In the wake of The Big Year, more movies about Birding
by Nate Swick
The Big Year, despite being a more or less fair and funny look at the competitive aspect of birding, was not much of a winner by the only metric that matters in movies, the box office. But it has had the added distinction of being just the first of three motion pictures, large and small, looking at birding.
The second was the documentary The Central Park Effect, which had its television premiere last night on HBO, and has been called "the best film about birding that I have ever seen" by none other than Victor Emanuel but the next is perhaps more intriguing, an independent film that uses a teen's interest in birding as a coming of age story and a way to explore his relationships with his family. It's called A Birder's Guide to Everything and it's being directed by Rob Meyer.
They've certainly reached out to the right people, as Kenn Kaufman has been taken on as a consultant and has this to offer at his blog:
I've read three drafts of the screenplay and have talked to many of the people working on the film, and I have to say I'm excited about its potential. While I can't discuss details, the main character is a 15-year-old birder named David Portnoy, and a major part of the plot revolves around his sighting of an exceptionally rare bird (thought to be extinct, which is about as rare as you can get). David and two of his teenaged birding pals, plus a girl who is just starting to get interested, go on a road trip to try to relocate the bird. There's a lot going on for all of the characters, but the birding aspects are all taken seriously -- there's no mockery of birding, or of teenaged birders, in the screenplay. I can't promise that every bird-related detail will be accurate (after all, this is a movie!) but I can tell you that Rob Meyer at least listens to his birding consultants and takes their ideas into consideration.
You can "like" the film on Facebook to get updates, or follow a tumblr blog about the making of the movie where I found this really nice insight into the birding world by one of the filmmakers, Ameer Youssef, forced to rise early to get some bird footage for the film:
Soon, though, they started to cooperate, and I in turn started to understand why Brent and tens of others around the world love this hobby. Birds, it turns out, are pretty awesome. They can be beautiful and finicky and frustrating and compelling and surprising. Even just a few hours birding was enough for me to start to appreciate their distinct personalities. Yellow warblers, for instance, appear to be unrepentant assholes.
But even beyond the birds themselves, there’s something unique about the experience. It’s not often that we take the opportunity to stand silently somewhere beautiful and slowly, patiently pay attention to our surroundings. To lift our heads up and listen for an elusive call coming from the somewhere in the trees, some rare and tantalizing birdsong. To follow that song through the woods, waiting and searching and eventually capturing the bird on camera or through binoculars. It turns out there’s something more than a little gratifying about hunting for something only so you can experience its beauty.
Plug in the joy of the community of birders and he's pretty well nailed it.
One of our biggest collective worries, justifiabe given the route taken by so many big-budget Hollywood comedies, about The Big Year movie was that this thing we love would be mocked, that our interest would be deemed silly or frivolous or unimportant. That didn't happen, but I feel no trace of the same kind of anxiety here.
They get it. I feel confident in saying that. And I look forward to seeing what Meyer and company come away with.