Birds & Blooms editors got to preview a new movie about bird-watchers called A Birder’s Guide to Everything with Ben Kingley. We loved this wonderful coming-of-age story, and it will be in movie theaters around the country on March 21. Our birding expert, Kenn Kaufman, was one of the consultants on the film, and we encourage you to go watch it. (If there’s not a theatre carrying it near you, you can also get it on iTunes.) Visit the movie’s website to learn more. And take a look at the Q&A we did with the film’s director, Rob Meyer.
Why did you want to make a film about birds?
Rob: I’ve always loved nature—my first career goal growing up was to be a wildlife filmmaker—so making a film about birds was not a stretch for me. The film is actually based on a short I made about aquarium fish (which was my hobby of choice as a teenager). When I decided to adapt the short into a feature, I wanted to follow a road-trip structure, so having the kids chasing a bird made more practical sense. Also, when I used to work at NOVA, I heard about the story of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. The idea that so many people would get so excited about a bird coming back from extinction struck me as important. Once I settled on birds it was the gift that kept on giving—thematically, cinematographically, story-wise—it made the script a joy to write.
What did you learn about the birding community during filming?
Rob: It’s a diverse group! It’ll surprise you what modern birders are like. They are a passionate group that, in general, feel that they aren’t portrayed in a fair way in films and television—it’s usually as a punchline or a caricature. It’s also a group that believes getting details right is important! So I wanted to do everything I could to get both the spirit and the details of birding right—I felt a lot of responsibility.
We know you used our birding expert, Kenn Kaufman, as a consultant in the film. What was it like to work with Kenn?
Rob: Kenn is amazing—he is the rare combination of an expert with an encyclopedic knowledge of birds and wildlife and also is someone who is able to communicate with the general public in a way that’s inspiring. It was amazing to have him on set, it made a big difference to the cast. I think even Ben Kingsley was excited to meet him.
Did you become more of a birder during the film?
Rob: 100% yes. I started out with a pretty limited knowledge so I had a lot to learn. Now I bring binoculars everywhere I go and I often find myself trying to articulate to people what all the fuss is about and, when I do, I realize I’m taking it all quite personally.
The birders in the film are more listers, chasing a rare bird. How do you think listers like this and backyard birders are tied together? And what do you think they could learn from one another?
Rob: Well, the listers in the movie are sort of “extreme hobbyists” as well—they are into breaking all sorts of records. So obviously, there’s a danger to reducing what should be an emotional experience to a simple checking of items off a list. That said, seeing something that you’ve never seen before, realizing what a special and unusual event it is, can turn a sighting into an even more heightened event. And that’s certainly true of seeing something extraordinary in your own backyard!
Do you have a place on your bucket list you’d like to go to see birds?
Rob: I’m actually heading to New Zealand tomorrow! I’m secretly hoping to see a yellowhead (there are only 5000 of them!)
Why should Birds & Blooms readers see this film?
Rob: It’s a narrative feature centered around birds and nature! There aren’t many of those. But it’s also a story about coping with loss and moving on, about friendship, about young love and about marching to the beat of your own drum. There really is something for everyone in this film. And it’s funny.