Based on a magazine essay written by noted best-selling novelist Jonathan Franzen for The New Yorker and widely republished around the world, Emptying the Skies chronicles the rampant poaching of migratory songbirds in southern Europe. Songbird populations have been drastically declining for several decades, and a number of species face extinction imminently. The film explores the wonder of these tiny globe-flying marvels, millions of which are unlawfully slaughtered each year for large sums on the black market, and follows an intrepid squad of pan-European bird-lovers who risk their lives waging a secret war against poachers, disrupting illegal trapping and freeing as many birds as possible.
To make Emptying the Skies, the filmmakers spent nearly a year in the field, going from mission to mission, from summer to fall to winter to spring embedded with our subjects as they operated their “camps” to confront poachers at critical migration pinch-points in Cyprus, France and Italy. Filming took place in Germany and Manhattan as well.