Selected Awards | Recent Projects | Additional Selected Projects | Books/Articles/Still Photography | Theatre | Education, etc.

judy's portrait

→ See Documentary Film Consulting

Pelican Media Executive Director Judy Irving is a Sundance-and-Emmy-Award-winning filmmaker whose theatrical credits include The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a feature documentary about the relationship between a homeless street musician and a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco, Pelican Dreams, about California brown pelicans and the people who know them best, and Dark Circle, a personal film about the links between nuclear power and weapons. In 2015 Judy was invited to become a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Wild Parrots was a “Top Ten Film of the Year” (National Film Critics’ Poll), was the highest-rated program on the 2007 national PBS series “Independent Lens,” and is now in international distribution. Pelican Dreams (completed in late 2014), features a young brown pelican who mistakenly landed — tired, hungry, and confused — on the roadway of the Golden Gate Bridge, creating a spectacular traffic jam and re-igniting Judy’s years’-long fascination with these ancient, charismatic birds. For a San Francisco Chronicle Magazine feature →click here. To see the trailer, press clips, and production stills →click here. Pelican Dreams has been distributed to over 100 cities nationwide, received a 95% “Fresh” rating on the national film critics' site, →Rotten Tomatoes, and is →NOW AVAILABLE on DVD/digital platforms. Ro*Co Films handles international broadcast rights.

Judy spent childhood summers on the North Fork of Long Island, and came to love birds thanks to her grandfather. She graduated from Connecticut College with a degree in Psychology and worked as a freelance journalist in Montreal before hitchhiking across the continent and living on a handmade raft-house in British Columbia. Later, she received her Masters in Film & Broadcasting from Stanford University, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Film.

Her documentary film career has taken her to Alaska, Japan, Russia, Nepal, and Zimbabwe, with peace and the environment as her main areas of interest. Somehow, birds seem to show up in every movie. Judy’s six-film documentary series about the San Francisco Bay Area’s wildlife and open space led to her interest in the wild parrot flock flying the city's north waterfront, and her habit of swimming year-round in the Bay led to her documentary, 19 Arrests, No Convictions, about a bartender who “escapes” from Alcatraz by swimming, which premiered in 2008. For a more detailed resume, please see below.

Selected Awards


2015 Elected to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: Genesis Award, Outstanding Documentary Feature, Humane Society of the United States; Christopher Award (national humanitarian award); Audience Awards at the Ashland, Maine, and Black Bear Film Festivals; Best Independent Film, International Wildlife Film Festival.

Dark Circle: Grand Prize, Sundance Film Festival; National Emmy Award, “Outstanding Individual Achievement in News & Documentary;” short-listed for the Oscar (Academy Awards).

Nagasaki Journey: “History’s Best on PBS” (national award)

Guggenheim Fellowship in Film

One-year Fellowship in Film — Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Director’s Internship with Peter Weir.


Recent Projects


judy and parrotPelican Dreams: Documentary feature about the tangled destinies of a familiar yet endangered species, the California brown pelican, and the people who know them best. DVD release: April 2015 →Available Here. Producer/Director/Editor.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: Documentary portrait of Mark Bittner, a Bohemian St. Francis, and his magical relationship with a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco. Two-disc Collector’s Edition DVD release, Fall 2008. Nonfiction feature film, 83 minutes. Producer/Director/Editor.

19 Arrests, No Convictions: Documentary about George Farnsworth, an Italian-American bar owner with a fishy night life, who redeems himself as a San Francisco Bay open-water swimmer. SF Ocean Film Festival Premiere, 2008. Producer/Director/Editor.

Christmas at the Bait Shop, Alameda Wildlife Refuge, Salt Pond Habitat Restoration, and Save the Quail: Short films about people and animals in the Bay Area’s urban habitat. Broadcast on KQED, 2006 to present. Producer/Director/Editor.

