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From the very beginning of our project, we had wanted to work with the local children’s science museum, WonderLab, to help bring to life juncos and scientific research to the more than 80,000 kids and parents that visit each year. Dark-eyed Juncos (the Northern race of the Slate-colored subspecies to be exact!) spend the winter in Indiana, so there was no better time to kickoff our Ordinary Extraordinary Junco exhibit than following the film’s premiere in December. And it turns out that besides being a world-class science museum for daily visitors, WonderLab is also an awesome reception venue after hours, so it was the perfect place to gather following the film premiere. We were also able check out the newly completed exhibit, installed by Jeremy Stone and Tony Ritchel, with the guidance of Director Karen Jepson-Innes.
Although the late hour and the weeknight date (Tuesday during finals week) kept some of our guests from heading downtown after the film premiere to hang out, we still had a great turnout that included many colleagues from IU, local birdwatchers and science teachers, a handful of college biology and ornithology students, and some friends and family.
IU Biology helped us put together a nice spread of food and drinks, and the WonderLab was open for everyone to “play” (and learn!) with all the various exhibits. Whenever I’m at WonderLab it is obvious that many of the parents or chaperones are just as engaged and entertained as the kids.
The junco exhibit mainly presents a sampling of Ordinary Extraordinary Junco film clips on a newly upgraded HD video kiosk with a directional smartvolume speaker that is designed to adjust to background noise and target viewers immediately in front of the kiosk. We also put together some educational posters and taxidermy junco mounts from the research collections that are on the wall surrounding the video, and two pairs of binoculars are tethered at the nearby window so visitors can look for juncos and other wild birds in WonderLab’s garden, which has some birdfeeders. The final layer of the exhibit was a “sound matching” game designed to help kids understand how birds and other animals use their songs to communicate with one another for mating or territorial interactions.
A great time was had by all, and it was a treat to be able to hang out with so many encouraging and inspiring people who share our enthusiasm for science, education, birds, and film! Thanks to IU Biology and the WonderLab for hosting us!
When we first got the official word from John Vickers, the Director of the Indiana University Cinema, that our feature-length film, Ordinary Extraordinary Junco would be added to the IU Cinema schedule for Tuesday, December 11th, we had mixed emotions. On the one hand, we were thrilled to premiere our film at such an incredible cinema venue–the IU Cinema has state of the art projection and sound equipment, but is finished with all sorts of classy period details. But on the other hand we were worried about generating enough of an audience–on a weeknight and during finals week no less—as we did not want the 270-seat venue to seem empty. Further, it was a little bit intimidating screening our first science documentary film project in a facility that recently hosted the likes of Werner Herzog and a long list of other world-renowned filmmakers.
We were a little surprised when the tickets were “sold out” several days in advance—they were free but had to be picked up at the box office. Still, we figured our friends and colleagues just went and grabbed handfuls (since they were free), and the likelihood of actually filling the place was slim. Well, we had apparently underestimated either people’s desire to see the film, or at least the number of people who came out to support us, or both, as the cinema quickly filled before show time and only a lucky few of the 40+ people waiting outside hoping for an spot were let in. We were thrilled with the turnout, but it was gut-wrenching to turn so many people away who had waited in the cold—including some from out of town, but it’s hard to argue with the fire safety code, I suppose.
It was a treat to see and hear the (mostly) finished product for the first time on the big screen with every seat filled, and the positive feedback from the audience was truly humbling and inspiring. We did a brief Q & A at the cinema after the screening and had lots of good questions, mostly focused on the science shown in the film, and a few about the process of making the film. Thanks so much to everyone who came to the premiere, sorry to those who didn’t get a seat, and we hope this was the first of many public screenings of film! The night was capped off by an awesome reception hosted by WonderLab children’s science museum, but more on that in another post.