From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: Almost a year ago, I was contacted by a young filmmaker named Rob Meyer. He said he was working on a feature-length film that would involve birding, and he wanted my feedback on the draft of the screenplay.
Naturally I was interested. At that time, we were all looking forward nervously to the release of the film of "The Big Year," wondering if it would simply insult birders (it didn't) or if it would become a smash box-office hit (it didn't do that, either). The buzz about "The Big Year" had been going on for months, and birders were already starting to talk about the possibility that Hollywood might wake up and discover that we're out here.
So I started corresponding with Rob Meyer. Turns out, Meyer has a lot of experience, having worked on award-winning documentaries at PBS and National Geographic. His independent short film "Aquarium" won awards at film festivals around the world. But even someone with that kind of credentials has to work at it to drum up the financing for a feature-length film. All of the details have to fall into place together. He was very close to having it set to shoot in late fall 2011, and again in spring 2012, and key elements didn't work out. Now, though, it looks as if all systems are Go. The film, "A Birder's Guide to Everything," is set to start shooting just over a week from now, in late July 2012.
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.
And the film is just about to start shooting! You can read about the process from the inside on a blog that's linked here.
If you're on Facebook, the film has its own FB page here.
At the moment, the only members of the cast that I know about for sure are Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley (not playing one of the kids, but rather a famous older birder) and Bryan Cranston (who played the dad on "Malcolm in the Middle," among other things). I've been invited to go visit the set while they're shooting, probably in early August, so I might have more to report later. In the meantime, if I can embed this video correctly, here's the "sizzle" reel put together to pre-promote the film:
A Birder's Guide to Everything Sizzle from Rob Meyer on Vimeo.