How do you know a film is making an impact?

How much do documentary films impact audiences?   How do you know in advance a film can make a difference?  The Messenger team set out with some ambitious goals early on. We wanted to tell the important environmental story about our beloved songbirds, but we also wanted to make a beautifully artistic film that would be captivating for audiences and stimulate discussion for many years to come.  We knew that to capture people’s hearts and minds the film had to be original and spellbinding in its approach, one that was worth going out to experience in theatres.  Because most documentaries take years of dedication and hard work  to produce  there has to be a compelling drive from within the production team to bring the ‘idea’ to fruition and then once the film is made there needs to be a desire and person-power to do the additional outreach and impact work.

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Since THE MESSENGER made its World Premiere at the Hot Docs International Film Festival and was released theatrically in the USA, (Dec. 2015) then started touring across Canada in 2016, there have been lots of good reviews and positive feedback so we know we have met some of our goals.

Now we are asking ourselves –  has the film had the impact we want it to?   We are not sure yet.

We love it when we hear how other people have been inspired by our film to create other new artworks! 

Bridget Polei, a BFA Bridget PoleiBallet student at The University of Oklahoma (which has one of the top university ballet programs in the USA) wrote to tell us she was inspired after watching The Messenger on US Netflix to create and choreograph an original ballet set for 3 dancers. She says it combines the gracefulness of ballet and the beauty of birds to personify the struggles songbirds face as they migrate. Herbridget.P.showcase image. 16142777_1407396842612495_318272770793890310_n original dance set debuted in January as part of the Young Choreographers Showcase at the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre in Norman, Oklahoma.  Bridget says   “I loved all the beauty and inspiration the documentary brought to my artistic process.”

 

Some testimonials from screening hosts indicate the film is doing its job in awareness building of environmental issues.  Recently Hugh Powell, Science Editor for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Communications Dept. had this to say about a screening in Pittsfield,  MA where he moderated for the Mass. Audubon Society.     IMG_0650

“Just wanted to let you know that The Messenger had a very good reception last night in a nearly full auditorium with about 110 people in attendance. Listening to people’s reactions during the film, I heard a couple of gasps at the sight of all those birds in the 9/11 lights, a giggle at the first shot of the German DJ with his laptop in the stream, warm recognition of the White-throated Sparrow song and the Scarlet Tanager shot, a few wriggles of discomfort when the woman eats the Ortolan Bunting, and a chorus of appreciative laughs at the motmot’s tail ticking. At the end there was silence and then applause.” .

Hugh goes on to say the Q&A was lively and lasted for about 30 minutes.  ” People asked lots of questions about how the different sources of decline compare to each other in magnitude, what they could do to help stem the declines themselves, and a few perceptive questions about details that the film brought up (like why don’t Purple Martins just change their schedule at the same rate that climate is changing)”.

We have heard from people who knew nothing about birds that they feel differently about songbirds after they see it, and many have a greater appreciation for their role in the bio-diversity of the planet.  Conservation Groups have told us the film makes explaining their field work easier too.

At the time of writing this blog post,  THE MESSENGER  has played in over 210 theatres  in North America, including many screenings at regular cinemas.   It has been selected for numerous international film festivals and the film continues to be in demand for TUGG theatrical-on- demand and community event screenings.   People are also watching it at home via Netflix and iTunes in the USA and documentary channel and iTunes in Canada.

We expect UK and Australian Audiences will have access to see the film soon.

The Messenger will be having its Central American premiere at Cinema Planet in Mexico in May.

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We believe THE MESSENGER is making an impact, and we know it has started an important conversation about what humans are doing to wildlife and birds.   Measuring  the real impact of a film is a slow and evolving process, so we are continuing to gather data. We hope you continue to talk about and share the film, in your community, on campus and in the schools. Together we can all make a difference.

If you have an impact story about our film to share, or The Messenger has inspired you to do something special, please get in touch.  We would love to hear from you!

Joanne Jackson, Producer of The Messenger.    joanne@songbirdsos.com

 

Two amazing books: ” Birds Art Life ” by Kyo Maclear and “The Evening Chorus” by Helen Humphreys

 

 

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“In  Birds Art Life, writer Kyo Maclear embarks on a yearlong, big city adventure chasing after birds, and along the way offers a luminous meditation on the nature of creativity and the quest for a good and meaningful life.”

I recently finished Kyo’s Mclear’s memoir Birds Art Life and I was sad to put it down. It felt as if I was just getting to know someone – someone who shared my passions and the questions I have about the world around me. It was a conversation that I didn’t want to end!

 

“Birds Arts Life” is an astute memoir of connection and discovery, a distilled crystal-like celebration of the small and significant, the imperfect and the struggling, and the liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open.”

Through four seasons, and guided by a new companion, Kyo discovers the world of birds. These are the birds that pass through our cities and our yards. The birds that float on our lakes and rivers, both the remarkable and the unremarkable. Her words are a refreshing break from the sensational and newsworthy events that seem to shout at us every day.  She reflects on small things that create meaning in our lives – a choice is both bold and honest.

 

 

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“Helen Humphreys ‘The Evening Chorus’ is brilliant evocation of an unforgettable time and place and a natural history of both the war and the human heart.”

