Woods Hole Film Festival: “Gus Outdoors”

August 7, 2011

Gus Nightingale

Gus Nightingale was only 4 years old when he starred in his first movie, an experiment produced by his filmmaker father Sean Nightingale, who has created films for National Geographic and others.

Inspired by Animal Planet’s wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, Gus was a natural. The father-son team has since gone on to produce 30-minute shows for the “Gus Outdoors” series, in which Gus explores natural environments and the animals who live there. Gus teaches viewers about the animals he meets and does the voice-over narration as well, from scripts that are a collaborative effort between him and his father. The pair live in Providence, Rhode Island, with Gus’s mom, Amy, and his little sister Talus.

Gus and Sean Nightingale

In his first film, “Gull Island” Gus explores seabird nesting sites on West Island, Little Compton, Rhode Island, and teaches other children about interesting things, like how seagulls regurgitate food for their young.

Though most of the language is kept simple, Gus does use big words like regurgitation when they are needed, explaining the concepts in simpler terms for his audience.

Gus and Sean’s latest film, “Gus Outdoors-Lizard Town,” will air at the Woods Hole Film Festival’s Kid’s Day Saturday, August 6,  at Redfield Auditorium, beginning at 2 PM. Gus, now 9, and Sean will be there and will talk to other children and their parents about the show.

“Lizard Town” is a beautiful film about Gus’s trip to the Bahamas. We see his plane take off from Logan Airport and a map showing where the Bahamas are. He meets lizards, iguanas, snakes and more on land, and then snorkels in the pristine waters, meeting all kinds of fish and sea creatures. The film has won several awards, including Best Amateur Film at the International Wildlife Film Festival.

To see the film, visit: http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/festival/play/6918/Gus-Outdoors–Lizard-Town

Both “Gull Island” and “Lizard Town” may be purchased for $12.95 each at http://www.gusoutdoors.com/shop.html

Sean does all the writing (with Gus’s participation), photography, and editing himself, without support from networks or production companies. When he is not creating films, Sean works as an art director for a sailing company in Newport.

Gus was 6 when the “Lizard Town” was shot during the family’s first trip to the Bahamas. They went back the following year to get more footage of some of the animals, and finally finished the film in September 2010, when Gus was 8.

Talus, then 3, appears occasionally in the film and has since been taking on larger roles. She can be seen with Gus in a short piece (webisode) on hummingbirds on the Gus Outdoors website: www.gusoutdoors.com, where one can also find information about Gus and Sean’s other adventures.

Gus has grown and matured remarkably over the four years they have been filming together, said his father. “He has learned to speak clearly and enunciate well.

It has been an amazing education for both of us,” Sean said, not only about the natural world, but about the world of film production.

They have spoken at five different film festivals, including the wildlife festival in Missoula, Montana, in May. There, they filmed another webisode, about sheepherding, which can be seen on their website. They would like to return to Montana to do a full-length show. For that one, Sean said he will seek out funding assistance.

Sean is currently developing a new show about the water cycle, tracing the flow of water from Vermont down to the ocean, showing different activities that use water, like rafting and skiing, and different wildlife, incorporating some video of manatees that he has already shot.

Working with children, especially one’s own, can be challenging, but Sean said that they have not had any serious conflicts. “We take breaks on a regular basis, so the kids can have fun. Very rarely do we work for more than an hour straight. The most difficult time is when we start a shooting day, trying to get motivated, but once we get a few shots under our belts it flows pretty naturally.”

Gus said that he has learned a lot about animals that he did not know before, and that, as well as working with his father and sister, makes the filmmaking fun for him. He particularly enjoys traveling and exploring the various islands in the Bahamas and talking to other children about the films at film festivals.

He would like to do shows about eagles and going to Africa. In his spare time, Gus likes to write and to play soccer, and he hopes that “Gus Outdoors” will encourage children to get outside more often.

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