Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No Birds Were Harmed In The Making Of This Film

Location scouts searched the globe to find a place that was unusual and not well known to the general public. The next 'Star Wars' film had to be shot against the right backdrop, but where on earth was that other-worldly place to be found in this world?

Cameras and crew arrived at Skellig Michael, a piece of Irish rock that was so isolated the monks went there to escape the distractions of life. Out there in the Atlantic Ocean, all windswept and perfect for quiet contemplation and prayer.

After the monks left, the United Nations went in and declared the place a World Heritage site. It's that special and that important, to be preserved for all and not just the Irish. Sure there's plenty of other sites to go around, but the UN is after protecting each and every one just the same.

Which is why Unesco is pestering the Irish government about this 'Star Wars' business. It's a Unesco heritage site and no one asked the UN if it was acceptable to allow an entire movie crew, with all their equipment, to set up camp and use the island for commercial purposes.

Not that they had to. But, it would have been nice. Just in case, you know. In case the Irish are incapable of managing the place on their own.

Tourists are allowed to take boats to the island and tour the remains of the monastery, but we're talking about hundreds of tramping feet in regard to the film. Feet and generators to power the lights and the accomodations necessary to feed and house all those people who walk about on said feet. And who's minding the grips and best boys as they set up lights? What if stones get knocked down in the process? Who will guarantee that nothing is harmed, not only the structures but the flora and fauna?

 Birdwatch Ireland is concerned that birds might be harmed in the making of the picture. To have such a crowd milling about, and the birds accustomed to privacy, what if the birds are startled and leave their nesting sites? Might they then fly in circles until they drop into the ocean? This being the breeding season for several birds that call Skellig Michael home, some birders fear that the birds will not breed because their nesting area is overrun with actors in costume. The presence of Jar Jar Binks would annoy many a bird into skipping the egg laying if only to avoid the annoying character.

Filming is scheduled to wrap up soon, and after the work is done, the government body responsible for minding Skellig Michael will make a tour and complete a thorough assessment. The Irish Film Board has already assured Unesco that things were arranged so that no birds or other objects were harmed in the making of the film, so stop worrying over nothing. The specific locations used by the film crew were selected so as not to disturb the birds or damage the structures.

The government will prepare a report for Unesco and you just know that the report will present a glowing image of an undisturbed area, with happy birds flying to and fro, the females sitting happily on eggs in untouched nests.

Might we expect Unesco to alter their requirements for the use of these sites? They leave it up to the locals to determine if the area will be suitably protected and don't ask for advance notice, but now they're making noise about not being informed even though Ireland wasn't required to so inform.

There just aren't enough layers of bureaucracy, apparently.

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