The Evening Chorus is a work of fiction that interweaves three compelling stories: James Hunter, who spends the second world war in a POW camp. His young wife Rose who, in James absence falls in love with another man, and James sister Enid who forms a friendship with Rose that alters the course of all of their lives.  Notably, for those interested in birds the character James Hunter is inspired by the real life birdwatcher John Buxton. Buxton, while held captive as a prisoner of war in WWII, studied a family of redstarts and wrote a book about his observations. Today this book is still regarded by many as one of the most comprehensive single-species studies ever undertaken.

The writing throughout The Evening Chorus is beautiful. Rooted in the rhythms and imagery of nature and featuring chapter headings named after various flora and fauna, this novel is moving, meaningful and a pleasure to read.

You can pick up Birds Art Life or The Evening Chorus at your local bookstore or through any of the major on-line retailers. I really loved reading these books and highly recommend them. ENJOY!

 

THE MESSENGER AT FESTIVAL DU FILM VERTE, FRANCE

It is the start of bird migration season, so we are watching the skies with anticipation and hope that our migrating feathered friends make it to their breeding grounds once again. This Sunday  THE MESSENGER,  our award-winning environmental documentary directed by Su Rynard is screening at Festival du Film Vert à Ferney-Voltaire in Voltaire, France. Sally Blake and the Films à Cinq team (our French co-production partners) are wonderful to work with!  Thanks to ARTE France and all our other partners for making this film possible. French subtitled Trailer included in this post.  French synopsis for the film below.    We can all make a difference to help songbirds.  Please spread the word about our film’s message. If you want to see the film or book it for a screening please check out the options and get in touch with us.  Screening and contact options here. 

The Messenger est une enquête innovante qui expose les raisons de la disparition massive des passereaux, et qui suit au plus près les ornithologues et écologistes dans leur mobilisation. Le film embarque les spectateurs pour un magnifique voyage à travers le monde, révélant comment les problèmes que rencontrent les oiseaux entrainent des conséquences accablantes pour notre planète, et pour nous-mêmes.

Take Action information to help songbirds  here. 

 

Die Gotterdammerung – Reason and Mercy

Die Gotterdammerung is the last in Richard Wagner’s cycle of four music dramas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen or The Ring Cycle.

Last year I wrote a short blogpost about The Forest Bird in Wagners Siegfried. This year, I was lucky enough to see the COC production of Die Gotterdammerung, and found myself pondering the role of birds, both in music and in the stories we tell.

 

Like the opera Siegfried, birds are featured once again in Die Gotterdammerung, but this time we meet two ravens called Reason and Mercy. Tragically (this is opera after all) these ravens are the messengers who decree Siegfried’s death. Birds have something to tell us indeed.

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 5.46.29 PM The raven is perhaps humankinds most storied bird. The mythology of the Haida is based on the epic cycle of stories about the Raven and his various exploits.  One of the best-known of these stories tells how the Raven disguised himself in order to enter the house of the Sky Chief, from whom he stole the sun, moon and stars to give to humankind.

 

Be it stories or music, birds are our long time cultural companions. British composer David Matthews believes that western music inspired by birdsong goes back at least as far as the 16th century. You can read more about his ideas in this essay. Matthews also understands what it means to be losing our birds.

 

 

 “Many of our birds are in decline – the cuckoo among them: fewer people now hear this essential sound of spring. Fortunately we still have blackbirds in great numbers, but we had better take care of them, and our other songbirds, otherwise we shall end up with the silent spring that Rachel Carson warned us of in her famous book of that title. Birds were singing millions of years before we evolved: they were the inventors of music. Maybe our future depends on theirs.”

 

Wise words indeed.

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Gratitude

With gratitude, 2016 was a good year for The Messenger. 2017 will be a challenging year for our environment and the world we live in. We hope that the film will continue to inspire and inform.

Winner: Prix Buffon, Paris Science, Le festival international du film scientifique, 2016

Winner: Special Jury Award, Visions of Nature/Voices of Nature Environmental Film Festival 2016

Special Mention for Best Documentary, CinemAmbiente, Italy 2015

Winner: Best Environmental Film Prize, Festival de l’Oiseau et de la Nature, Abbeville Cedex, France 2016

Winner: Best of Fest, International Wildlife Film Festival Missoula, Montana 2016

Winner: Best Theatrical Feature, International Wildlife Film Festival Missoula, Montana 2016

Nominated: Best Cinematography in a Feature Documentary, Canadian Screen Awards 2016

Nominated: Best Editing in Feature Documentary, Canadian Cinema Editors Award 2016

Nominated: for Dutch IntL Science Film Festival NTR Audience Award & Youth Jury Award, 2016

Winner: Whistleblower Award Cinema Verde Environmental Film & Arts Festival, 2016

Winner: Favourite Documentary Feature, North Bay Film Festival, 2016

Winner: Best Conservation Film, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, 2015

Winner: Top Ten Audience Award, Hot Docs 2015

Recipient of the 2015 Carl Nunn Media and Conservation Award presented by Ontario Nature

 

Now available on itunes in Canada and the USA.

Canada: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/movie/the-messenger/id1177748023

USA. https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-messenger/id1082871787

 

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