Using animals in film is the subject of
interesting debate. If you use animals in your film, you should
contact the American Humane Society before your shoot. They will
ask to see the script pages with animal scenes and decide if they
need to be on set. I recommend at least taking these measures. There
is also an organization called PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society)
which takes a slightly more hard-line approach and monitors the
treatment of animals in all forms of entertainment. You might want
to call them and discuss your project. Make these connections before
your shoot, not after.
ANIMAL BIGHTS PERSPECTIVE as expressed informally by People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
in Washington D.C. is that animals should not be used in film at
all. Try puppets. This will not go over well with most producers,
but it is worth a moment's thought: film sets are a highly stressful
environment and the animals become frightened by all the activity
and the number of strangers surrounding them. They become confused
by the constant repetition of actions demanded of them by subsequent
takes. At the same time, there are trainers and pet owners who insist
their animal is a natural performer and loves to do it. The answer
lies in the middle, no doubt: the more exotic animals are going
to be very anxious, while certain "well-adjusted" domestic
animals may enjoy the attention.
WORKING WITH PETS: My own recommendation is to
use a pet who lives near the shoot. The animal will be accompanied
by its owner and will not be fatigued by a long journey from a pen
somewhere. You will be fairly confident about how the animal is
treated at home and so, in humane terms, this is a safe bet. Also,
you might find that a regular pet has more personality than a groomed
ANIMAL AGENCIES: If you need a trained animal to
perform special scenes you may resort to an' agency. There are a
number of animal agencies listed in the Producer's Source Book.
It is imperative that you check them out before you employ them.
Remember that. a humanely treated animal is going to perform .better
and look better than a stress-out one.
EXOTIC ANIMALS: If you are looking for an unusual
animal, you might get advice from an organization that protects
them. Nowadays, unfortunately, there are organizations for most
every type of animal, from chimps to beavers, bats and elephants.
SPECIAL EFFECTS AND PUPPETS: Animal stunts and deaths are
for puppets. There are two puppet makers I know of who make very
successful fake animal: Bob Flanagan and his partners of Denn Design
Studios (bicoastal) and the Animal Makers in California. Their work
is convincing and humane.