Rodents of Unusual Size

Rodents of Unusual Size

  • BY Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer | IN Health & Environment
    Premiered January 14, 2019

About the Film

Rodents of Unusual Size is a real-life horror "tail."

Louisiana residents south of New Orleans have faced many an environmental threat, from oil spills to devastating hurricanes. But a growing menace now lurks in the bayous and backwaters: hordes of monstrous 20-pound swamp rats known as nutria. The voracious appetite of this invasive species from South America is accelerating erosion of the state’s coastal wetlands, already one of the largest disappearing landmasses in the world. But the people who have lived there for generations are not the type of folks to give up without a fight.

The film features a feisty mix of rejuvenated trappers, adventurous chefs, bold fashionistas, exotic pet enthusiasts, and more. This joyful take on an ecological menace reveals in equal parts our impact on the environment and the local's surprising solutions to save their land before it dissolves beneath their feet. It is human vs. rodent — may the best mammal win. MORE

Despite the havoc that nutria have wreaked on Southern Louisiana, some have embraced them. The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans has opened a nutria exhibit, the local Triple-A baseball team has a nutria mascot, and some Cajuns even keep them as pets. Through the offbeat and unexpected stories of the people confronting the nutria problem, Rodents of Unusual Size examines issues surrounding coastal erosion, the devastation surrounding hurricanes, loss of culture and homeland, and the resilience of the human spirit.

The Filmmakers

After graduating from USC with a degree in business and cinema, Chris Metzler’s film career has taken him from the depths of agency work to coordinating post-production for awful American movies seen late at night in Belgium. His film directing and producing work has resulted in frequent partnerships with Jeff Springer, where together they've crisscrossed the country with the aid of caffeinated beverages and made their way in the Nashville country and Christian music video industries, before finally forsaking their souls to commercial LA rock n’ roll, culminating in their winning a Billboard Magazine Music Video Award. Metzler eventually joined the independent documentary film scene with his feature-length directorial debut with Springer, the offbeat environmental documentary Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, which was narrated by legendary counterculture filmmaker and “King of Trash” John Waters.  The film went on to win over 37 awards for Best Documentary and was named by Booklist as one of its Top 10 Environmental Films. A cult favorite, the film was released theatrically in the US and broadcast nationally on the Sundance Channel. Metzler’s Emmy-nominated documentary, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, screened at SXSW and aired nationally on public television’s AfroPoP! series.

Jeff Springer was born in an abandoned town in the California desert, raised in Hawaii, and educated at USC Film School. After working at a dilapidated film studio in Russia, he returned to Los Angeles and began editing promos for NBC, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Capitol Records. After moving to San Francisco, he found himself on Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch, editing behind-the-scenes documentaries for a not very well received science fiction prequel. Craving the unexpected, he directed his first feature documentary Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea with Chris Metzler, about the offbeat residents, environmental disasters and flooded towns surrounding California's Salton Sea. Springer has gone on to make numerous documentaries, including photographing and editing the award-winning Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone for PBS, which was narrated by actor Laurence Fishburne. He then lived in Afghanistan to edit the documentary In-Justice, about women imprisoned for supposed “moral crimes.” He directed and photographed several short docs and an Emmy-nominated hour-long special for the show Artbound for KCET in Los Angeles.

Quinn Costello is remarkably unequipped to live off the land for having grown up in rural Idaho. After exhibiting no ability to hunt, he fled to study film at a hippie college in Olympia, Washington, only to find himself years later making a film about hunters. After relocating to the Bay Area, Costello began editing documentaries on subjects ranging from environmental justice, sacred islands and dancing spiders. His portfolio of work has been seen on PBS, The Learning Channel, Sundance Channel and innumerable film festivals including Tribeca and Mountainfilm in Telluride. For ten years, he has been editing the Emmy Award-winning public television series The New Environmentalists narrated by Robert Redford. Rodents of Unusual Size is his feature directorial debut.

Film Credits

A film by
Chris Metzler, Jeff Springer & Quinn Costello

Narrated by
Wendell Pierce

With Music by
Lost Bayou Ramblers

Produced by
Chris Metzler
Quinn Costello
Jeff Springer

Executive Producer
Sally Jo Fifer

Supervising Producer
Michael Ehrenzweig

Cinematography by
Jeff Springer

Edited by
Quinn Costello

Thomas Gonzales
Joan Gonzales
Tommy Gonzales
Rick Atkinson
Bree Aucoin
Darrell Aucoin
Larry Aucoin
Samantha Aucoin
Zeph Aucoin
Michael Beran
Valerie Billeaud Schoeffler
Eric Dement
Julian Devillier
Deacon Lloyd Duplantis Jr.
David Holowell
Trey Hover
Paul Klein
David Lapierre
Brian Lash
Liz LeCompte
Cree McCree
Brooks Mosley
Edmond Mouton
Boudreaux D. Nutria
Danny “Julio” Phillips
Maurice "Bimbo" Phillips
Pedro Phillips
Anthony Pitre
Tab Pitre
Charles Reno
Raymond “Malay” Reyes
Kermit Ruffins
Becky Schexnayder
John Siemion
Susan Spicer
Benny Well
Rachel Whitley
Haleigh Willis
Nooty the Nutria