Salt Pond Habitat Restoration Archive Project: Decade-long still photography documentation of a major tidal marsh restoration project in South San Francisco Bay, 2004 to 2014. Funded by Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and California Coastal Conservancy. Photographer.

Additional Selected Projects


Dark Circle: Nonfiction feature film about nuclear weapons and power, told by those directly affected. 1983, updated 1991, New Yorker Films. Broadcast on PBS prime-time network series, "P.O.V.," won National Emmy, short-listed for the Oscar. 2008 re-release on DVD by New Video (Docurama). Distributed worldwide in seven languages. “Completely riveting,” Roger Ebert. Producer/Director/Writer/Narrator.

After the Storm: Bob Walker and the Art of Environmental Photography: Traveling photography exhibition and film. San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, Oakland Museum of California, other venues. 2000-2002. Co-Curator.

Kids by the Bay, San Pablo Baylands, & Partners on the Land: Documentaries on wetlands, wildlife, and habitat restoration in the Bay and Delta, including a Nature Conservancy project at the Cosumnes River. 1999 San Francisco Film Festival Golden Gate Award, broadcast on KQED. Writer/Producer/Director.

Nagasaki Journey: International photography exhibit, 128-page book, and half-hour film produced for the fiftieth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb. Simultaneous gallery openings in New York, San Francisco, and Nagasaki, 1995. Film broadcast on NHK (Japan), BBC (Britain), & national PBS. “Some of the most powerful images ever made,” Carol Squiers, New York Times. Producer/Director.

Out of the Way Cafe: Hour-long drama about Mae the Waitress and her two suitors, in a cafe that time didn't quite forget. Swedish television, 1999 PBS broadcast. Special Jury Prize, Uppsala Film Festival. Producer/Director.

Quiet Revolution: Six-part national PBS series on sustainable development in rural areas. Half-hour segments shot in Nepal, Zimbabwe, and Arkansas. 1995. Earthwatch Environmental Film Festival Award. Director.

Roger and Me: Nonfiction comedy feature about how General Motors built and destroyed Flint, Michigan. New York Film Festival, Warner Brothers theatrical release, 1991. Directed by Michael Moore. Camera/Sound/Editorial Consulting.

Secrets of the Bay & Treasures of the Greenbelt: Companion films on San Francisco Bay Area wildlife and countryside, broadcast on KQED-TV and other PBS stations. 1990 & 1987. Partially funded by the San Francisco Foundation. Toured the Bay Area with three other Irving-produced environmental films as Traveling Environmental Film Festival, 1999—2001. Producer/Director/Writer.

Books/Articles/Still Photography


Independent Filmmaker Zooms in on Pelicans: feature article with photographs about Irving's newest documentary film, Pelican Dreams. San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2014. Subject.

Flock Update,The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: Feature article with photographs, Bird Talk Magazine, December 2008. Writer/Photographer.

Filmmaking Without a Net: feature article about Irving's career as a documentary filmmaker, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, January 13, 2008 issue. Subject.

Nagasaki Journey: 128-page hardback photo book (Pomegranate Artbooks), to accompany the international photo exhibition. 1995. Associate Editor.

Running Away: Essay for Sun Magazine about an African guide and a white tourist in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. 1994. Writer.

Rio Mazan: British expedition to unexplored cloud forest in Ecuadorian Andes, 1987. Still Photographer.

Earthwatch Magazine, Feature article on maternal/child nutrition project in rural Zimbabwe, 1986. Writer/Photographer.

Mademoiselle Magazine, Weekend Magazine, Montreal Star—Feature writer and photographer; stringer for Time Magazine, 1969-73.



Soapy Lives: Theatrical drama about the infamous Klondike Gold Rush character, Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, playing each summer in Skagway, Alaska, 1973 to present. Writer/Director.

Out of the Way, Trip Without a Ticket: Original oral-history-based dramas produced by Tale Spinners Theatre Company, San Francisco. 1988-89. Director.

Education, etc.