2014, 6 min, HD video
A swan song for the factory age. Every autumn, a South America-bound colony of Vaux’s Swifts numbering in the tens of thousands enjoy a layover in a Portland, Oregon elementary school chimney. Sunset brings a vortex of swirling shapes, whose each tiny piece combines to form a hypnotic, ever-changing pattern; an equinoctial rhythm beats in every swoop of the organic overhead spiral. The defunct industrial chimney is our own demise, and yet the relentless, fluid choreography of the tiny migrants signals a new start, the turning wheel.
score: Sam Coomes
cinematographer: Eric Edwards
edit: Vanessa Renwick and Tim Scotten
camera assistants: Kendall Core and Ilikaa Bhandari
camera support: Koerner Camera
The Delicious Medicine Award, 41st NW Filmmakers' Festival
We’re used to the seeing massive amounts of toxins pour out of a smokestack. It surely is the best medicine to see the inverse - great masses of beautiful swifts pouring into a smokestack. Vanessa is a shaman who knows her business. (Now it’s Hayao Miyazaki’s turn to be jealous.)- Judge Christopher Rauschenberg
"Much simpler in its formal mechanism but no less mesmerizing was Vanessa Renwick’s layover. The longtime Portland filmmaker trains her camera over an industrial zone for the annual migration of swifts. Their intricate patterns in the sky are frankly awe-inspiring, the kind of thing that moved the poet Robinson Jeffers to muse, “Does it matter whether you hate your…self? At least/Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can/Hear the music, the thunder of the wings” (Love the Wild Swan). Renwick’s coda of a plane streaking across the moon would indeed seem to reflect a renewal of the senses, but I love layover for its hint of frailty: each time the awed camera bucks or racks focus to keep up with the flock, it’s a reminder of our human weakness for wanting to hold what will not be held."
Max Goldberg, SFAQ, April 21, 2015
"Renwick also brought in hammocks and pillows for viewers to relax while watching a video about the Vaux's Swifts at Chapman Elementary School. Shot by Eric Edwards, the video shows thousands of swifts flying in a swirling vortex, accompanied by sitar-like drones in Sam Coomes' musical score. As the birds dive into the chimney to roost for the night, the music gathers rock 'n roll heft. The effect is mesmerizing."
David Stabler, The Oregonian, April 16, 2014