Why was this the way you decided to tell a story about the BP oil spill?
We were so overwhelmed with those iconic and awful images of the oil-covered birds right after the oil hit the shore in Louisiana, and it seemed like the misery was never-ending. We were hearing of thousands of birds dying, washing up on the shore. HBO had this idea to follow one bird, so I went down there to do it.
At the time there were stories in the press about journalists having restricted access. Was that a problem you encountered?
All of the agencies, including BP, that were managing the information about the spill would have to stamp their approval on each step of the process. The thing about following one bird is that it goes through so many different human hands and each time is a new round of permissions to obtain. It was very tricky. We probably couldn't have made the film if we were there earlier or later; we got there at just the right time.
Why did you decide to cover a pelican?
Birds aren't puppy dogs or polar bears, they're a little harder for people to wrap their heart around. But once people saw these pelicans, I think the whole world responded. They have these expressive eyes and yet, they're so primordial-looking. They fly so beautifully, it's awe-inspiring. Also, the pelican’s history in the region is very important. It had already been given a second chance after being nearly wiped out. On top of that, it's also the Louisiana state bird and is just so very iconic.