We mostly work with wild animals. Our stars are tigers, wolves, bears, foxes and cougars. While it's true that there are many animals in circuses, none of them are able to work on a set, as the conditions there are very different from a stage. Noise, intense lighting, multiple takes, nervous atmosphere is stressful for animals who didn’t come through special training. Also, animals have to work with actors and crew who are strangers to them, which also requires particular skills.
As for wolves, foxes and cougars, there are just a few of them around the world who are truly tame.
We also work with domestic animals (cats, dogs, horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep). In many movies we were responsible for coordination of all animal scenes.
We need a lot of information to prepare for animal scenes. The most important piece of info is the script or a description of the scene. Also, it's good to have a storyboard, as we can get ready for actual camera angles.
With this information in hand, we start picking animals and figuring out how many doubles we might need for a scene. Then, we start assessing if the animal needs further training and how long will it take and start the process.
Yes, and we try to use them as much as we can. The reason is that the lead animal actor can get tired and lose focus. In order not to interrupt the filming process, we need to have someone to double them.
Also, different animals have different tempers and skillsets. For instance, if the wolf character needs to attack an actor and also stand still for a long time, this task can't be accomplished with just one animal. We'll have two animals with different tempers that are so similar that a replacement won't be visible on the screen.
The duration of training depends on the task (what the animal needs to do, in which setting, for how long) and the age and experience of the animal actor. Most of our animals are trained for particular tasks.
The training normally takes from one to three weeks.
For wild animals, knowing their territory is a key factor to survive. In order to make the shoot cost-effective, it's best if the animal is trained on the same location and spot where the scene will be filmed. It's an absolute priority while working with animals, as otherwise, they will need time to get used to the setting.
It highly depends on the project and the animal, but in some cases our animals can work even with the lead actor. Before that, we have to make sure the animal and the human actor get along really well.
Filming wild animals always carries some risk, so we the safety of the crew and the animals is our absolute priority. Sets are frequently crowded with hundreds of people working in a confined environment. We always make sure that safety measures are included in the contract and communicated to every crew member.
Our safety measures include steps to ensure the animals won't get traumatized and that they have a proper shelter for the duration of the shoot.
All the measures are based on recommendations by the American Humane (AHA), the biggest animals rights group in the United States.
There are strict guidelines that we follow while transporting animals. Above all, we make sure that the animal can't escape or break the transportation cage. The cages are designed to consider all factors, such as changes of speed and road surface.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions, but there is no general answer to that. We need to know the kind and the amount of animals, the location and the conditions of the set, the duration of the shoot and the need for transport. When we have this information, we prepare a detailed proposal.
Wolves are easily trained. In fact they adapt much faster than dogs. They love learning and training. The problem is that wolves are shy and timid, and complex stunts need thorough preparation.
Bears eat bread, fish, veggies and fruits (carrot, apples, cabbage, tomatoes, oranges). They also have a sweet tooth for cakes, cookies and honey.