Open Mic: The Making of "Birders: The Central Park Effect"
Jeffrey Kimball was born in San Francisco, and graduated from Stanford University before getting his MFA in film from NYU. He has worked as a producer, cinematographer and editor on shorts, documentaries and features. However, he is perhaps best known as a Music Supervisor, and for founding the music department at Miramax Films where he worked on the score and soundtrack for more than a hundred films.
Upon seeing my nearly completed film, my sixteen year-old son turned to me and said that he finally “got it,” he understood why I spent so much time wandering around outside looking at birds. Some years earlier, my life had changed when I began taking binoculars into Central Park. Having been raised in the suburbs of Northern California and spending vacations in the vast western national parks, I had always thought of the city as something “other-than” nature, that only rats and pigeons shared the urban space with humans. Then, hidden in plain sight in the middle of the largest city in the country, I stumbled upon a wild world of nature. My amazement at that revelation, and the incredulous looks I would see on the faces of most anybody I would mention it to, inspired me to make a film about my discovery.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one who knew the secret. For decades Central Park has hosted a vibrant birding community practically as colorful and diverse as the avian one. And for those people, the respite to nature that the Park provides is almost as essential as it is for the thousands of birds who use it as a stopover during migration.
Birders: The Central Park Effect is distinctly not a traditional nature film. It is an experiential, visceral journey to an unseen world that is invisible to most visitors of America’s most famous urban park. Using only minimal narration, the storyline is supplied by the people who express their passion and philosophy about birds and birding. As one of them says “we have this innate love of the natural world. We grew up inside of it, and so we need it around us to feel more like ourselves.” The film is less concerned with the natural history of birds’ lives, than it is with the interaction and inter-dependence of humans and birds, and the blurring of the line between the urban landscape and wild nature.
From the beginning of this five-year labor of love, I wanted to offer a general audience an experience of what it was like to “go birding,” to be in the middle of the bird migration with all its sounds and colors and mysteries. My hope was that by making come alive these often overlooked yet spectacularly beautiful creatures that exist right under our noses, I could help lead the non-birding viewer to a greater appreciation of birds and therefore take a stake in preserving their habitats, wherever they might be: forest, grassland, wetlands or urban parks.
Birders: The Central Park Effect can be seen now on DVD and digital download.