Why a film on the Night parrot?
Four years ago an ornithologist friend gave me a book by Dal Stivens called “A Horse of Air”. It is the story of a supposedly fictional character, one Harry Craddock, who was obsessed with finding the Night Parrot. He relates his story of betrayal and jealousy to a psychiatrist in a mental institution - it is implied he has been driven mad by his search for the bird. I had heard of the Night Parrot before reading the book. Whenever you mention the Night Parrot to folk interested in birds, ecology and the history of Central Australia you will receive an immediate reaction and a personal story of their association with the bird. Perhaps not as mad as Harry Craddock’s but certainly there is a wide and varied interest in this creature. It has now achieved a mythical status (it is called a ‘grail bird’ by twitchers) and in the last 100 years, since its disappearance, has inspired many great, but highly unsuccessful, ornithological adventures. The existence of the Night Parrot it would seem can not be proven unless you photograph it. The story of a trophy hunt, but this was not so interesting for me. In any case the bird is of cryptic habits and nocturnal…how to record a cinematic image? As a pastoralist in Central Australia laconically pointed out to me when I was researching the story -“it gets awful dark out here at nighttime”. Sightings occur when least expected and the encounter happens in no more than a glimpse, leaving the observer doubting their senses. It can be heard calling in the night, but only if you know what to listen for. For these reasons in 2012 the Smithsonian Institute nominated the Night Parrot one of the world's most mysterious birds. I had initially thought I could use her character as a signifier for the accelerating environmental changes that are afoot, but searching for the story of the Night Parrot was not so simple.
Rob is a Canberra based filmmaker whose enquiries often document situations where humans bump into the non-human world. His films employ and critique various documentary forms. His last three films came out of expeditions to remote locations in Indonesia, Guinea, Iraq, Ethiopia, Egypt, Tanzania and Australia. His 2007 film, 'End of the Rainbow', won international film awards and screened in Europe and the US. He directs and shoots, but not necessarily in that order. He likes chickens...in fact most birds. You can find out more about Rob here...
This is the third film I have produced with Rob Nugent. Each one has taken me into a world I knew nothing about and, to be honest had little interest in initially. The first one, End of the Rainbow, is a wonderful feature documentary that follows a gold mine as it is dismantled bolt by bolt, and shipped from Indonesian Borneo to Guinea West Africa. The film’s journey opens up a world of gold, greed, poverty and poetry. It is filled with insights into the beauty, tragedy and absurd moments of cultural exploitation. The film travelled to over 20 international festivals and picked up 8 international awards. A new voice in cinema was discovered.
The second film, Memoirs of a Plague, took us back into an internal exploration of Rob’s past life as a locust hunter. I never would have imagined that I would come to be interested in, and even care about, a locust. Rob used to exterminate them. Now he was singing an ode to their phase changing peculiarities and marvelling at their shift from solitary to swarm behaviours. Instead of killing with useless and damaging pesticides, his environmental plea was to recognise that locusts since pre-history come and they go. To honour nature and to acknowledge the contribution human’s have made to destroying it, we have paved the way for the plagues of pestilence – and this film is a plea to just let nature be.
And now Night Parrots – is this a mythical creature from Rob’s imagination? Will we find and see the parrot in the film, asks the commissioning editor? Well, no, not exactly, but maybe, it depends what you’re looking for. Rob’s films are always a search into an unknown world, that begin with me drifting from vague disinterest to irresistible curiosity. Where might this take us? What is the story or is it a meander through uncharted lands? We get lost and then we find unexpected treasures. Nothing is predictable in Rob’s films, the connections and observations are always absurd, unexpected, funny, tragic and overall magical. They always amount to more than the sum of their parts, a greater reality. Rob Nugent offers us a profound and unique vision and voice.
Producer, Looking Glass Pictures Pty Ltd
Mitzi has been making documentaries her entire working life. First an assistant editor, then writer, editor, director, producer – anything to do with framing up the real and weird world we inhabit, trying to make sense of it in all its wonderful madness. Endlessly curious and chronically taking on too much, alongside her small but beloved production company, she runs the Documentary Australia Foundation which enables filmmakers to access philanthropic funding to make social impact documentaries happen and make the world a better place.
Hilary Balmond is a freelance Editor living in the Southern Highlands of NSW. From the tranqility of her edit suite and utilising the wonders of the internet, she cuts television shows, feature documentaries and community projects in collaboration with directors and other editors in the big smokes.
Most recently her editing credits include Move It Mob Stlye for ABC3 kids TV, A Common Purpose directed by Mitzi Goldman and winner of the Showtime Movie Channel Audience Award for No.1 documentary at the Sydney Film Festival June 2011 and Emergency Bikers for Channel 5 in the UK.
Prior to concentrating her career on editing, Hilary enjoyed many years making short films showcasing the work of community groups and performing arts practitioners. This stems from her work as Stage Manager of events and theatrical productions both in Australia and the UK. In her travels, Hilary was commissioned by London and Moscow based travel companies, to create promotional films for independent travellers wishing to explore the Scottish Highlands, Russia, Mongolia and China.
She has also been able to assist students at Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School from concept to completion of their own short films. Hilary is very pleased to be working with Sprout Media By Kids again as she has seen first hand how empowering this type of film making can be for the kids involved.
Hilary has a wonderfully supportive and creative partner who is also a great cook, two amazing young daughters and she hopes to have some chickens soon too.
Sam is a sound designer who lives on the shores of the Pacific Ocean (unbelievably his studio is not in Sydney) where he produces aural sculptures for film connoisseurs and cinephiles all over planet Earth. Sam's studio is a wondrous place. In it he brought to bear his experience of many long years crafting sound for all sorts of film projects. Do listen up and enjoy a craftsman and artist at work. Sam's work can also be heard in the sound design for such films as Animal Kingdom (2010), The Rover (2014) and Lore (2012).