As a talent scout for music, I've worked with the likes of Sinead O'Connor, Death Cab for Cutie and James blunt, but it wasn't until a stint of unemployment back in the mid 90's that I figured what the heck, maybe I can discover some canine talent as well. My New Yorkie Gidget, has been a model and actor for 13 years. From Bloomingdales to dog food, Conan to Letterman, Cosby to Mad about You, and "Baby" from Sex in the City, here are 8 tips I learned along the way.
1. Safety first. If your pet seems stressed out he/she shouldn't be there.
2. Socialization. If your pooch doesn't like people, other pets, or is scared by noise this is not for them. On the Sex and the City set there were geese and swans-tempting to dogs not used to play dates with other creatures!
3. Ask for a doggie double. Gidget is 15 years young but still, there were some long shooting days that went into the wee hours of the morning. I used the other dog for a few angles during a scene when Kim Cattrall was holding the dog in a bag. No acting required but Gidget had just been on set too long and was tired.
4. You're not a stage mom. More like a choreographer. You study the scene, rehearse at home and work out the action on set with the director and actors.
5. Set expectations. Be clear with the director or photographer what your pet's limitations are. The worst thing you can do is show up unprepared and waste time, money and put your pet in a stressful situation. If you want future work, be honest if it's not in your pet's repertoire.
6. Command with a click. Train by rewarding a behavior with a click and a treat. Gidget is trained to sneeze, hump, dig, beg, retrieve, sit and bark.
7. Getting paid. Sometimes we get a gig and have to prep for weeks. In that case we get paid for every prep day and travel day. If we're away, I get a hotel and am paid per diem.
8. Register with multiple agents. Some pay more than others and some get more work than others. Dawn Animal Agency is affiliated with a sanctuary that has over a 1,000 animals, including the camels and the rest of the animals in the Radio City Music Show. All Creatures Great & Small uses all "Reel" pets for TV, film and advertising as does Animals for Advertising, who has Saturday Night Live and Project Runway among their clients.
Gidget was treated like a rock star on the set of Sex and the City 2! This hat was made by the Muppet costume designer. They sent paper hats to my house for size and then it was custom made for the film. Kim often joked about Gidget always getting her close ups first!
Written by Mary Gormley for HybridMom.com.
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