Synopsis: The documentary “Full Circle” is a film that celebrates one woman’s triumph in conservation: the Great Gull Island Project, Helen Hays’ 50-year quest to save two species of threatened seabirds. During her long term study, she vastly increased the numbers of nesting Roseate and Common Terns on a small, uninhabited island in Long Island Sound.
The film reveals the nesting season of the terns up close – arrival, courtship, hatching, feeding, fledging – and highlights the myriad of volunteers fostered & inspired by Hays over the decades; her extensive collaboration with scientists in Argentina, Brazil and the Azores; and also her remarkable & heartwarming connection with a small fishing village on the north coast of Brazil.
Hays’ dedication has helped complete an important circle, not only in conservation efforts, but also in connecting people from all over the globe… people who were once strangers, are now friends & colleagues working together for a common cause.
Anne Via McCollough
While volunteering for the Great Gull Island Project one May, I was thrilled by the experience of helping to count eggs and to mark nests of Common and Roseate Terns on Great Gull Island, a small island in Long Island Sound. I was struck by the strength and warm demeanor of Helen Hays, who has directed the Great Gull Island Project since 1969, and I was amazed at the wide variety of people – all ages, all backgrounds imaginable – who were involved in the project. As the Great Gull Island Project approached 50 years, I decided to make a film with my friend Ethan Ferkiss in order to share this incredible conservation story with others. In 2018, Michael Male joined our effort and the film really began to take shape. My hope is that “Full Circle” will increase awareness about the environment, will help secure the future of Great Gull Island, and will encourage others to get involved in conservation.
“Full Circle” is Anne Via McCollough’s first film. McCollough graduated from Georgetown University in 1989 and then earned a Master’s degree from Middlebury College in 1991. After teaching Latin, German, French and Spanish for some years, McCollough opted to stay home with her son James, who had a keen interest in birds from a young age. In supporting her son, McCollough had an opportunity to learn about birds herself. In 2005 she began volunteering at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, assisting the Collections Manager of the Department of Ornithology. She learned about the Great Gull Island Project and the Hudson Bay Project, which had offices in the museum and she volunteered in the field for both.
McCollough found these two long-term scientific projects so inspiring that she told her old college friend Ethan Ferkiss, who suggested making films about them. She and Ferkiss formed Taking Flight Productions, LLC in early 2016 with the goal to make these two films about scientific projects that should be illuminated and celebrated. Filming began in April 2016.