For the last week or so, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, has been playing on the tube. I was aware that it was going to be on, but I’ve been focused on my new book, Street Song, so only “vaguely aware.” It took me a little by surprise when I suddenly began receiving a torrent of e-mails about the film. I’ve tried to keep up with them, but they’ve finally overwhelmed me. I hope to get around to answering them all eventually, but for the time being it’s impossible.
When we started the film, my hope was simply to have a visual record of the experience before I had to move on. It is extremely gratifying that the film, which depicts events that happened 11 and 12 years ago, and was released into theaters six years ago, has such “legs.” Both Judy and I thought it was good, but we both knew, too, that you can’t presume that a project will succeed based on its quality alone. So many other factors come into play. In fact, Parrots had an extremely difficult time breaking into the film festival circuit. The gate keepers there tend to be postmodernists who have little use for this kind of movie. But it did well on the art house circuit. It was one of the last to succeed there before the circuit essentially shut down. And it’s done well on DVD, Netflix, iTunes, and PBS.
People often ask, “Which came first, the book or the film?” I was already working on the book when I met Judy. Both projects were done entirely separate from one another. My book is not the same as the film. It covers the full six years of the experience and goes into aspects and individual parrot friends of mine that the film never touches upon. My book did get somewhat buried by the film. More people watch movies than read books, and a lot of people assume that, because they have the same title, the book is simply a rehashing of the movie, which it isn’t. They are complementary, but not the same. (Others assume the film was based on the book, which it wasn’t.) In the film, I’m shown taking photos of the birds, and it is implied that I see a possibility of making a living from my photos. In reality, we had both agreed that it would cheapen the film if we used it to advertise the book, so the photos were meant to symbolize me beginning to make a creative living out of my experience. This is the advertisement!
P. S. After posting this I went for a ride on my bike. I stopped at the Warming Hut, a small cafe/bookstore out by the Golden Gate Bridge, and saw that the paperback, unbeknownst to me, has just gone into a tenth printing.