Associate Producer
Carol Bidault de l'Isle

Assistant Editor
Sarah Brown

Editorial Interns
Léna Aïache Risterucci
Paul T. Layland
Matthew Psyllos

Editorial Consultants
Nels Bangerter
Byron W. Thompson

Animal Wranglers
Milliken Farms - Wildlife Control & Movie Animals

Animation by
Pipsqueak Films

Animation Director
Mike Blum

Storyboards & Animation
Scott Graham

Art Director/ Illustrator
Sarah Cierlak

Kel Barnes

Visual Effects by
Ole Sturm

Gary Coates

Sound Facility
Skywalker Sound

Supervising Sound Designer
E.J. Holowicki

Sound Effects Editor & Re-recording Mixer
Zach Martin

Narration Recorded at
Voice Trax West

Original Musical Score by
Louis Michot

Music Performed by
Lost Bayou Ramblers

Andre Michot
Louis Michot
Jonny Campos
Bryan Webre
Kirkland Middleton
Leyla McCalla
Ryan Guillory
Josh Leblanc
Ted “T-Bone” Thomas

Music Engineered, Mixed & Mastered by
Kirkland Middleton
Dockside Studio - Maurice, LA

Additional Music Engineering by
Mark Bingham
Tony Daigle

“Bounce Cadjiien”
Written by Bryan Webre (BMI)
Performed by Lost Bayou Ramblers

Music Supervisor
Rennie Elliot

Fundraising & Development Consultant
Nadja Mark

Poster Design by
Elena Coco

Poster Photography by
Joel Sartore
Courtesy of National Geographic

Poster Photo Retoucher
Sugar Digital

Still Photographers
Angela DeVille
Gabrielle Savoy

Sasha Berman

Legal Counsel
George M. Rush Law Offices
Steven Paul Mark

Insurance Services
Charles Whelan Insurance Agency

Archival Materials Provided by
Ted Gesing - “Nutria”
NBCUniversal Archives
Nutria For Human Consumption Campaign
The State Library of Louisiana
The Weill Agency

Special Thanks
Anthony Metzler
Audubon Zoo
Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program
Blessing of the Fleet
Cathead Biscuit Boys
Chateau Golf & Country Club
Coastal Environments Inc.
Coastwide Nutria Control Program
Cucalorus Film Festival
Defend New Orleans
Faquetaique Courir de Mardi Gras
Fresh Docs
Hot 8 Brass Band
Jefferson Parish Department of Drainage
Jen Redner
Katherine O’Toole
Keanu Ramos
Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge
Louisiana Crawfish Festival
Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries
Louisiana Fur & Wildlife Festival
Louisiana State University
Marsh Dog
Melody Tulier
The New Orleans Baby Cakes
Pitre’s Fur & Alligator
Rebirth Brass Band
Righteous Fur
Roxie Theater
Seagate Technology
The Smith & Stoller Family
St. Bridget's Church
The Tremé Sidewalk Steppers Social Aid & Pleasure Club
Working Films
Zahra Mark-Metzler

In Memory of
Jeanette Gorman
David Metzler
Tom Springer

Fiscal Sponsors
Southern Documentary Fund

Funding Provided by
International Documentary Association
Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund
Berkeley Film Foundation
Pacific Pioneer Fund
Jerry and Jette Arnold
Duane Bouligny
H.P. Mendoza
Kelly J. Richardson
Jakab Walton
Betsy and Jack Rix
Cody Smith
And others. A complete list is available from PBS.

Production Support by
Charles Quirmbach
Perky Family Foundation
John Springer
Michelle Quirmbach
Nancy Dunlap
Tim and Dylan Metzler
Tom Springer
Chris Costello
Jeanette Gorman
Jim Springer
Lynda Metzler
Pat Costello
Misha Werschkul
Alex Gorman
Diana Costello
Mark Gorman
Peter Springer
Sue Springer
Emily Costello

RODENTS OF UNUSUAL SIZE is a co-production of Tilapia Film and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This program was produced by Tilapia Film which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2017 Tilapia Film, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

How did this film change how you think of ecosystems, hunting, and sustainable food? What's the most exotic food or meat you've ever eaten? Is there any equivalent to the nutria in your own area?


  • Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival
    Best of Festival Award
  • SF Docfest
    Special Jury Prize for Excellence in American Profiles
  • Tupelo Film Festival
    Best Documentary Award
  • Tallgrass Film Festival
    Jury Award - Best Documentary
  • Bend Film Festival
    Best Environmental/Outdoor Adventure Feature Award
Please review our comment guidelines.
How did this film change how you think of ecosystems, hunting, and sustainable food? What's the most exotic food or meat you've ever eaten? Is there any equivalent to the nutria in your own area?