My job as an Animal Coordinator is to find the perfect animal for each project. Sometimes this is easy but at other times I have to search for days looking for an animal that both production company and the clients like. For the Farxiga commercial we submitted over 60 different dogs before they finally chose Oscar the French Bulldog for the lead & Fancy Pants (my pup) for a background dog. When I start on a project I usually start submitting dogs that have done some training with me, I prefer to put up dogs I know. If those dogs aren’t chosen I start looking at dogs that have been submitted through the website and facebook. If the production STILL wants to see more dogs often it is time to use my collection of contacts from over 40 years in dogs to find a really specific look.
Oscar was bred by a long time friend & breeder Patricia Sorrentino. I sent in a total of ten french bulldogs but this time Oscar was picked. He has a special something that is hard to describe but unmistakable when you see it. He is a star! He has a movie star dog’s temperament and was un-bothered by the activity on set. He and Fancy Pants LOVED all the attention (and treats) they were offered by the cast and crew.
Finding the right animal is only the beginning of my job. After production picks the dog, we have to train the dog & get it ready to work on set. Once on set its our job to make sure its fun for the dog & that it is safe & comfortable at all times. French bulldogs heat up easily so we were working hard to keep Oscar cool & hydrated at all times! Though he wanted to meet & greet everyone we had to make sure he was well rested for when he was needed on set. Having said that I think Oscar & Fancy Pants had more than enough love all day.
Oscar & Fancy’s Day on Set
Step 1: Set Up
Because the dogs are going to be surrounded by a lot of noise and commotion it is important to find a quiet place to set up so they have a place they can rest and relax. One trainer is ALWAYS within a few feet of the dogs.
Step 2: Getting Ready
In this stage we do a bit of obedience and get the dogs warmed up and introduce them to the actors who will be working with them. If possible we will do a few run throughs of the action they are to give. We check for any distractions that don’t need to be there and any safety concerns.
Step 3: Meeting the Crew
It is important that dogs actually have fun on set so they consider this a positive experience. Most film crews are filled with people who love dogs and are great places to socialize them. However, we do put limits on how much attention they get as we don’t want them to get over stimulated or worn out.
Step 4: Action
And this is where they work. Often scenes are shot many times and from many angles. It is important that the dogs have a fair amount of stamina. We keep watch to make sure the dogs don’t get too tired and that they get plenty of breaks (usually there is a few minutes between a lot of shots as they reset camera or fiddle with the actors make-up anyways – so getting breaks isn’t usually a challenge). With Oscar being a short-nosed breed we paid special attention to over-heating. We use a damp towel to cool him down between takes and make sure he is well hydrated.