Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.


Two alternate spellings of ‘overtime’ are ‘animal’ and ‘baby’.

Animals, even the best trained ones, are unpredictable and only sometimes do what you want them to do when you want them to (babies, of course, never, ever do anything on cue).

So when I got a call to work on a green screen unit, I figured it would be a fairly uneventful day. Once the screen is lit we don’t have too much to do, and green screen work normally goes fairly quickly unless there are stunts involved.

Then, we met the world’s most uncooperative giraffe. I’ve only been on one other shoot which used a giraffe – a commercial many years ago. I guess that giraffe was better behaved because aside from remembering that it was really. fucking. tall. any memory of the rest of the day is long gone.

This particular giraffe was only about six years old so not fully grown (according to the trainer, they grow until they’re 12), and was in no mood to stand in front of a green screen. Maybe it was the fact that there was a tiger 100 feet away, but he was antsy (the giraffe, not the tiger) and dragged his handlers all over the set while the camera operator tried desperately to keep him in frame.

The problem with a 16 foot tall giraffe is that it’s very, very difficult to convince him to do something if he gets it in his head not to do it.

The handlers would attempt to direct the giraffe by pulling on the rope attached to his halter, but the giraffe would just plant his feet and bend his neck to some visually disturbing angle instead of walking. In the ‘things I didn’t know’ file is that a giraffe has a very flexible neck – this one could bend his head all the way back to his tail.

At one point, he decided he’d had enough of the handlers and started trying to gore them with his.. I don’t know what they’re called – horns? Antlers?

I don’t know what his name was, but I think they mostly call him ‘shithead’. According to the trainer, his temperament is representative of most giraffes, who are apparently not team players.

We also used an elephant, with whom I’ve worked before. She’s a complete sweetheart and unlike many human actors I’ve seen, hit her marks every time.

The zebra was cute and did okay, except for occasionally deciding that the grass was more interesting than the handler’s treats – which meant that instead of walking from one side of the frame to the other, he’d stand there and graze, ignoring the handler and the director’s frantic shouts.

The emu wasn’t very friendly, either, and he scared me. I’ll confess to not being overly fond of birds, and a great big one with weird red eyes just made me want my mommy.

Also, what is it about power cable that makes it such an attractive place to poop if you’re an animal? Every one of them would wait until they were standing right over the cable and then let loose. I was glad I didn’t have to wrap it.

Since I thought it was going to be a short day, I didn’t bring a book or a newspaper or anything to pass the time. All I could do is watch the pissed off giraffe rampage around in front of a green screen.

Which, when I think about it, is much more entertaining than the paper.

I’m not complaining, though. Between the giraffe, the waiting on actor availability and the creepy emu, we had just under a 14 hour day, which is just what my bank account needs right now.

* according to The Phobia List, this is a fear of wild animals – although I probably shouldn’t imply that I’m afraid of them.  I’d like them to keep their distance (fleas, you know), but if they get to close to me, I can always hit ’em with a combo stand

Filed under: Work, , , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. k4kafka says:

    Hilarious !!!

  2. JCW says:

    And here I thought working with Joseph Cross was bad…

  3. David H. says:

    I was gonna say. Why would you want a paper with that amazing giraffe drama unfolding right in front of you! :-)

  4. geekhiker says:

    “I don’t know what his name was, but I think they mostly call him ’shithead’.” – That gave me the best laugh I’ve had all day.

    And not because I sometimes think of my users the same way.

    Well, not “just” because…

  5. Charli says:

    Just when I thought your stories couldn’t get any funnier! Hilarious, girl, simply hilarious. I’m not afraid of wild animals, but cows sort of scare me, they’re big and have these huge heads and if you are ever on a hay ride, guess what? they like hay and they chase the hay cart…

    No, I don’t like cows, giraffes are nice.

  6. opus says:

    I think emu’s are pretty unfriendly creatures in general. Years ago there was a comedian whose gimmick was an emu puppet. A giant sock puppet he wore on one arm so it looked like he was carrying an emu.
    The puppet didn’t talk, the comedian would make sure to get close to the unsuspecting show hosts or audience member and then have the emu puppet attack them. was actually pretty mean.

  7. Annika says:

    I am way late on this, but I think they’re called ossicones.

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