Animals are a recurring element in cinema, and often roles will require interaction with them. It’s important to know what to expect and how to treat your furry (or feathered, scaly, chitinous etc) co-stars with respect and professionalism. Our team has put together some great animal performances on screen and tips on working with them on set!
Capuchin monkeys are intelligent, personable and easy to get along with, making them the most commonly utilized primates in film and television; see Marcel from Friends or Crystal the Monkey, Hollywood’s go-to tree dweller who has starred in films such as George of the Jungle, Night at the Museum and The Hangover Part II (incidentally, the highest paid animal star!). Chimps are also intelligent, but more erratic and less friendly; generally having them on set is a risky proposition, and for this reason chimps have become rarer in film recently. Put bluntly, when mistreated they can get violent. Pound for pound, chimps are much stronger than humans. Do the math.
The second thing to remember is to have patience. Animals, as intelligent as they can be, aren’t human beings; they don’t have a concept of what ‘film production’ means, and I can guarantee you that (with the exception of well-trained dogs) they won’t do what the director wants them to do in the space of a few takes. Be calm, and take it as an opportunity to observe your co-star; realise that they have their own intentions and interests, and learn to work with those to make the process more expedient. If you have a pet dog or cat, you’ve probably experienced this process yourself, so draw upon that.
The final tip for working with animals is to always be professional and ethical, small or large, these are living creatures with their own intentions, thoughts and way of seeing the world and we must respect that. We love our furry friends on set and on-camera. Who are some of your favourite animal performances?
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