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A Birder's Guide to Everything 2013

A Birder's Guide to Everything

A Birder's Guide to Everything

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About the A Birder's Guide to Everything 💬

  • A coming of age comedy about birding.

David Portnoy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 15-year-old birding fanatic, makes an unbelievable discovery: he might have taken a photo of a supposedly extinct duck that hasn't been seen in North America since 1878. Upon the counsel of the Young Birders Society, David's high school birding club, he takes his finding to a legendary ornithologist, Dr. Lawrence Konrad (Ben Kingsley) to solidify the claim. With his original photo too blurry to confirm bird's identity, Konrad recommends they find the duck again before it migrates in order to get a better account of this Lazarus species, but this time using a quality camera.

David and his ragtag birding crew (Alex Wolff, Michael Chen) embark on an epic road trip to solidify their place in birding history - and with girls. Enter Ellen Reeves (Katie Chang), who is in possession of the quality camera they seek and tags along under one stipulation: she takes the first photo of the rare duck. As they encounter other birders and a certain doctor who just might want to steal their claim, what initially seemed like fun exercise in birding could turn into a journey of discovery in more ways than they all hoped.

A BIRDER'S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING marks the feature directorial debut of Rob Meyer, who wrote the film with Academy Award-winner Luke Matheny.


In the words of naturalist E. O. Wilson, ''nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction.'' This is never more relevant than during the teenage years, when our emotions and sense of wonder are constantly heightened. I wanted to make a film about kids who find peace - maybe even some sort of understanding - in the woods. I also wanted to celebrate nerdiness. I was a big nerd in high school and still am (hence the E.O. Wilson quote), so I, along with my co-writer, Luke Matheny, wrote a film about characters who care passionately about something without worrying too much about what others think. Finally, I wanted to make a film that tackled the issue of loss in a way that wasn't depressing. The result was a road trip movie about birding teenagers looking for an extinct duck.

David, our hero, deals with the recent death of his mother by raising his binoculars to the world of birds. He convinces his friends to embark on a trip to find the Labrador Duck, a bird previously believed to be extinct. For me, the romantic belief that something can return from extinction had obvious appeal and was inspired by the recent (possible) re-emergence of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. I'll admit that much of my writing and creative work gravitates towards our existential predicament, and the subject matter of a Lazarus species turned what could be a dreary theme into an adventure with inherent humor. My goal was to intertwine the fun and wit of sharp adolescent minds with the melancholy aftermath of a recent tragedy.

We (and by we, I really mean my cinematographer Tom Richmond) shot the film with great formal rigor, with an emphasis on carefully composed shots. We lit gently and naturalistically so that the film would feel both timeless and authentic. Led by our brilliant production designer Elizabeth Jones, we were careful to keep to a specific color palette. Our rule was simple: if we couldn't find a color in an Audubon painting, we'd try to keep it from being in the film. The result has a nostalgic quality and a muted sensibility that I hope helps the bittersweet tone resonate with audiences.

We worked hard to get the details of birding right. While I wasn't a birder before starting the project, I now count myself as an enthusiastic beginner and have great admiration for hard-core enthusiasts who have unbelievably long life lists and a knack for luring birds out into the open. Going into the field with experts to get our wildlife footage was one of the most inspiring parts of the shoot and I witnessed more than one ''bird whisperer'' moment. We also invited two veteran birders to be on set, including birding legend Kenn Kaufman (author of the memoir Kingbird Highway, the birding equivalent to On the Road). Everyone from the actors to the VFX team to the sound designer conferred with our ornithological consultants and got into the spirit of things.

Above all, A BIRDER'S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING strives to get to the heart of human emotions, exploring why we immerse ourselves in passions like birding when faced with life's great challenges. The journey takes David miles away from his home, through situations both challenging and absurd, but the film ends with a heartfelt face-to-face reconciliation with his father. This simple conversation, a stark discussion about issues that really matter, is to me the bravest act in the film, and one which I think young people and adults can both genuinely admire.

A Birder's Guide to Everything Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Rob Meyer

Writing Credits

Rob Meyer

Luke Matheny


Kodi Smit-McPhee

Katie Chang

Alex Wolff

Michael Chen

James Le Gros

Daniela Lavender

Tracy Bundy

Ben Kingsley

Ethan Cohn

Lucas Near-Verbrugghe

Stephen Kunken

Zandi Holup

Adam Barrie

Jessica Perez

Sam Kiernan

Tobias Campbell

Joel Van Liew

Leslie Korein

Briana Marin

Samara Amat

Will Laguzza

Music by

Jeremy Turner

Cinematography by

Tom Richmond

Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Country: United States

A Birder's Guide to Everything Official Trailer

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