As I grew up I was fervently desirous of becoming acquainted with nature.– John James Audubon
ABOUT THE FILM
His passion for birds carried him across a continental wilderness to observe them in their natural habitat, and his skills as an artist and observer immortalized them and their environment to remind and inspire us two centuries later. A singular visionary in frontier America, Audubon was the godfather of today’s conservation movement.
Audubon: John James Audubon and the Birds of America is the story of a rare man and the wild creatures he loved. His obsession cost him and his family dearly, but his work influenced every generation of nature lover that came after him, from Thoreau to Teddy Roosevelt, and has helped to preserve a small portion of the wild lands he explored and documented.
The legacy of Audubon is as timeless and vital as his art, and this film is an effort to appreciate him as he deserves.
Audubon vividly captures the remarkable life of John James Audubon. The Birds of America was a monumental work by an artist and naturalist obsessed with his work. Hosting the film's world premiere at the 2015 Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital allowed us to honor Audubon and his significance as an artist and conservationist.– Flo Stone, Founder, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital
One of the most absorbing art documentaries I’ve seen recently, Audubon is very impressively researched, written and photographed, and SO pleasurable to watch. Though Audubon himself encompasses many disciplines – ornithology, botany, natural history, etc., it’s really the artistic aspect of his Birds of America that captures our imagination—and ultimately that’s why this film is so stimulating.– Margaret Parsons, Curator, Film Dept National Gallery of Art
I think [it's] one of the most superb documentaries I've ever seen at any time. This film really captures the life of this great man. Anyone that's interested in birds, that's interested in nature, that's interested in conservation, and interested in American History, should see this film.– Victor Emanuel, Victor Emanuel Tours
ABOUT JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
He was one of the most remarkable men in early America. A self-taught painter and ornithologist, he pursued a dream that made him famous in his lifetime and left a legacy in art and science that endures to this day. His portrait hangs in the White House and his statue stands over the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History. Yet the story of John James Audubon has never been told on movie screens.
Born in Haiti in 1785, he and his family fled the revolution and moved to Nantes, France in the early 1790s, where he grew up until the age of 18. Seeking refuge from conscription in Napoleon’s army, he emigrated to the fledgling United States, to a farm purchased by his father outside of Philadelphia.
There he met the love of his life, Lucy Bakewell, the daughter of a well-to-do English merchant family. Seeking their fortune, the couple moved upon marriage to the then-frontier of Henderson, Kentucky, where they opened a series of general stores. All the while, Audubon had been fascinated by birds from his youth in France to his time on the American Frontier. When his businesses went bankrupt in the Panic of 1819, Audubon made a daring bet: to paint all of the bird species of America, in life size. It was a project that would take him decades.
In the end, Audubon would paint all 435 then-known species of birds in America (some of them multiple times) on a journey that stretched from the Florida Keys to the straits of Newfoundland to the swamps of Louisiana and Texas to the mountains of Montana and the Dakotas, much of it on foot.
INTERVIEW SUBJECT BIOS
Richard Rhodes is an author, journalist and historian. He is the author of “John James Audubon: The Making of an American,” the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” and twenty-one other books. He frequently lectures and gives talks on a wide range of subjects, including testifying before the US Senate on nuclear energy.
Jamie Wyeth is a contemporary American realist painter, the son of Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C. Wyeth. He is the artistic descendent of the Brandywine School, dedicated to portraying the rural landscape, people and animals of Delaware and Pennsylvania that bears its name.
Roberta J.M. OlsonArt Historian, Author
Roberta Olson is Curator of Drawings at the New York Historical Society and author of “Audubon's Aviary: The Original Watercolors for The Birds of America” She has curated three exhibitions of Audubon’s watercolors entitled ‘Audubon’s Aviary’ at the New York Historical Society. She holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and was a Professor of Art History at Wheaton College for twenty-five years.
John FitzpatrickDirector, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
John Fitzpatrick has been the Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology since 1995. Prior to that he was Executive Director at the Archbold Biological Station (1988-95), a private research foundation in Central Florida, and Director of Birds at the Field Museum of Natural History (1978-89). He is the past president of the American Ornithologists Union (2000-02) and a former Director of The Nature Conservancy (1995-2005).
