A short film being screened during this year’s Key West Literary Seminar is a spinoff on the event’s theme - “Writers on Writers.”
“Writers on Chickens” explores the chicken population in Key West through the eyes of writers who live in the city at least part of the year.
Filmmakers Carey and Jane Winfrey of ShortPantz Productions say they didn’t set out to make a film about writers and chickens. Initially, they were working on a film about the more general topic of writers in Key West.
“We were interviewing some of the contemporary writers here, Phyllis Rose and Judy Blume, Robert Stone, and at the end of each interview -- knowing that the literary seminar this year was going to be called ‘Writers on Writers’ -- we did get the idea that maybe we could put together something about writers on chickens,” said Carey.
After each 30 to 40-minute interview, the Winfreys would ask the writers their positions on Key West chickens and the film comprises the responses to that question.
There seem to be two camps as far as the chickens are concerned. Either you love them or you hate them.
“I think the roosters are gorgeous,” said Harry Matthews, one of the authors interviewed in the film.
Literary critic and author Phyllis Rose takes the opposing view.
“I hate chickens,” said Rose. “If chickens could all have their vocal cords cut, I wouldn’t object to them quite so much.”
Carey says he was surprised to find such strong feelings about the birds.
“As a filmmaker, it sort of told me that we were going to be able to make something out of this after all,” he said. “If everybody had agreed, we would have been in trouble. We were surprised at the depth of passion and also delighted at the divergence of views.”
So, who had the best Key West chickens story?
“I would have to say that it’s a tie between Mike Mewshaw who has documented very precisely when he thinks chickens began living here in the streets -- which was recent, not historic -- and Meg Cabot admitting that she loves the chickens, but she also likes to hit them with a hose to get them out of her own yard,” said Jane.
Carey, who is a retired journalist, jumped in at this point.
“Just to forestall any libel suits from Meg Cabot, I think she said she turned the hose on them, not hit them with the hose,” he said.
“Okay, you’re right,” said Jane. “She probably just gave them a little shower. No animals were abused in the Meg Cabot backyard.”
The couple say they plan to continue working on their original film and hope to release it next year.