“The two Dobermans race down the street like two dark arrows, closely chasing a man. Their fledged teeth and loud barking seem menacing.” This is what the script tells us. To actually get there, however, can be a long, partly amusing but mainly educational journey.
“Don’t shoot with animals or children!”
On the set you get an idea of what this old film rule is all about. The smallest of your concerns is that the four-legged stars could steal someone’s show. Rather, everything takes longer and the regulations are strict. And even stricter when children are involved. Many permits have to be obtained and it depends on the age of the children, how long they are allowed on set and these times need to be recorded in the schedule. Fortunately it is easier with animals – but still subject to approval according to § 11 I S. 1 No. 3b of the Animal Protection Act. Of course a good animal trainer knows this and what is important on set. Would you like a little tester?
Feeding and petting forbidden
Everyone loves to play with animals, especially dogs. The ones on set, however, cannot be petted. “No stroking and no feeding,” says the animal trainer as it disturbs their concentration. And as their concentration is quickly lost, the animals should be brought onto the set only when everything and everyone is actually ready to film.
Extra wishes for the animal star
If you read about one of these supposedly snobbish actresses, who demand their own chef on set, remember this: An animal has quite the entourage as well (animal trainer, pet owners…). It also needs a retreat – for example a private camper. For the same reasons as for actors, to rest, relax and concentrate.
No other animals on set
No matter where a movie with animal actors is produced: No other animals except for the four-legged actors are allowed on set as this can lead to unexpected incidents. Imagine the cat of the location owner turns up unexpectedly – the commotion would be huge and all concentration would be lost.
Contact animal trainers as early as possible
The animal is supposed to perform a certain action, maybe even a stunt: No matter how simple and straight forward you think the performance is, get in touch with the animal trainer as early as possible. This allows you to understand what is feasible and how much training effort will be involved on the whole.
Don’t forget the meet & greet of the stars
Before we hear the first clapboard, humans and animals need to get to know each other. This saves the “sniffling” during the first few scenes and actors and animals will be more relaxed with each other.
Animals in the mask
Unusual films require unusual measures, as it happened during an animal movie in November 2016. When the screenplay demanded that a Dalmatian licked his dots off, there was the need for make-up. Only which type of make-up? And how do you paint a dog? But of course, there’s a specialist for this as well. These experts know which products can be applied and which not. After all, the protection of the animal is top priority.
Overall, a film production with animals takes significantly longer, simply because more breaks are needed. But it is fascinating to see what animals can learn and retrieve on command.