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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Haley Stearns at 11:53PM   |  7 comments
Paradise Found

Blog post by Haley Stearns, Still Photography ’15, FLEFF Blogger, Buffalo, New York

Tom Swartwout has worked in The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the past five years. Working on science and conservation films in the multimedia production group led Tom to become the director for the film Paradise Found.

Paradise Found documents the 39 different species of birds of paradise that inhabit Papua, New Guinea.  This film took place over the course of nine years and was worked on by Tim Laman and Edwin Scholes. “This piece was created for a museum as part of an exhibit, and it has since then found life outside of the exhibition and is making its way up to a couple of festivals, which is a pleasant surprise for us,” Tom explained during the course of our phone interview.

Swartwout explained that Tim and Edwin researched the film for nearly a decade before he came on at the end as director. The material was presented to Tom and he formulated the story and helped to put the finished product together.

Documenting the different birds in Papua was no easy task. Tom explained that one of the biggest challenges of filming was being in the right place at the right time in order to capture some of the display behavior of the birds. “It’s an incredible amount of work which requires an immense amount of patience to be able to sit in a blind, maybe at the top of a tree or maybe on the forest floor, and wait for the birds to show up in order to capture those images.”

When asked to give festivalgoers reason to see the film, Tom immediately said, “Living in Ithaca, you’ll see something that you’ve never seen before. You’ll also see an effort to study these birds that’s truly remarkable.”

Paradise Found is playing at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Video Showcase at Cinemapolis on Sunday, April 6th, at 4:00. Be sure to stop in and experience the beautiful and silly nature of the birds of Papua, New Guinea!




I was shocked by the amount of time that Swarthout and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology invests into each project. I couldn't imagine sitting for hours for a bird to pass by, though I'm sure that when birds pass by, the payoff is exhilarating.

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