6:52 The Pileated Woodpecker: A Trickster

Gerald Krausse
“This is the largest rarely seen woodpecker in North America. According to Native American legend this bird is considered a trickster, much like coyotes are among mammals. The drumming chants used in this video are a reflection of their behavior. Kachina figures are made by the Hopi and Navajo to act as a link between the supernatural and mortals. These spirits are then impersonated by men who dress up and use masks to perform ceremonial dances.
Here is an indigenous parable that illustrates the character of a trickster.
” A pileated woodpecker flies to a tree and pecks on it looking for food, and the worms come out. They ask what do you want. The woodpecker says –
I come to warn you of an impending flood and if you are in danger I will rescue you. The worms respond by thanking the woodpecker. The wood-pecker comes back days later, pecks on the tree, the worms come out and the woodpecker eats them. The moral of the story: don’t believe everything you hear and don’t always trust somebody you don’t know.
I want to share with you how I made this video, perhaps you can learn something form it. The approach outlined here is basically the same in most of my projects but differs in details depending on the species involved and the habitat they live in.
First, I have to find the subject, that means a lot of searching, talking to people and getting permission to film, if it is on private land. Then I spend more time observing the behavior of the species, the path of the sun for best lighting, any human disturbances nearby and how I can best approach it with minimal interference. I spent 3 summer months observing and filming this woodpecker family at different times of day, weather and stages of their nesting cycle. That shaped the story later in post-production. I have no script before I shoot, as is normally the case, that doesn’t work for unpredictable wildlife.
Each species poses different challenges in terms of how to get close and then obtain shots from various angles to illustrate their behavior. The type of habitat also determines much of the background (often referred to as B-roll).
In this case the cavity nest was 35 feet up a dead beech tree. In all I obtained some 400 clips (a strip of frames 5-10 seconds long). About 120 of them were considered unusable and deleted from the SD card. From the remainder I selected 170 clips for editing this video. For those interested I shoot in 4K at 60 frames and edit in Adobe Premiere Pro.
Editing allows for considerable creativity. It involves cutting clips to select specific frames, color correction, story telling, sound edits, graphics and more. In the future I hope to add voice-over to my videos instead of using text to provide the narrative. If you have any comments or questions please shoot me an email at geraldkrausse@gmail.com. Thank you.” Gerald Krausse