Film student documents homeless parrots
Lauren DeAngelis, a 2008 graduate from AU's Master's in Producing Film and Video program, wanted her documentary to educate the public on the difficulties of caring for parrots as pets.
She never expected to win a bronze Student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars.
Her film, "A Place to Land," documents homeless parrots in captivity from a Virginia-based parrot advocacy organization to sanctuaries in the southwest. It encourages viewers to adopt homeless parrots, rather than buy ones, and to use caution when adding the lively, intelligent birds to their households.
Parrots can live as long as people, and some live to be 80-years-old. Owners often do not realize the lifelong commitment parrots require and abandon them, DeAngelis said.
"After viewing my film, I hope people realize that they should think carefully before bringing a parrot into their lives," she said. "Parrots are wild creatures. They are not domesticated and are often very noisy, messy and even aggressive. In addition, parrots are flying machines."
The birds often fly great distances in nature and are social creatures, DeAngelis said. When kept in a cage, they can develop neurotic behaviors.
"Just because they are beautiful and can vocalize words does not mean that the make good pets, or that they even should be kept as pets," she said.
DeAngelis has a parrot herself, a cockatiel named Precious who was her inspiration. When she was 10-years-old, she and her sister convinced her mom to buy the bird without knowing its long lifespan. Precious is now 18-years-old, and the family is still caring for her.
Since many parrot owners die before their birds or are incapable of caring for them, many birds end up in sanctuaries, DeAngelis said.
"Because so many parrot owners get in over their heads, there are many birds that end up abandoned or homeless," she said. "In fact, if the trend continues, parrots may end up being euthanized simply because there aren't enough sanctuaries out there to care for them."
In her self-funded film, put together with the help of another student, Joe Bohannon, DeAngelis journeys to Moab, Utah, to film parrots flying freely while their owner, a free flight enthusiast, watched. She had only seen parrots kept in cages, but in Utah, the parrots soared into the sky and flew in a flock, something similar to their natural habit.
"To see macaws flying and enjoying their natural birthright was a unique experience that I will never forget," DeAngelis said. "At points, the birds even swooped down and landed right on our backs. They especially seemed to like landing on top of the video camera!"
To capture the different personalities and behaviors of the film's stars, she filmed and observed the birds for long periods of time.
"Filming animals is always a challenge because they are unpredictable, and they don't act on cue," DeAngelis said.
She said hopes to continue working with birds by documenting the ravens at the Tower of London.
"Legend has it that the ravens protect the tower," she said, "and it will fall if they are not there. To this day, several ravens are kept there and visitors can see them hopping around the tower grounds."
In addition to her filmmaking, DeAngelis works as an online editor for the Rankings and Reviews of U.S. News and World Report.
The Student Academy Awards were presented on June 13 to college filmmakers across the nation. Over 500 students compete for cash grants and awards for Animation, Documentary, Narrative and Alternative films, according to the Academy Web site.
"There are so many wonderful film schools and talented student filmmakers across the nation," DeAngelis said. "To be classified as one of the best by such a prestigious organization is almost surreal."
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