California-based director Scott Crocker was intrigued by the story of the reported resurrection of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the swamps of Arkansas that crossed over from the science pages to become a top news story. He tells realscreen how his film Ghost Bird explores hope and the environment in a decidedly non-wildlife doc.
‘Before [the ivory billed woodpecker] was [believed to be] rediscovered, this was already considered the Holy Grail by so many diehard birders who’d gone out to try and find it,’ says Crocker. ‘The [thought] that they rediscovered it just lit a fire into the whole birding community which proceeded to engulf anyone who heard about it. I was just another person who caught wind of the story and immediately was intrigued.’
Ghost Bird tracks the believed rediscovery of the bird, which stemmed from a blurry, seconds-long video that sparked the attention of birders, the media and the general public. The US government even got involved, pouring millions of dollars into the effort, while other animals teetered on the precipice of extinction. Crocker includes all of this to paint a ‘bigger portrait of hope and loss and a coalition of politics, culture and the environment.’
Crocker’s philosophical and lyrical film captures the quest as a sort of complex and ambiguous Sam Beckett-esque ‘Waiting for the Woodpecker,’ as he calls it. The lyrical element is supported by the soundtrack, which includes The Pixies, The White Stripes, The Black Keys and an original score by composer and cellist Zoe Keating.
‘The soundtrack to me was part of the emotional architecture of the film; it was what was going to allow the film to resonate on a broader scale than just a regular wildlife or nature film,’ says Crocker. ‘I wanted a contemporary edgy soundtrack that would also express this otherness of the film. Rather than just going with a clichéd [type of] Southern folk music, I chose to use contemporary versions of that in some cases, and in others [where] it’s just the Pixies, the subject matter of their song [Where is My Mind] is so perfect for the film.’
Even though the film couldn’t be categorized as wildlife or nature, Crocker still considers his main audience to be the 70 million birders in the U.S., Canada and the UK. The filmmaker plans to access them through direct marketing on the Web or through a limited theatrical release if a distributor is found. ‘If I can get this to them, I think it will springboard out to the larger audience who I think would really find it fascinating,’ says Crocker.
Ghost Bird had its world premiere at Hot Docs.