Have you been terrorized by the likes of an aggressive turkey — or rafter of turkeys — while trying to go about your daily life? Maybe you’ve witnessed a chaotic scene outside your window, where one of the irritable fowl chased down a neighbor or pecked at passing cars?
Or perhaps you have a bit of a soft spot for the territorial birds, and enjoy watching them forage for food in backyards or show off their colorful feathers in the middle of a busy street to a cacophony of honking motorists.
Either way, Aynsley Floyd would like to hear from you.
Floyd, a filmmaker from Brookline, recently embarked on an ambitious project, a documentary about one of the state’s most polarizing subjects.
No, not Dunkin’ double-cups. We’re talkin’ wild turkeys. And she needs your help.
“I’m interested in stories about human, non-human relationships, and people’s complicated relationships to the natural world,” said Floyd, a former photojournalist who’s pursuing a master’s degree in Film Media and Arts at Emerson College. “That’s the sort of subject matter that I’m drawn to, and I think we all have turkey stories living in the Boston-area.”
Floyd’s prior work includes short films about the city’s deserted streets at the start of the pandemic, called “Boston Lockdown”; and “The Mountain Dogs,” a pick at last year’s Woods Hole Film Festival about the daily, unaccompanied trek of two elderly golden retrievers to the top of a Vermont trail.
Floyd, who grew up in Concord, came up with the idea for a documentary about turkeys earlier this month as part of her thesis at Emerson. To realize her vision, she is relying on the first-hand experiences of residents who either love or loathe the prehistoric-looking creatures.
She recently launched a Facebook and Twitter account for the project, which she’s using to solicit videos, photos, and stories from a growing community — people who have had run-ins with local wild turkeys and lived to tell the tale.
“Do you love them? Do you hate them?,” Floyd wrote in a Facebook post this week that included a clip of a turkey standing near a passing Green Line train. “I’d love to hear your turkey stories for my documentary film.”
Floyd created a Gmail account — firstname.lastname@example.org — for people to send their content for the documentary, titled “Turkey Town.”
There’s certainly been no shortage of reports about turkey troubles over the years. Just this week, police in Wenham warned residents to avoid a flock of birds seen strutting down Pleasant Street. That way, trouble lies.
And the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife frequently issues strongly worded advisories about how to handle bold turkeys. (Don’t feed them! And don’t let them intimidate you!).
Floyd plans to explore the history of turkeys in the state, and their impressive rebound — there are now an estimated 35,000 in Massachusetts — thanks to the repopulation efforts of wildlife experts in the 1970s. Above all, she wants to capture their complicated relationship with the people they coexist with.
“They seem to have a polarizing effect on our community,” she said. “People either love the wild turkeys or they fear and detest the wild turkeys, and both are legitimate viewpoints. And I think it’s sort of interesting to look at the history of how we got here.”
Floyd said she understands there could be some underlying humor to the film, but she’s not setting out to make a comedy.
“I’m hoping to make a film that is informative and educational,” she said, “but also sort of light and humorous as well.”
Floyd certainly isn’t the first artist to find inspiration in the humble turkey. Indeed, something of a cottage industry has emerged around the birds and their devoted fans.
Recently, a Somerville designer whipped up T-shirts featuring the now-famous “Somerville Turkey,” which became a beloved fixture of the city’s Spring Hill neighborhood during the pandemic. They sold fast.
The shirts show the turkey — referred to as “Mayor Turkatone” among other names — smoking a cigarette in front of a Dunkin’ shop on Somerville Avenue, one of its favorite haunts. (State officials euthanized the turkey in December due to its aggressive behavior.)
The town of Reading had a turkey mascot of its own named “Limpy,” which similarly gave rise to the creation of t-shirts, stickers, and a local fundraiser. The turkey, whose name was derived from its uneven gait, was killed last year while hobbling through traffic. But as with the Somerville Turkey, its legend has endured.
And in 2018, Brookline-based artist and illustrator Caroline Barnes looked to turkeys for inspiration for a series of colorful posters that were displayed in art galleries.
Floyd said these instances are what partly sparked her interest to pursue her own project, and hopes to lean on these positive and negative experiences to build the film’s narrative.
“That’s one of the things I want to get to the bottom of,” said Floyd. “What is it about the turkeys that’s so captivating to people?”