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Tag: filming

“Dog’s Purpose” has solid opening weekend

protest

“A Dog’s Purpose” opened over the weekend to protests, mixed reviews and box office receipts that, while impressive, were slightly less than those it expected before controversy arose over the treatment of one of its canine stars.

The film pulled in $18.4 million over the weekend — less than the estimated $24 million expected before a video was leaked showing a German shepherd resisting efforts to have him perform a stunt.

After the video appeared on TMZ, PETA called for a boycott of the movie.

Initially, many of those involved in making the movie — including its director and actor Josh Gad — said the video was disturbing.

Gad, who supplies the voice of the continually reincarnating dog in the movie, posted on Twitter that the footage left him “shaken and sad … As the proud owner of a rescued dog and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation for these disturbing images.”

The days leading up to the movie’s release saw a scheduled press preview canceled, Gad go silent, and a well choreographed defense of the movie that included appearances by its star, Dennis Quaid, who insisted no animals were harmed and that the video was misleading.

Even the American Humane Association, which monitors the treatment of animals in TV and movie productions — after suspending the monitor assigned to the film and before its investigation was finished — came out in support of the movie in a PETA-bashing letter published by its CEO.

The studio provided additional footage of the dog willingly performing the stunt during rehearsals to support their stance that he was not being mistreated. The movie’s makers also questioned why the video was leaked a year and a half after it was made — and the week before the movie’s opening — suggesting something nefarious was going on.

Dog lovers, generally a united bunch, found themselves on both sides of the issue — some saying the video showed the dog was pushed too far and supporting the boycott; others saying the leaked video lacked context, that the stunt was eventually called off for that day after the dog resisted, and that nothing cruel took place.

For many fans of the best selling book, there was a feeling that the movie’s sweet, dog-loving message didn’t deserve to be tarnished by a video they viewed as dubious.

Forty-five seconds of the video shows the German shepherd being urged to get into the pool, and dipped into it against his will. Another shorter piece of the video — believed to have been recorded on a different day — shows him struggling in the water and going under.

The water in the pool was being churned by outboard motors to create the effect of river rapids.

While the dog had willingly jumped into the pool during rehearsals, the location of where he was entering the pool was changed on the day of filming.

On opening night, there were small protests, including one outside the Arclight theater in Hollywood. Dozens of protesters held up signs that read, “A dog’s purpose is to be loved. Period” and they chanted “There’s no excuse for animal abuse! Dog’s aren’t props!”

PETA and others argued that the effects the movie makers were after could have been achieved with computer graphics, but the movie’s makers said that would have been too expensive.

Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media’s film was released by Universal Pictures, and its weekend receipts were nearly enough to cover the estimated cost of making it, about $22 million.

“A Dog’s Purpose” came in second to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” which tells the story of a man with dissociative identity disorder who takes three teens hostage.

Industry consultants say the leaked video and boycott had some impact on the film’s opening, but apparently a minimal one.

“A Dog’s Purpose is based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron, which has spent longer on USA Today’s best-selling book list than any dog book since “Marley & Me.”

(Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Los Angeles Times)

“A Dog’s Purpose” cancels premiere after video shows dog mistreated

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Universal Pictures has canceled a premiere and press junket scheduled for “A Dog’s Purpose” amid a growing furor over a video that shows one of its canine stars being mistreated during filming.

Distributor Universal and production company Amblin Entertainment announced late Thursday that the premiere and a Monday press day were being scrapped. The movie’s opening remains scheduled for Jan. 27.

“Because Amblin’s review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog’s Purpose to cancel this weekend’s premiere and press junket,” a joint release stated. “Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.”

Meanwhile, PETA has called for a boycott of the movie, actor Josh Gad has asked for an explanation, and the the American Humane Association has launched an independent investigation into why its safety representative overlooked an apparent case of cruelty during the movie’s filming.

For a scene in the movie, based on the popular book of the same name, a frightened German shepherd was forced into a churning pool of water and, at one point, sunk beneath the surface.

The video, shot in 2015, was released by TMZ — the week before the film’s opening — after the program received it from undisclosed sources.

