December 2, 2013
“A Wonderful Bird is the Pelican”
by Dixon Lanier Merritt, 1910 (not Ogden Nash!)
A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill will hold more than his belican
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I’m damned if I know how the helican.
I’d been trying to figure out how to include this classic limerick in “Pelican Dreams,” and two serendipitous events over the past month made it possible. First, Donna Shore sent me the photo above, taken by Tyrone Crossman. This pink-backed pelican with his wild and crazy hairdo made me laugh. I contacted Tyrone, a professional photographer in Durban, South Africa, who generously allowed me to use this photo plus several additional shots of the same bird to illustrate the limerick (which he remembered from his childhood also).
Next, a friend in Ireland, a radio/tv broadcast personality whose soul is essentially comedic, agreed to record the limerick at his studio in Dublin and send me the tape. So now I have a wonderful recording from Myles Dungan to go with Tyrone’s fabulous pictures!
Many thanks to the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation and to Bob McIntyre of the Wheeler Fund for recent grants that will help us get to the finish line. Lucy Massie Phenix, consulting editor, has been suggesting subtle tweaks to the movie’s structure and tone. As I mentioned in my last post, it really helps to have a fresh set of eyes on this footage. And speaking of fresh eyes:
“Save the Date!” We will have our final “Pelican Dreams” rough-cut screening on Thursday, January 16th at the Bay Institute’s theater at Pier 39 in San Francisco. I’ll hand out questionnaires and ask for written feedback from the audience. The screening is free. We hope to have a reception beforehand. Come be part of the creative process! Details to come.
October 22, 2013
A goose, a duck, a chicken, and a pelican!
That’s Dani Nicholson in her “magical kingdom” yard in Cayucos. We just got back from a trip to southern and central California that included some lucky film shoots, including a visit to Morro in his yard, and a visit to Pebble Beach, where we finally got some slow-motion shots of pelicans “surfing” the wave crests. Lovely!
When a pelican’s life in the wild is going well, it goes very very well. They were so clearly enjoying themselves, it was a joy to watch. Pelicans are such accomplished fliers!
Meanwhile editing and fundraising continue. We’ve now shot almost everything we need and are working out the final structure. Lucy Phenix, a friend and colleague, has been consulting on the editing and it’s great to have another set of eyes on the footage.
We still have major lab expenses ahead of us, and look forward to working with “pelican angels” to bring in the funds we need.
August 28, 2013
Last night around sunset, I filmed some pelicans roosting at Sutro rocks, near the Cliff House. There were far more cormorants than pelicans, but still, it was a lovely scene as they all jostled for space and settled in for the night. I’d gone out there hoping for some shots of pelicans soaring along wave crests, but as usual, nature handed me something else. I’ll try again soon for the wave soaring.
Earlier in August, a friend who was driving by Half Moon Bay saw hundreds of pelicans diving into the bay and called me. Feeding frenzies are often over in a matter of minutes, when the fish move on, but Mark and I decided to give it a shot anyway, and an hour and a half later, after rush-hour traffic had slowed down our departure, the birds were still there! In addition to shooting wide views, I also tried following an individual bird flying through the chaotic scene and then diving, so you can see what one pelican’s experience is out there. I think it works, at least for a few shots. It was such a kick to see pelicans, gulls, and terns feasting on anchovies!
August 1, 2013
We are very happy to announce that the Dean Witter Foundation has awarded “Pelican Dreams” a $25,000 grant, which will go toward post-production expenses such as color correction, sound editing and mix, footage conversions, etc. We still have a big chunk to raise, but this grant helps a lot.
June 28, 2013
Several years ago I gave myself a photographic assignment: I wanted to shoot the elusive, endangered, tiny salt-marsh harvest mouse for our growing archive, which documents restoration progress in the salt ponds over the past ten years. No one had been able to do this for years, and people who needed an image of the little critter had to rely on old stock photos that got used over and over again. Long story short, “Salty” made it to the cover of the current (summer) issue of Bay Nature Magazine! Here’s a link to a blog about how the photo was taken: http://baynature.org/2013/06/26/filmmaker-judy-irving-gets-her-mouse/
And here’s a cropped image that shows “Salty” in close-up:
You can access the entire photo archive at the Resources Legacy Fund, which helped fund the ten-year project along with the California Coastal Conservancy: http://resourceslegacyfund.smugmug.com/
Funding has run out for now, but with Salty on Bay Nature’s cover, we’re finishing up in style!
