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Making of “Season of the Osprey”


Filmmaker Jacob Steinberg reflects on the long process of making “Season of the Osprey,” exploring the challenges of working in the ospreys’ element, and gaining the trust of the subjects in order to capture the truly intimate coverage unique to the film.


- A couple million years ago, evolution created a fishing raptor, whether it was in Asia or whether it was in Alaska or whether it was in Nova Scotia.

The osprey is a global raptor, and that's part of what makes them so special.

Nature just nailed it.

It made the perfect model and it made it once, and then it didn't change it.

There is something truly special about that.

But in this part of the world, the story of the osprey is intricately intertwined with the story of the marsh, the salt marsh in particular.

And the salt marsh in particular is an endangered and underappreciated and extremely important habitat.

In fact, it's the most productive habitat in terms of biomass of any other habitat on the planet, including tropical rainforest, temperate rainforest.

Anywhere. Anywhere you look.

But this is the osprey's domain, and telling the osprey's story in the Northeast is intricately intertwined with the story of the salt marsh, and that's why this beautiful story of this family is inextricable with the story of their place, their home where they live.

That's part of the beauty of this film, is that we try a comprehensive look of not just the osprey over the course of their season and over the course of the year, but of their home, of their place and the place that they return to every year, year after year, 'til the day they die.

(gentle music) This documentary has essentially been a project over seven years now.

The whole concept was to get inside of a family, to really have a level of intimacy, a level of trust between myself and the birds.

That was the most challenging part of the filming process of the family itself.

We had to find the balance between how close and how intimate we can get.

You know, we had this unspoken understanding.

They knew that I needed to do what I needed to do.

I would put up a camera.

I would control that camera remotely.

I would be putting large sliders and remote-operated turrets next to their nest.

I was part of their lives in a significant way all season long over several years.

And they tolerated that.

I was a constant presence in their lives, but they let me.

They permitted me to do that.

They consciously granted me that access.

(machinery whirring) So the reason we did this is just in case it was too difficult for the birds to rebuild on their perch that they have been building on for the last several years.

We decided to help them out with this prime osprey real estate right here.

Whoo! (laughs) And you know, that's what makes this film different than other wildlife films, is that it was a labor of love.

It was a long-term commitment that I had and my team had.

There are true, powerful lessons by spending time, a lot of time, with osprey.

Filming osprey, just like filming any other wildlife, involves patience, a lot of time, getting into their environment.

And their environment is rough.

Let's put it this way.

They're in a giant stick nest that's covered in fish guts, bird feces, getting washed occasionally by the rain, which means the seaweed and sticks are decomposing and turning to mulch, and flies are laying eggs, and eggs are turning into larvae.

And you've got all sorts of stuff in that nest, and they are just itching and scratching, and those chicks that can't leave the nest for their first six weeks of life, they're dealing with what we can only imagine is torturous.

Nothing paints the picture better than the discomfort of living in an uncontrolled natural environment and spending some time on the marsh in the summertime and dealing with the insects.

You wanna film those birds, you've gotta get out there.

You wanna feel what they feel.

You get out there and spend some time on the marsh in the heat of the summer.

(osprey chirping) (insects chirring) Technology improved over the course of this film.

We started this film in HD, and the process of making this film has lasted so long that technology was at this forefront, this breakthrough phase where we were transforming from HD to 4K, and as the film was happening, the tools were being developed side by side with our creative techniques of capturing this footage while we're trying to get closer and closer and capture more and more groundbreaking coverage.

So it was a really exciting process.

These are the battery packs that are going in the field.

(thoughtful music) For instance, one of the resources that the advancing technologies put at our disposal were the 4K trail cameras.

These allowed us to monitor the activity on the marsh 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and gave us a window into what was happening at the osprey ground nests.

Those installations required a lot of logistical planning and a ton of effort to execute.

- Looks like the osprey landed on top of the camera and he knocked it down.

Luckily, the eggs are still there, so we didn't mess anything.

- But in the end, our efforts paid off, because those remote cameras were able to capture one of the most dramatic parallel storylines in the film.

Filming the osprey was a challenge.

Getting close to the osprey and getting the intimate perspective and the intimate coverage that makes the film unique and special was a challenge.

But also, in our ability to handle the environment, osprey are creatures of the marsh and creatures of the islands and creatures of the tides and under the conditions that nature provides.

Our schedule is dictated by the tides and dictated by the weather patterns.

It means a lot of early mornings, a lot of late evenings, a lot of long days.

It requires a lot of patience, and it's very humbling.

It's a timeless story.

These are stories about partnerships, about parenting, about ferocious dedication to one purpose, and that one purpose is family.

Make sure your children have what they need to survive.

That is the lesson: creating the next generation that has the tools and the resources they need to survive and thrive, and that is the message that I hope people recognize and take away from this film.

(soft music) (insects chirring) (rain pattering) (chicks squeaking)


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