The Eagle SkyeNet interview of Jeff Butts,
the filmmaker who produced a performance art video
with artist Garett Campbell-Wilson
and musician Craig Jacks.
Eagle SkyeNet Q: How did this performance art project come about?
Jeff Butts A: Each year Point Roberts has an Arts & Music Festival, and the idea was to have a performance art show, and then auction off the painting after the show to help with costs. So local musician Craig Jacks who is one of the principle organizers of the Art Festival, contacted Garett Campbell-Wilson to see if he would be interested. Everything was arranged and then a few days before the show Craig heard I was in town and asked if I’d be interested in filming it? I’d never done anything like this before, but when I heard that Garett would be painting an eagle, then I saw the potential and agreed to do it.
ESN Q: What was the potential you saw?
JB A: Well initially it was just the opportunity to raise awareness about eagles, and to tune into their more spiritual side, and to show the power that they have to inspire people. In this case the song was written at Lily Point, and the song is from an upcoming documentary about the eagles that live there. The song is Spirit On The Wind, a title that I gave to Craig and he wrote a song from it. It’s a beautiful song, and I’d heard that Garett was quite the artist, so I was intrigued by the idea of doing performance art with these accomplished artists.
ESN Q: Have you ever done performance art before?
JB A: No, not at all. Filmmakers come from the other end of the scale, where we have hours and hours of footage and then carve it down to a finished project, but to do a single take, live, in front of a room full of people, with natural light, and live music, presented a lot of new challenges. So I guess I cheated a little by adding footage of eagles, but I tried to make up for it by editing in footage from a single session, and just grabbed each clip and added it without any changes.
ESN Q: Why did you feel you needed to add in the eagles?
JB A: Partly because I needed material that I could add to the live footage that needed to be masked, and secondly because I wanted anyone who watched this to understand where the inspiration was coming from. Many people have never seen eagles, so I edited the eagles in a progression of seeing them separately, and then I started merging them together, so one see’s the artist and the inspiration for the art at the same time. Then secondly, because at 15 minutes a straight single shot would be too slow for people to keep interested in, so adding the eagles helped with the flow of the piece.
ESN Q: Where was the footage of the eagles taken?
JB A: At the western end of Lily Point. The adult eagles you see are the adult pair that lives at Lily Point, Athena and Qaysun. The juvenile eagles you see are from both Athena and Qaysun, and their neighbors to the west Skye and Kite. Skye also appears in the film.
ESN Q: They have names?
JB A: (laughs) yes, I know all of them individually, and have been filming them since 1999. They will fly to me, come visit me at my home, and even on occasion wait outside for me to get up in the morning. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with eagles, and they have shown me many amazing things, and so inspired me to learn more about them. That led me to realizing just how disconnected I was from the natural world. By seeing the eagles view of the world, it really changed how I saw the world, and more specifically how we interfere and make it hard for our wild creatures to live normal and peaceful lives.
ESN Q: How does this project address that?
JB A: It’s more of an initiation… a starting point, that by seeing how eagles have inspired these artists, the people who watched. Then add in seeing the beauty and grace of real eagles soaring over Lily Point, and one can start to understand that there is something going on here, there is something about eagles. Hopefully people will start to clue in to what the lyrics in the song are talking about, or at least have their curiosity awakened to seek more knowledge about eagles.