June 7, 2013
American white pelicans at Pacheco Pond, Novato
I filmed some American white pelicans at Pacheco Pond a few weeks ago, thanks to a tip from John Christopher at DriveSavers. Their offices look out on Pacheco Pond, and they often see scenes like the one above. (DriveSavers recovered Pelican Media’s email database!)
30-million-year-old pelican beak fossil, found in France by N. Tourment and photographed by A. Louchart.
Pelicans evolved 30 million years ago, on every continent except Antarctica, and most of the species are white. Whites are bigger than browns, with wingspans up to 11 feet, weighing over 30 pounds. Possibly because they’re so large, they can’t do the high dive; only brown pelicans can. Browns weigh about 8-10 pounds, with wingspans up to 7 feet. Whites prefer freshwater fish, and browns prefer salt.
Screening: Our screening of the first half hour of the rough cut went well at the May 8th Marine Mammal Center members’-only event, also attended by Michelle Bellizi of International Bird Rescue (where Gigi recuperated).
Music: We’ve been working with Bruce Kaphan, accomplished pedal steel guitar player and composer, on the music, and now have nine cues in the movie, with more to come. The pedal steel has a smooth, dreamy sound that goes well with “Pelican Dreams.”
Funding: Assuming we can raise completion funds, we applied for a CA Coastal Conservancy grant to help distribute the film, starting next spring. Meanwhile we have proposals pending at several foundations, and are on the lookout for individual “Pelican Angels” who might fly in and help out….
April 16, 2013
Most brown pelican adults have flown south by now, and are breeding, laying eggs, and rearing chicks on protected islands in Baja and the Channel Islands. This breeding plumage adult was photographed by William Woodcock in the Berkeley Marina shortly before the bird probably migrated south.
note the lovely multi-colored pouch and blue eye
We’ve had two rough-edit screenings of the first half of “Pelican Dreams” over the past month: one at Ohlone Audubon, one at the Studio for Urban Projects — as well as a screening of the full rough cut at Haverford College in PA. Questionnaires were filled out by the large student/adult audience, and we’re now revising the edit based on that feedback.
It’s crucial to get audience responses before the film is released, so that it works for a large, general audience. Especially helpful is feedback related to areas that are confusing to first-time viewers. It’s quite easy to fix those spots. Structural issues also come up, such as how and when to include “troubles” that pelicans run into, and how to interweave scientific information with the more personal stories of individual pelicans. I love editing, so none of this is a chore; it’s a challenge, though!
February 17, 2013
Sadly for Morro, Oceano’s elbow injury had progressed too far, and he (Oceano) had to be euthanized. Morro awaits another companion…and I await the chance to film the resolution to his story.
Meanwhile I’ve been editing the rough cut, soliciting critique, and revising still more. I screened the first half-hour of these revisions at the Hillside Club in Berkeley on February 4th, and got very good feedback, so I think that section is working. Now I’m editing the last hour, prepping for a screening of the full rough cut at Haverford College on March 20th, where I’ll be doing a weeklong Artist’s Residency. After that will come the SF rough-edit screening.
Thanks to Tom and Kristi Cohen, Lorraine Grassano, and Judy Schultz for recent substantial individual donations to “Pelican Dreams,” and to Christine Joly for supporting our initial efforts in a big way.
My two previous feature documentaries will have screenings soon:
anti-nuclear activists look at Diablo Canyon, then under construction
Dark Circle at NYC MoMA
1982. USA. Directed by Judy Irving, Chris Beaver, and Ruth Landy. This chilling, but ultimately hopeful, film explores how all of us have been affected by the nuclear age. Denounced by officials and shunned by broadcasters when it was first released, many of the issues it raises have become today’s front-page headlines. Print courtesy of Oakland Museum of California. (POV) 82 min.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 4:30 p.m., Theater 1, T1
NYC MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues
Wild Parrots Movie Poster
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill at the Cosmic Cine Film Festival in Switzerland and Germany
Zurich Switzerland: Friday April 12th at 4pm in Arena Cinemas Zurich.
