Our friend Rob Meyer spent the good part of the past five years working on his first feature-length film, A Birder's Guide to Everything, and it officially opens tomorrow. We are so thrilled for him! (We're going to this 7:20pm show, if any of you guys are in the mood to see a great movie. Come join!) Here's the trailer...
Below, Rob answers five questions about the ups and downs of making the movie...
What's the movie about?
It's the story of a 15-year-old birder named David. His mother died a little over a year ago and his father is getting re-married, so he's struggling. Right at this critical moment, he sees what he believes may be a Labrador Duck, a bird generally thought to have gone extinct over a hundred years ago, so he convinces his birding buddies (and a new girl from his school) to come with him on a road trip to find the bird, take a photograph and prove his claim.
Why did you want to write this particular movie?
Escaping to the natural world has always been big for me. I recently went on a canoe camping trip with some friends and as soon as we left all signs of civilization and I could just focus on the water and my surroundings, I could almost feel my brain relaxing. I've always always loved animals—I was big into tropical fish as a teenager (yeah, I was pretty cool). Finally, struggling with issues of mortality, looking for answers and connecting (or not connecting) with people is generally what I think almost everything boils down to. Which makes the film sound serious and depressing, but I swear it's actually funny!
What unexpected things happened during the shoot?
One one of our last days of shooting, we were running out of light and the camera was moving to a new angle. I was pretty worried we weren't going to get our shots off in time, and the kids and Ben Kingsley were looking out at a lake and just waiting. After a minute of waiting (and the whole set was really quiet, because everyone knew we were running out of time), one of the stars, Alex Wolff, who in addition to being a great actor is also a very talented musician, started humming the bass line from Miles Davis' "So What" on the "Kind of Blue" album. It's a sort of call-and-response thing between an upright bass and the brass. So Alex hummed the bass line, "do dum do dum do dum do doo dum..." and then, from the silence, Ben Kingsley made a terrific trumpet noise "daaaa.... daaa" and Alex came back in with the bass, then the other kids joined Sir Ben with the brass. It was so silly and muppet-like and was a great reminder that shooting a movie should be fun, even at the most stressful of times.
Things are always more complicated behind the scenes than people realize. What are some snags you guys hit during the process?
You would not believe how many airplanes fly overhead until you're up against a tight schedule and have to record sound. Oh, and the amount of noise that bugs make in the woods was shocking! I was never sure what they were—katydids, cicadas, or crickets—but they were LOUD!
Do you now see why people are obsessed with birding?
I'm absolutely into birding now. I actually think everyone would love it, which I know sounds crazy so I'll try to make my case: Imagine that it's early morning and incredibly quiet and you and a friend have been trekking through gorgeous woods looking for a particular bird that you've never had a chance to see in real life. Maybe a hooded warbler, which only passes through your state during a specific window of time during its long migration from Central America. And then you actually hear its call. So you stalk it—like a hunter—moving silently towards where you may have heard it just moments before. Then, from the corner of your eye, you see a movement and think you can guess where it may have flitted, so you move that way. Suddenly—miraculously!—it flies right onto a branch in front of you. You're able to get your binoculars up, knowing you don't have long, and you fumble to get the bird into your view. And then, like magic, it comes into focus, and it's stunningly beautiful. It's almost like a 3-D image if you have good binoculars, and you hold your breath, hoping the moment will last. It's so delicate and such a joy to watch its behavior, and each bird has a very distinct personality. And then, suddenly, it's gone—it disappears into the sky. It's all a total rush and there's something truly magical about it.
You can find A Birder's Guide to Everything on Facebook and Twitter. Huge congratulations, Rob!
(Photos courtesy Rob Meyer)