What inspired you to make this film?
This was my thesis film for an M.F.A. in Science & Natural History Filmmaking; your thesis film is meant to give you room to explore ideas about filmmaking. A former field biologist colleague of mine- Heather Wilson PhD- was doing some great work up in Alaska with the Migratory Bird department of Fish & Wildlife, so I contacted her and we were able to get permission for me to film the tundra swan work. Why that film, instead of any other? It offered me the materials I wanted to work with for my thesis film- science, adventure, and remote wilderness. The light that far north is surreal- the whole landscape is surreal. It looks and feels like the end of the world, which it is from our human perspective. For the swans, it is their home during the season of summer abundance.
Filming the surgery back at the hanger was intense. A wildlife veterinarian, her technician, a bird biologist, and I were there in the room, and there was no room for any extraneous movement or talk with a bird on anesthesia. After the surgery, once the bird was no longer groggy, we flew her back to where she came from and released her. That was an experience that left a distinct impression on me, riding in the backset of the Supercub with a tundra swan on my lap, and then filming her release; that became the last scene in Chasing Birds.
Favorite part of making the film?
Flying. Seeing the world from a bird’s perspective.