks, as the original actress set to play Kim, the marine biologist, didn't work out.

"A month into the production with the first lead, the leading female lead, It didn't work out. She didn't show up," Nguyen revealed. "Well, whatever. So I had to recast, and I brought in the beautiful Julia Culbert here." Lord chimed in to say, "We got a better one." Culbert, humbly, quipped back, "That's so mean." 

During the course of our interview, the cast all seemed to get along great and the interactions between everyone was warm. Is it a low-budget creature feature? Absolutely. Are they making the most of it? Undoubtedly.

'Maybe I was lazy'

Nguyen speaks with reverence for the craft and care for his work. He does not come off as a man who is best known for a movie made for less than $10,000 that gained notoriety for being of such poor (albeit charming) quality that it simply couldn't be ignored. When it came to rounding out his trilogy, Nguyen took a slightly more loose approach:

"Look, you want to do it the right way with a 90 page script and all that, but I don't know why I just... I had to do it impromptu. I just don't know why. Maybe I was lazy. If you have the money, you can hire a screenwriter. But for me, it's a low budget thing. I mean even some of the greatest directors did this. Francis Coppola with 'Apocalypse Now.'"

At the time of the interview, the cast had yet to see the completed movie. The on-the-fly attitude made things interesting while filming, as none of them knew precisely how it was all going to come together in the end. Even the teaser trailer proved to be enlightening for them. "I think it makes more sense because we never got the whole script in the beginning because he was writing it on the spot," Culbert said.

"But on the bottom line, it just feels like you're working. It feels like another day on the job," Lord added. "But then when you see it all come together, and I know I'm just going off the trailer, I was just blown away."

'It takes time'

Nguyen also talked with excitement about the technology he employed to up his game for "Sea Eagle," including using mini drones and AI tech to help clean up the audio. But the most important thing was making sure he didn't rush the process. "You can't rush it. It takes time," Nguyen said with a serious and committed tone. "The good thing is that [the delays] gave me time to edit, to think. I think people like the final product. Because if you rush the editing, it's like good writing, probably half the time it's going to be bad. It's going to hurt the film. It's like when you are a writer, whether it be a book or a screenplay thing, it just takes time."

As for Bagh, this brings things full circle for him, as he starred in the original film more than a decade ago. He seemed downright excited to be part of it. "It was fun. I'm really excited because a lot of my fans wanted me to come back, and I'm excited about that. And also it's a trilogy. I can put that on my resume. How many actors can put that on there?" Bagh said.

The man has a point. Not many people who set out to make a life for themselves in the movie business that can say they completed a whole trilogy. Nguyen and co. can say that, and they do so with pride.

"Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle" does not yet have a release date.