Munich, Karlsruhe, Darmstadt and Bonn, Germany (four simultaneous screenings) Friday April 19th at 4pm in the following cinemas:
• Cinema: Mathäser Filmpalast / City: Munich http://www.cosmic-cine.com/info-und-tickets/kinos/mathaeser-filmpalast.html
• Cinema: Kinopolis / City: Bonn Bad Godesberg http://www.cosmic-cine.com/info-und-tickets/kinos/kinopolis-bonn.html
• Cinema: Citydome / City: Darmstadt http://www.cosmic-cine.com/info-und-tickets/kinos/citydome.html
• Cinema: Universum City Kinos / City: Karlsruhe http://www.cosmic-cine.com/info-und-tickets/kinos/universum-city-kinos.html
A link to a overview of all five locations: http://www.cosmic-cine.com/info-und-tickets/kinos.html
On April 26th at 8:13 pm there will be an Awards Gala in Mathäser Filmpalast in Munich.
December 11, 2012
The lucky young bird, Bodega (see photo in previous post), did heal up and he was able to fly away, so he’s a wild pelican out there somewhere on the Pacific coast right now. Another possible partner for Morro showed up fairly quickly at Pacific Wildlife Care, the rehab facility in Morro Bay. Oceano, named for the town where he was picked up, has a wing injury similar to Morro’s, and only time will tell whether it will be too painful for him to endure, or whether it will heal up enough that he could be pain-free. Several vets agree that his injury will not allow him to fly again. So the choices for Oceano are different from Bodega’s: not freedom versus captivity, but captivity versus euthanasia.
Blue-eyed Morro stares at brown-eyed Oceano. He seems interested in everything about the new arrival.
Maybe it’s the fact that they’re closer in age (Oceano is also an adult, a year or two younger than Morro), but the two birds immediately hit it off. I filmed their meeting, and was struck by how differently Morro treated Oceano compared to Bodega during those first few hours. There was no “hazing” from Morro – he let Oceano jump onto “his” perches, let him eat “his” fish. Morro even jumped up on a small perch to try to get as close as he could to Oceano. The perch was so small that he couldn’t balance there, so Dani set up another perch so the birds could be together. The jury is still out on Oceano’s elbow injury, but I’ve got my fingers crossed, once again, that Morro has found his friend.
Meanwhile I’ve been editing up a storm, and I now have a 92-minute rough cut that I’ll show to several friends and filmmakers to get feedback. The plan is to prep another rough-cut version for an early spring screening at a larger venue, soliciting feedback from you, my audience, so I can finalize the structure and story line of “Pelican Dreams.”
November 9, 2012
For the past couple of years Morro has been hanging out with 8 chickens, 2 geese, and a duck, but he hasn’t had a pelican buddy since Toro and Chorro flew away. That changed last week, when a young pelican named Bodega arrived with an injured wrist.
Young Bodega at the instant he noticed the camera.
The six-month-old pelican was found dumpster diving at a fish cleaning station in Bodega Bay, and later developed a severe wrist infection. He stayed for several months at International Bird Rescue in Fairfield, then was transferred to Dani and Bill’s backyard rehab facility via the SPCA in Monterey.
After a short hazing period in which Morro taught Bodega the rules of the bird yard (“That’s my perch! That’s my pool! That’s my bowl of fish!”), they are now fast friends. Bodega follows Morro everywhere. They preen, waddle, eat, and sleep near each other.
No one knows whether Bodega will someday be able to fly. If he does, great; if not, he will become an “educational pelican” like Morro and they will have each other. Part of me hopes, of course, that Bodega will fly free again. That’s what Dani and Bill want. Part of me, though, doesn’t want to see Morro disappointed and lonely again. Only time will tell.