Whirlybird, a documentary from Greenwich Entertainment debuting this week in theaters and on demand, has been an MPRM client since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020. For anyone growing up in Los Angeles it serves as a reflection of the city over the last 40 or so years but more importantly, it raises questions both personal and professional. To what lengths will media go to cover a story, to what degree does media coverage influence a narrative and to what extent does that impact the personal lives of those who do the job?
There was a time when Zoey, then Bob Tur, was synonymous with breaking news in LA. A helicopter pilot/reporter, Tur and then wife Marika Gerrard were often first on the scene at pivotal moments in the city’s history. They had their own news service but Zoey also worked for KCOP, KCBS and KABC and also did live radio reporting for KFWB and KNX. Tur was known for being aggressive and taking chances to get a story. So it was not a surprise that the pair was first on the scene when the ‘92 LA Riots broke out at the corner of Florence and Normandie, and once again to follow the OJ Simpson Ford Bronco chase along the freeways of Southern California.
Most of their work meant covering floods, fires and crime, the latter becoming part of the narrative about gang infested LA. Looking back, they question whether live coverage of death, violence and police shootings, particularly in South LA, distorted audience perceptions. It’s relevant today as media weigh the impact of reporting on the resurgence of Covid because of the Delta variant and whether it will spur more vaccinations, a desired outcome, or cause fear among those already vaccinated, an undesirable outcome. Where does the responsibility lay and when do headlines drive perception instead of simply reflecting reality.
For the Turs, their work was their life and vice versa. They lived for the adrenaline rush of breaking news. It was a family business and the kids were along for the ride. Professional videographers, they recorded their life alongside the news of the day. It’s probably not surprising that their daughter Katy became an NBC political correspondent and now MSNBC host and author.
For director Matt Yoka it was a six year project that started with the desire to make a movie about L.A., the city he was born in. In Tur, who he calls “perhaps the greatest reporter Los Angeles has ever known,” he found someone who encompassed the city with a personal story that meant the film could also journey into the self.
An intimate story about family, Whirlybird becomes more than just a story about LA.