Yesterday was a big day on set. The production shot a wedding scene, there were several dozen extras, Sir Ben Kingsley was in several scenes. It was a big deal.
I had the job of recruiting lots of those extras, but there was one guy waiting in the extras holding area that I didn’t know. Later I found out who he was. “That’s Kenn Kaufman,” Rob murmured to me. “He’s a legendary birder. I’ll introduce you.”
Kenn and I only met for a second, which is fine—we wouldn’t have had anything to talk about anyway (I know nothing about birding). But later Rob told me a story about him.
Apparently, Kenn’s been birding since the age of six. When he was a teenager he hiked around the country and set the record for North American bird species seen in one year—more than 600 of them. In other words, Rob explained, he’s a badass.
Kenn’s written tons of field guides and birding books, and he also has a blog you can check out at http://birdingwithkennandkim.blogspot.com. (Check out those guns.) You can learn all about him and what he’s done for the field of birding, and if you’re interested, maybe his writing will inspire you and help you get started. Myself, I feel like I learned a little bit about the man later that afternoon.
There’s a lot of waiting around on film sets (see my earlier post for more!), and most of the extras and producers and other observers spent that time milling around checking their phones, occasionally meeting new folks and making conversation. But I was pretty tired, so mid-afternoon I snuck away from set, got in my car, reclined the driver’s seat and tried to take a nap.
After about twenty minutes I gave up and sat up, which is when I saw Kenn. The shoot was happening on a nice Westchester street, on a cul de sac declining from a hill. The production and all the extras were at the top of the hill, but I’d parked near the bottom in order to better shirk my responsibilities. Kenn was walking past my car to the end of the cul de sac. He stood there for a few minutes, then slung a pair of binoculars from around his shoulder and started staring into the trees.
I hadn’t really imagined there’d be much to see on a random residential street in Chappaqua, and maybe there wasn’t. But Kenn was down there, away from the crowd and the cameras and the actors and the equipment and the snacks table, standing in front of a couple of tall trees, holding still and peering into the leaves. It was a quiet moment in the middle of a very unquiet environment. He was the guy at a party who’s in the next room pulling books off the bookshelf and reading. And he looked pretty happy.