Danny HeitmanAuthor, Journalist
Danny Heitman is an editor and columnist for the Baton Rouge and New Orleans Advocate and author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House,” an account of Audubon’s time in Louisiana. His work has also appeared in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Christoph IrmscherProfessor, University of Indiana at Bloomington
Christoph Irmscher is the Geroge F. Getz Professor in the Wells Scholars Program at the University of Indiana at Bloomington. His areas of expertise include early American nature writing and he has edited volumes of Audubon’s writings.
To be a good draftsman was to me a blessing.– John James Audubon
An award-winning American film director, screenwriter and producer, Al Reinert co-wrote the screenplay for Apollo 13, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay. He received his second Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, Feature for the film, For All Mankind, which also garnered the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award, Documentary and Grand Jury Prize, Documentary. His most recent documentary, An Unreal Dream — The Michael Morton Story, won the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Documentary.
John AldrichProducer and Editor
John has worked as a producer, editor and cameraman for Discovery, TLC, PBS and National Geographic Television, where he was a staff producer/editor from 2003 – 2010. Most recently, Aldrich served as editor on An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story, which premiered at SXSW Film Festival in 2013 and won the Festival’s Audience Award for Best Documentary. The film debuted on CNN in December 2013.
Tim Barksdale is CEO and principal cameraman at Birdman Productions LLC. He has been passionately pursuing birds with a camera for 20 years, building a foundation of 700 analog and digital media tapes of North American birds, as well as South and Central American species. The largest collection of its kind, the tapes make up the core of the Macaulay Library collection at the Laboratory of Ornithology of Cornell University. Barksdale was formerly Principal Wildlife Cameraman for Animal Planet.
Caroline (Cina) Alexander ForgasonProducer
Cina Alexander is a lifelong conservationist and is the managing partner of Rara Avis Productions LLC, a single-purpose company that oversees production of the Audubon documentary. Cina serves on the boards of The Nature Conservancy of Texas, The Peregrine Fund and the Lewa USA Wildlife Conservancy, which supports a conservancy and community development projects in northern Kenya.
Peter Stopschinski composed and recorded string arrangements and organ on Grupo Fantasma's 2010 Grammy Award winning album La Existential. He also composed the music for Madeleine George's play The Curious Case Of Dr. Watson that was nominated for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Peter's opera, Bum Phillips All-American Opera, with librettist Kirk Lynn about Bum Phillips and the Houston Oilers premiered at the La Mama Experimental Theater Space this year to rave reviews: "Watching a staged depiction of the 'Luv Ya Blue' era is like biting into a deep-fried madeline. " - Texas Monthly. "...even Rigoletto would have to doff his cap." - NY Times.
Originally from Detroit, Joshua moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, and he has a strong background in investigative journalism. His most recent short about the struggles for potable water in rural Haiti, Digging for Water was featured in the 2014 PBS Online FilmFest. He was a producer for PBS Frontline’s 2010 season premiere Death by Fire about the questionable execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. He was Associate Producer for the 2013 SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award-winning documentary An Unreal Dream about the highly publicized case of Michael Morton’s wrongful conviction.
Wayne BellSound Designer
Wayne Bell is a longtime sound designer, editor and mixer. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, he returned to his native Texas where he was among the core of film professionals whose work led to Austin becoming a filmmaking center. From a lengthy list of movie credits, a few examples: many of Richard Linklater’s films, including Boyhood, Bernie, and the Before Sunrise trilogy, and the seminal independent films The Whole Shootin’ Match, and the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. As a documentary filmmaker, Bell has filmed around the world for PBS, BBC, National Geographic, et al.; credits include the Emmy award winning documentary George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods On Fire, An Unreal Dream: the Michael Morton Story, and many more. Bell also has numerous credits as a narrator, composer, museum exhibit sound designer, game sound designer, sound researcher, sound restorer, and producer/writer of award winning radio documentaries
Chuck PinnellMusic Supervisor
Chuck Pinnell is a veteran member of Austin's celebrated film and music community, and has spent many years honing skills in both worlds. His accomplishments include composing the guitar scores for the influential indie classics The Whole Shootin' Match and Last Night at the Alamo, producing the Austin all-star Civil War album Dark River, and collaborating with Rich Brotherton on the evocative folk instrument score for Al Reinert's An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story.