“American Humane has reviewed the video and we are disturbed and concerned by the footage,” the AHA told PEOPLE in a statement. “When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped.”

harmedThe AHA monitors the safety of animals used in the entertainment industry and bestows the “No animals were harmed” label on the finished products — as it did in this case.

The AHA has suspended the safety representative who worked on the film, and has asked an outside party to conduct an investigation into the slip-up, said Mark Stubis, a spokesman for the organization.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement calling on dog lovers to boycott the film “in order to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props.”

“Sadly, such abuse appears to be the norm, not the exception, in the entertainment industry,” PETA said.

PETA reported on its website that the company that supplied the dogs in the film, Birds & Animals Unlimited, has a problematic record. PETA said it has filed previous complaints about the company with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

gadOne of the movie’s stars, Josh Gad, who provides the voice of the dog in the movie and never appeared on set, said the video left him “shaken.”

“I signed on for a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen. Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German shepherd being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film … I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.

“As a proud dog owner and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation,” he added.

In a joint statement, production company Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures assured that Hercules, the dog in the video, was unharmed and is “happy and healthy.”

They said the movie’s crew “followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals,” but added they are looking into the situation.

Director Lasse Hallström, a three-time Oscar nominee, said he didn’t witness the scene recorded on video — even though TMZ initially reported he was on the set the day the scene was shot in Canada in 2015.

“I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”

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The movie, based on the best selling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, tells the story of a golden retriever passing away, being reincarnated as a German shepherd, corgi and then a St. Bernard. In his last incarnation he is reunited with his original owner.

The one-minute video clip shows the shepherd being coaxed, then shoved into the pool. Later it shows the dog sinking under the water, at which point someone yells “cut it,” and trainers rush to the dog’s aid.

That the video was leaked the week before the much-publicized movie’s release, as opposed to shortly after it was recorded, indicates someone was waiting until it reached peak market value.

TMZ hasn’t said whether they purchased the video, or how much they paid for it.

How MadLyn lost her dog (but not her faith) at Salvation Mountain

When singer-songwriter MadLyn filmed her latest music video she chose Salvation Mountain as the setting — a location that’s near the top of my list when it comes to American places of quirky and unnatural beauty.

And she brought her dog, Lucy, along to serve as the video’s co-star.

Salvation Mountain, built of trash, straw, adobe and and thousands of gallons of vibrantly colored paint, was one man’s tribute to his faith in God, and even though I’m not religious, I was fortunate enough to drop by and meet him twice (the mountain’s creator, not The Creator) when he was alive.

Once, for a magazine story, and once during my Travels with Ace, I spent some time with Leonard Knight — an admittedly reclusive and obsessive sort who let nothing stop him in his quest to fashion a mountain where there was none. Knight died in 2014 at age 82.

Salvation Mountain pops up like a colorful hallucination in the otherwise bleak, almost lunar, desert terrain around Niland, California.

MadLyn went there in July with her director/father and a cinematographer to film a video for her song “Will You Take Me Home” and she did all the things that people do in music videos — prance, skip, sing, twirl, look pensive, wear multiple outfits and toss her curly locks about.

madlynslucyAnd snuggle with Lucy, who is featured throughout the video.

In one scene, MadLyn was to stand in front of the mountain and hold her little dog as a camera-equipped drone zoomed in on them and passed overhead.

Lucy didn’t like that. She jumped out of MadLyn’s arms and took off.

Lucy had gone all day with no leash (she was playing the role of a stray), but when the drone approached for a close-up she “starts freaking out and jumps out of my arms and runs out into the desert,” MadLyn recounted.

As the sun went down, MadLyn, her father and the cinematographer searched for hours, on foot and by car, enlisting the help of Slab City’s other denizens, but Lucy could not be found and was not responding to their calls.

Because the cinematographer needed to get back to his family, they drove back to Los Angeles, a three and a half hour trip.

The next day, a Saturday, MadLyn called animal shelters located near Niland, printed up flyers, checked with the company Lucy’s microchip is registered with and sent out pleas on Facebook.

Then she and her father headed back to Niland to search some more for Lucy.

Sadly, and a bit ironicallly, what had happened in real life was exactly the opposite of what director Fred Fuster had in mind for the video.

While the song’s lyrics seemingly pertain to man-woman love, Fuster (being a father) envisioned a different, more innocent, interpretation of his daughter’s song.

