It’s one of those “good news-bad news” stories out of Hollywood. The digital age has offered moviemakers a way to make great movies with animals without putting them in harm’s way. That’s the good news.
By merging art, technology and nature, Green Screen Animals (GSA) says it provides first-rate animal footage in a cost effective way that would normally be too expensive and too difficult to capture.
By now, just about everybody is aware of “green screening,” which is the shooting of color footage on a green background that can be filled in later. The technique is as old as color movies themselves but, before the digital age, the effect was so obvious that it was most confined to fantasy adventure films for younger audiences, where the willing “suspension of disbelief” is more commonly practiced. Computer-generated imagery (CGI) changed all that and filmmakers can produce a panorama of images across a vast screen with none of the seams showing.
“Imagine trying to film a lion walking down 5th Ave – huge crew, permits, the budget, human risk, time, animal welfare, etcetera,” said GSA President Mark Shockley. “That’s where we step in. We already have the film quality shot you need, at a fraction of the cost. That scene could then be superimposed into your film.”
With almost 40 percent of the footage produced outside North America in locations like Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia, the shock of transporting exotic animals is avoided but the impact of genuine animals in a video like Katy Perry’s “Roar” can be had with having animals onstage. That’s good news for animals that are in demand: Less capturing, less transporting, less trauma, less exploitation.
“Animal welfare and treatment has always been a core value of our business,” said co-founder of GSA Westley Koenen, who always has the “no animals were harmed during the filming of this picture” people on the set at all times. To see a sample of the GSA process, go to www.greenscreenanimals.com.
Several animal scenes were filmed on the giant green screen stage at Hollywood Center Studios recently, where a leopard, a lion, a monkey, an elephant and even two grizzly bears from Frasier Park performed simple tasks on the empty stage as a film crew captured their movements, snarls, roars and grunts, according to GSA. Digital editing and technology allows a movie director to merge the animal action with the actors on a separate stage where, unlike the animals, the actors will have to endure take after take until the director is satisfied, while the animals are already back home spending the rest of the day as usual.
Green Screen Animals have been used on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, the Disney Channel shows “Austin & Ally” and “Good Luck Charlie” and various movie trailers, including one for 20th Century Fox's “We Bought a Zoo.”
Commercials have featured a cat driving a car that was actually filmed while perched on an apple cart pawing a steering wheel. A monkey popped out of a shopping bag in another ad.
Now, for the bad news:
“At first glance, I think it’s a great idea,” said Judy Salvadore of the Friends of the Warwick Animal Shelter. “I think it makes the filming less stressful on the animals but I doubt that it is entirely stress-free. But even my husband, who loved to watch those old westerns, knew the horses were not being treated that well. Anything that makes it easier on the animals is alright with me.”
Salvadore also knows that animals that are not in demand continue to be put in harm’s way, either by circumstance or the worst impulses of humans, which is why the Friends of the Warwick Animal Shelter continues to host an annual crafts fair. They need to raise funds to alleviate the suffering of at least some local animals that, for one reason or another, find themselves imperiled.
“We try to find homes for the animals and we spay and neuter them but it has been really rough lately. We have been inundated with cats lately,” said Salvadore. “Right now, adoptions are really slow. Dogs seem to be getting adopted, but for some reason people just don’t have as much respect for cats. They just move out and they don’t take their cats. Maybe they think that the cats can take care of themselves.”
Over 40 vendors will be gathered under one roof selling their wares just in time for Christmas, according to a news release from Salvadore.
“Products for sale include stained glass, Silpada jewelry, tutus for children, handmade chocolates, photography, handmade candles, crafts for animal lovers, handcrafted jewelry, Wildtree herbs, Pampered Chef house wares, baked goods, all natural dog treats, glass block art, clothing, books and more.”
While most cities and towns maintain pounds and animal shelters to house animals, not many have budgets that allow for anything beyond housing and feeding the animals during their mandated time in the shelter. The Friends of the Animals provide time and other amenities for the critters while they work to find suitable homes for dogs, cats and other homeless animals that end up in shelters.
Crafting for Critters Christmas Craft Fair will be held on Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Buttonwoods Community Center, 3027 West Shore Road in Warwick from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Pets are not allowed in this facility, so please leave them at home. Vendor space is sold out. For more information, call 467-2692. All proceeds will benefit the homeless animals at the Warwick Animal Shelter.
Friends of the Warwick Animal Shelter is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps homeless animals at the Warwick Animal Shelter. Adoptable dogs and cats can be viewed online at www.petfinder.com/shelters/RI59.html or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FriendsOfTheWarwickAnimalShelter.