Meet Courtney Bird Ziegler, Director of: The Wish Book

March 23, 2015

Courtney Bird Ziegler is the director of  The Wish Book, a film that is currently featured in The Audience Awards Faith And Spirituality short film competition. Shot in India, China, Thailand, Guatemala and Mexico,  The Wish Book documents people expressing their wishes and desires for the world and its inhabitants. Their words are nothing short of inspiring.  Be sure to watch The Wish Book in the Faith And Spirituality competition.

We had an opportunity to speak with Ziegler about her passion for film.

Who are you and what’s your filmmaking background?

I am an artist, traveler, lover, creator , animator, documentarian, filmmaker, visionary and spirit who was born in California. I love to create, because I think it’s a pure form of being. Where there’s less attachment to thought. Art has always been a therapy to me, and I have had a strong interest in bringing that to other people. I’ve been traveling since I was little to see family and I have always loved being in the air.  My filmmaking career really began in Chicago at The Art Institute and then moved to France when I began doing an animation program at École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in 2009. In the beginning I focused on animation. I was interested in experimental animation like stop motion methods and painting on glass. Paris was a really wonderful place for my practice to grow, I made 3 short films that year. One of which was featured in a Film Festival in Stuttgart Germany. My work has always been non-conventional, and seems to break the “rules” in some ways. I love the surreal, bringing things to life in a way that is felt more on the emotional level then the rational mental level. I have animated in subway windows, and done a lot of performance art work that get’s others to question their perception of the world.

 

This is a still from a piece I did in France called “Life in a Box”, which was a short film and performance piece where I had wondered the streets solely in a box.

 

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This still is from the Film Festival done in Germany which was a 48 hour film festival that was 2 days of no sleep and pure creation.
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The shots are from my hour long feature of “The Wish Book- India Series”.

 

Which is where I go around asking all sorts of people what their wishes in life are. An incredibly heart opening and transformative project.

 

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What are you working on right now?

 

Right now I am finishing a film with a friend on Ayurvedic medicine, which is all about aligning yourself with the rhythms of nature. And I just finished and released a ten minute short focusing on forgiveness and the power it has to change our lives and the whole world. I worked with an incredible writer and teacher from England using his audio/narrative to stream with images. It is based on the teachings called the Gene Keys (gene:) . You can view that here: https://vimeo.com/111266697

 

What do you want the audience to take away from your films?

 

Hmmm, I want the audience to just honor whatever they get out of my films. Usually my films tend to focus on the human heart, and the universal experience of being alive. I think if someone walks away from my films felling inspired, or a sense of awe and wonder for this life and to create, then that is the highest gift. I’ve had moments of people either laughing or crying or smiling from ear to ear and those moments are priceless.

 

What’s your favorite story from film making?

 

 I really enjoyed working in this orphanage in Mexico and doing a film making animation workshop with the kids there. I went to Central America with $60 dollars, and I knew I had to go there to film and make more Wish Book pieces, but I had no idea how I would do it. I got on a plane and was terrified.  But I decided to do a Kickstarter. And this film that is in this competition was one of the first films I made there with the footage . Within a week of being there a man in Hawaii contacted me to make a short for him and then a month later I had raised money to keep doing the Wish Book. There was a lot of grace in this and trusting the process. I remember I was in Antigua, Guatemala, and I closed my eyes to meditate, and was a few hours from the campaign being over and I didn’t know if I’d reach my goal and receive the funding. So I began to meditate and asked myself “If I don’t get this, can I be okay with this? Can I surrender to that? And I said YES, and let go.” I opened my eyes and slowly made myself to a computer. I opened the screen to my project and it was fully funded, someone I had met only a few times donated $550. Wow, grace. I think in film making, the support of the viewers, and the community, really loving your mission, is such a great feeling and experience. And at the orphanage seeing what the kids had created with me helping them and then hanging out with them and them laying in my lap and playing with my hair… these relationships that build through the projects, I love that.

 

What are your wildest dreams for your film making career?

 

I would love to continue to work with incredible people and artists. An amazing production team. It would be amazing to meet or even work with filmmakers like Ron Fricke who made “Baraka” and “Samsara” or Alejandro Jodorowsky.
I think if I could keep filming people from all over the world, get to travel for awesome causes and always be supported that would be a dream come true. (Which so far it has been.) And I would love these films to reach and inspire MILLIONS of people.

 

What is something bizarre about you?

 

Hmmm, what’s not bizarre? I’ve lived in 21 homes (places) in the past 9 years. That may be a little bizarre.- “I’m a bird! I fly around” , as my friend Felina would say.

 

What currently inspires you?

 

Mooji! This amazing teacher from Jamaica who lives in Portugal. We’re planning a trip to go do a retreat with him in India in February. He just points to the truth, and that is inspiring. And my relationship. It’s been a really creative and evolving process to be in a relationship and create so much together. We also give each other a lot of space to do our own things. (birdandtom.com) Music really gets me going, I love to create to music and dance to it. And the stars, simple things in nature.

 

What’s your best advice for an aspiring filmmaker?

 

LOVE what you’re doing! Just put your heart in it, don’t let doubt discourage you. Just do it, and have fun with it. Work with others who inspire you. And believe in the project, if it speaks to you and inspires you, I’m sure it will inspire other too. Don’t be afraid to try , and learn and stumble. Everything will always turn out ok, so don’t get too worked up about little things in the process of making films.

 

 

 The Audience Awards is film’s social network. We connect audiences to films, filmmakers, film schools and festivals. The Audience Awards hosts short film competitions where the audience chooses the best films.

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