Interview with Jeffrey Kimball
When were you first bitten by the bird watching bug?
I?ve been an animal lover all my life. But I wasn?t a birder until I moved to New York City and had been here a while and found myself trying to escape to nature.� I love New York City, but I also missed being connected to nature. �And I discovered that when I would take vacations to national parks or wild areas, looking for birds was a good excuse to get out in nature and still be accomplishing something like a good New Yorker feels they have to do. When I got married and raised a family I moved to the Upper West Side so we could be close to the park.� That?s when I really found out that I didn?t need to go to the Rocky Mountains to see nature, that there was a facsimile of nature right here in Central Park.� And the more time I spent there, the more my wife and other documentary filmmaker friends of mine heard me telling stories about the people I?d met. That?s where the idea for the film grew out of.
What do you think the attraction is to birders?
It?s often been said that, because birds fly, they capture our imagination.� Birds are very colorful, and fairly conspicuous.� Most birders are interested in identifying a wide variety.� But for me, I?m interested in the biodiversity aspect. There?s something wonderful about walking through a city park and seeing a bird and realizing we haven?t completely just paved over nature, that nature is among us.
Did the focus of the film change as you got into it?
The aspect of the story that became more and more interesting to me as the film went on was the idea of how urban wildlife survives.�� And that even in the middle of one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the United States, there?s this thriving piece of nature that is kind of on top of us now.� And as one of the characters in the film says, it?s a perfectly valid form of nature.� It?s kind of a twenty-first century idea of nature - that we are part of nature and nature is living right here with us, in the middle of a city.
Did the interviews come first or the footage of the birds?
Because I didn?t want to make a film about people telling us how great nature in Central Park is, and how much birds mean to them then have very few pictures of birds, I shot a lot of the bird footage first.
What do you think the birds can teach us?
They can certainly teach us resiliency.� Here are birds that have managed to figure out how to survive in the middle of this megopolis that we?ve created.� There?s also something kind of purposeful about the way they go about their business. Even though there?s airplanes overhead and taxi cabs zooming by, they?re going about their business.� They?re not letting that ruffle them too much.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
?The Central Park effect? is a ornithological term, referring to what happens when you put an urban park in the middle of an urban landscape.� It will have the effect, as a magnet, of funneling birds into it.� And it does refer to our Central Park, of course, but it?s true for other cities.� And what I really hope people take away is that a vacant lot, or a backyard, or a strip of road - anything can be thought of as habitat and should be preserved and treated as habitat and not abused, because it very well may be supporting a little pocket of nature.� And I think that?s becoming more important as the acreage of wilderness areas diminish. Every little piece of green, especially along these migratory flyways, these little urban parks are a haven for wildlife.