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Whether Looney or Not

March 24, 2012 3 comments

Anything that’s out of place is a major irritant for me when watching TV/movies. I’m not referring to your standard anachronism like a clock sighted in a period piece about ancient Rome. Those are expected to pop up from time to time.

I’m talking about continuity errors that are flagrant, going uncaught by professionals or deliberately placed in a film without regard for accuracy. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

The other night I walked on the wild side and watched an episode of CSI: Miami. Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to the brighter-than-life colors, the crystalline quality of the photography, and the characters and scenery. Imagine my consternation when, during an outdoor shot, the Foley artist inserted the sound of a loon, calling in the background.

Hello! Loons don’t live in Florida. If they’re there, they must be at a zoo. I’m almost certain the Foley insertion came at the direction of the script; something like Insert Bird Call Here. I just can’t fathom an expert in sounds not realizing the difference between a loon call and that of a bird indigenous to the Dade County area.

For some obscure reason, the poor loon gets to travel in ever-widening circles in the film and TV world and calls for his mate at the oddest times of the year. While true that loons migrate in the winter, Florida is far off its path of normal wintering spots. Perhaps the one on CSI: Miami felt the need for some sun with its surf.

This incident left footprints on my mind. I couldn’t leave it alone, and finally, I had to see for myself if I was ready for a secure sanctuary of my own.

I went looking for information on our lovely, but oft-sounding lonely, loon. A ten minute search of the web garnered plenty on the various species of this water fowl.  From the outset, I learned that I was correct in my thinking, at least regarding a Florida loon at any time of the year.

Five species of loon grace our waters in North America, none of which normally live below the 44th parallel during breeding season. Two species, the Yellow-Billed Loon and the Red-Throated Loon, will winter as far south as Baja, California. The other three species, generally stay much further north and out to sea during winter migration.

The Great Northern Loon has a limited migration range that includes both U.S. coasts but not as far as Florida. The Pacific Loon normally lives in Alaska and extreme Northern Canada as far east as Baffin Island. It winters in many places as far as Asia, Finland, Greenland, and Spain. The Black-Throated Loon, a.k.a. Artic Loon, favors Eurasia for breeding and winters at sea.

The occasional vagrant bird sighting pops up in other locations around the world during migration, but those are exceptions to the rule.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with writing and film. One lesson drilled into me over the past few years is that accuracy counts in what you present. If it’s only my opinion, I can write it as such. As viewers, we are bombarded with visual, auditory, and subliminal information every day through media connections.

There are those who will not know that the loon’s vocalization doesn’t belong in realistic scenes “filmed” in Florida. Others will know and be turned off by the discrepancy. Anyone who makes a living from presenting information, in whatever form, needs to take great care to present no fallacies.

The need for hasty product delivery, as with TV and film schedules, can create opportunity to error. The author can’t claim that circumstance; she has time for fact checking during the writing process. She should strive never to cheat the reader, any more than studios should ignore significant continuity errors.