“As director I insisted on having that story line — where this woman who has a hard time finding love meets this dog at Salvation Mountain and I guess falls in love,” he said.

But instead of finding a dog, Madlyn, in real life, lost one.

madlynsFuster’s daughter began performing at age 3. She lost her mother to breast cancer at 13, and after that began to immerse herself completely in songwriting and pop music.

She later took her mother’s name, Madlyn, to honor her.

She has been active in raising money to fight breast cancer. Last year, she released the song, “I Call Her Mom,” with 100 percent of all digital sales going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).

No strangers to loss and dealing with dark times, Fuster and his daughter pulled into Salvation Mountain after nightfall to look for Lucy and seek out people who might have seen her.

They went a gathering spot in Slab City called The Range, where an open mic night was being held, and showed Lucy’s picture around.

One man told Fuster that it was unlikely a small dog like Lucy — given all the hawks and coyotes in the area — was still alive after 24 hours.

That’s when Fuster sat down and began to pray.

When he opened his eyes and looked down, there was Lucy.

After a tearful reunion, Fuster and MadLyn put Lucy in the car and gave her some water. The 18-pound dog drank 24 ounces, MadLyn says.

MadLyn, as you can see in the video at the end of this post, clearly considers what happened a miracle.

“Lucy was missing in the desert of Salvation Mountain for 24 hours completely by herself, and through the grace of God alone, she came back,” she wrote in an email to ohmidog!

She says the video is “dedicated to all shelter and foster animals looking for a loving home.”

I have a feeling Leonard Knight would like this story.

I know I do.

Depp’s dogs back in LA

pistolJohnny Depp’s dogs are safe, sound and back in Los Angeles.

Depp bid a temporary farewell to his two Yorkshire terriers, Boo and Pistol, before they boarded a private jet in Coolangatta, Australia, for the trip home, according to the Daily Mail.

Depp, who is in the country filming the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, had been accused of failing to declare his two dogs to customs officials — a violation of Australia’s strict quarantine laws — when he flew them into Queensland last month on his private jet.

After photos of the dogs in Australia were posted online, Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce gave the actor 50 hours to transport the pups back to the U.S., and said they would be euthanized if they remained.

The actor had brought the dogs into the country last month after he returned to California for surgery on a hand he injured during filming of the fifth installment of the movie. The Australian government provided a $20 million tax incentive to producers of the film, entitled “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

After receiving the ultimatum, Depp notified the Australian government Friday afternoon the he was shipping the dogs back to the U.S.

The Department of Agriculture in Australia says Depp could still face fines as high as $340,000 for violating the quarantine procedures.

The Daily Telegraph reported that transporting the dogs back to Los Angeles could cost as much as $400,000.

(Photo: Pistol, in a photo posted to Twitter by Depp’s wife, Amber Heard)

Filming begins for “Marshall the Miracle Dog”

The story of Marshall — an abused, bullied and neglected yellow Labrador who was rescued from an animal hoarder — is on its way to becoming a movie.

Shooting began this week in Edwardsville, Illinois, according to NewsChannel 5 (KDSK in St. Louis), which has been following Marshall’s story for four years.

Marshall was one of about 60 animals rescued from an animal hoarder by the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis.

He arrived there with a hole in his cheek, a leg so mangled it had to be amputated and other serious injuries.

Vets say is heart stopped three times on the operating table.

Humane Society officials credited his survival to his strong will to live, and they dubbed him the miracle dog.

Cynthia Willenbrock adopted Marshall, and wrote a children’s book about how he triumphed over the tragedies that confronted him.

The movie is based on that book, “Marshall the Miracle Dog.”

“It’s about that whole message of kindness to animals, kindness to each other, kindness in general,” said Willenbrock.

The movie, being shot mostly in Illinois, stars Shannon Elizabeth.

“I read the script and I fell in love. I was crying all through the script,” said the actress.

It also stars Max, a 1-year-old Lab playing the role of Marshall.

In addition to the book and movie, a school curriculum has been designed based on Marshall’s story, aimed at empowering high school juniors and seniors to serve as mentors to middle school and elementary students, passing along Marshall’s “five cornerstones” — empathy, strength, courage, kindness, and forgiveness.