Even cheaper than exporting work overseas
is to get animals to work for... well, peanuts. Certain animals
have proven surprisingly adept in specific areas of film production.
SAN DIEGO –— Cost-effective filmmaking has a new
face: with names like Hitch, Lumi and Buster.
Studio executives have latched onto a plan that employs a pod
of dolphins and a sea otter to shoot underwater sequences for
the upcoming feature, Free Harvey, in which a Hollywood producer's
assistant jumps into the Pacific Ocean to end his life but magically
grows gills and falls in love with a moray eel.
Says one executive, "Prior to the animal crew, we were looking at the next Ishtar. Now, we've easily saved $30 million!"
"Buster K., the sea otter,
has had a tough time learning the clapperboard."
Jenner, Seaworld trainer
The dolphins were originally trained by the Navy to detect mines
in Iraqi ports near Umm al Qasr and the Khor Abd Allah waterway
that leads to it. The mammals, already accustomed to wearing small
surveillance cameras on their fins, were cross-trained in techniques
of modern movie-making.
One dolphin, dubbed "Hitch" to honor director Alfred Hitchcock, was trained by the film's land-based cinematographer, Heimlich E. Fellbacher, in conjunction with staff from SeaWorld. "Hitch is great, very responsive, " say Fellbacher. "He's developing a good eye, a sophisticated panning shot that rivals the best Streadycams and a dramatic close-up maneuver where he can stop on a dime. I swear, I've worked with humans who didn't learn this quick!"
Another dolphin, nicknamed "Lumi," who grew up in the same pod, has been trained to follow Hitch and provide the necessary underwater lighting for any given shot. Several other dolphins in the same pod have been trained to help out with set design (rearranging aquatic scenery) as well as gaffing (using a special underwater duct tape).
"They're naturals," says SeaWorld trainer, Mick Jenner, "but it helps that they're already familiar with each other. The situation with our sea otter, 'Buster K.' has been a little different. He's still trying to get the hang of the clapperboard."
TIME FOR YOUR CLOSE-UP: Hitch's smooth,
panoramic shots are sure to be a hit at the box office.