The Austin Writers Meetup Group Message Board › Seeking input on bat documentary
I'm hoping to get some feedback on a 52-minute documentary I'm finishing up on the colony of bats under Austin's Congress Avenue. If anyone out there is interested in viewing the film and giving me some input, I'd be very appreciative. Please let me know and I can organize a screening, or get you a DVD.
Here's the story:
Hundreds of people line up on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin on summer nights. Below, on the lawn next to the bridge, families snuggle up on blankets and eat snacks. The mood is relaxed, even a little zany. Some know exactly what to expect, others don’t have a clue. They’re awaiting one of the most spectacular attractions in Texas—the emergence of 1.5 million Mexican Free-tailed bats. The bats bring in millions of tourism dollars to the city. They’re also a key part of what makes Austin unique and weird.
But how did the bats get here—one of Austin's busiest bridges? And what kind of reception did they get on their arrival? The film tells the story of how the bats settled into the bridge three decades ago and were met with hostility from residents fearful of bat attacks and rabies. When the city threatened to exterminate the colony as a health measure, a zealous biologist named Merlin Tuttle moved to Austin and persuaded officials to save the bats from destruction.
The bats began moving into the bridge in the 1980s, after a bridge reconstruction leaves gaps between beams that create ideal roosting habitat. The “bat invasion” creates a media hoopla and the headlines attract the attention of Tuttle, a bat researcher in Milwaukee. Tuttle watches Austin’s bat drama unfold from Milwaukee, where he reads unfavorable articles about the colony. The film delves into Tuttle’s background, including his life exploring remote bat caves, and his work to stop the destruction of bat habitat.
Tuttle risks his career and reputation to found a global bat conservation group at a time when bats are mostly feared in the world. He moves to Austin, which Tuttle believes has become the center of “worldwide bad bat publicity”. There, he faces opposition from residents who want to exterminate the colony. Talking up bats to anyone who will listen, he persuades locals of the bats’ benefits. Tuttle, a pioneering bat photographer whose images have been extensively published in National Geographic, uses his photos to change the public's perception of bats—from scary disease carriers to desirable creatures who eat moths and mosquitoes.
As Tuttle succeeds in preserving the colony, a strange thing happens: the bats are transformed into a cultural icon. Locals hold bat festivals and down "batini" drinks, students cheer the bat as their mascot, and tourists take sunset cruises to watch the bats emerge. Locals take a stab at explaining the city’s omnipresent slogan, “Keep Austin Weird” and how the strangeness of having a bat colony could only work in Austin.
Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you,