Suddenly, it seems, that video of a dog being coerced into a pool during the filming of “A Dog’s Purpose” is not so “disturbing” at all.
When the video was first leaked, by TMZ, even the makers of the movie — all avoiding any responsibility for what might have happened — all said at least some aspects of it appeared disturbing.
But in the week leading up to the film’s release, the reassurances that nothing bad happened have poured out — from the author of the popular book of the same name, from the star of the movie, Dennis Quaid, from its producer, even from Ellen Degeneres.
And now even the CEO of the non-profit organization that is supposedly “investigating” the incident(s) seems to be saying — before the investigation is even concluded — that nothing inappropriate happened.
Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of the American Humane Association — the agency that monitors the safety of animals in movie productions — said in a piece written for Variety that the leaked video was “misleading” and “edited” and reflects no wrongdoing on anyone’s part.
“The beautiful story opens at the box office this weekend mired in controversy stemming from the release of an edited video manipulated in an effort to mischaracterize the behind-the-scenes treatment of the film’s four-legged stars,” she wrote.
The film’s official release date is today.
The viral video has provoked a call for a boycott of the movie by PETA, and some conflicting feelings even among dog lovers — both those who insist the German shepherd, named Hercules, is being mistreated, and those who say the edited video is not to be trusted.
The video shows the dog being nudged and coerced to get into a churning pool of water. He had performed the stunt gladly in rehearsals, but the location of where he was entering the pool had been changed on the day of filming.
He clearly resists getting in, and struggles to get out during the first 45 seconds of the video. Another piece of video was edited onto that, showing the dog, on a different day, swimming in the pool before going underwater, at which point someone yells “cut it” and the dog is helped out of the pool.
To restate our take on all this: That second snippet of video is too short, out of context and blurry to draw any conclusions from. The first 45 seconds, in our view, shows a dog being pushed more than a dog performing a stunt in a movie should be pushed. The stunt was called off that day, but not soon enough.
Is that a crime? No. Should it result in the movie being boycotted? We vote no, but that’s up to you. Should there be repercussions — say a warning, or a fine? Probably, but the agency that would impose that appears to have already made up its mind.
Should the makers of the movie, somewhere along the line, admit to an iota of responsibility for what was a small mistake on the set of the movie they were making? Should they make some amends, maybe offering a percentage of opening week receipts to dog-related charities (likely not PETA)?
Well, that would be classy — a whole lot classier than circling the wagons, denying responsibility, and launching a public relations effort to rescue, not a dog, but their movie.
Yesterday, Dennis Quaid defended the movie on The Today Show, and then did the same on Ellen.
Meanwhile, in her piece for Variety, Ganzert acknowledged that the dog “appeared to show signs of resistance” to getting in the water. The rest of the piece is a defense of the movie, a diatribe against PETA and more questioning of why the video was leaked a year and a half after it was taken.
But what about those 45 seconds?
“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) swiftly called for a boycott of the film, and has since continued to exploit — and further sensationalize — the controversy as an opportunity to argue that the animal actors who enchant and educate audiences don’t belong on the Silver Screen,” Ganzert continued.
But what about those 45 seconds?
“A full spectrum of rigorous safety measures was in place to protect the dog throughout this particular scene,” she added. “In addition to one of American Humane’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives, five individuals –including scuba divers and animal handlers — were present on the set at the time to ensure the safety of the dog.”
But what about those 45 seconds?
Here is what I would like to hear from the AHA — were the methods used trying to get Hercules in the water during those 45 seconds acceptable to them? Was the level of stress the dog was allowed to reach acceptable? Should a dog be allowed to get stressed at all during the filming of a movie stunt?
AHA suspended the monitor it had assigned to the film pending the results of the “third-party” investigation it says has been launched.
But with the publication of his Variety article, it’s pretty clear what Ganzert and the AHA want that “ongoing” investigation to find.
Dog’s can’t talk. Dogs don’t have a union. If the American Humane Association has appointed itself as their guardian in Hollywood — and is soliciting our donations to carry out that mission — we’d like to think it is objective, vigilant and doesn’t give a hot damn about the profit margins of movie makers.
In that respect, Ganzert’s article, on the eve of the movie’s release, is not too reassuring.
As for the movie’s makers, we’d like to think that your production treated dogs in a manner as sweet as your movie’s message and that, if you didn’t, even in small way that has been blown out of proportion, you are at least a little bit sorry it.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 26th, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: a dogs purpose, actors, american humane association, animal welfare, animals, apology, article, ceo, churning, defend, defense, dennis quaid, director, dog, dogs, edited, ellen degeneres, film, german shepherd, hercules, investigation, lasse hallstrom, leaked, misleading, monitor, movie, ongoing, organization, peta, pets, pool, producer, protection, public relations, regret, responsibility, robin ganzert, sorry, stunt, tmz, variety, video, videos, water
As I suspected when the story broke, video of a frightened dog being … let’s say, strongly encouraged, to get into a pool during the filming of a “A Dog’s Purpose” has led to an explosive response from dog lovers on the Internet.
What I didn’t suspect was so many saying we should withhold judgment.
Here’s an example from my own Facebook page — a comment in response to either my ohmidog! post, or a previous comment from a reader who had decided not to see the movie. It urges viewers of the video not to “rush to crucifixion”:
“I also know that there are HOURS of footage to the contrary which this was conveniently edited from, and calculatedly released just prior to the film’s premiere. A PETA plant, I believe. I also personally know several people behind this film. I know how shocked, appalled, stunned, mortified they were. I know they immediately sought answers, spent all of yesterday viewing all TRUE, raw film from this exact scene shoot as well as several prior rehearsals … Closed minds, open mouths, soapboxes, rushing to judgment, social media & MEDIA are DANGEROUS TO GOOD PEOPLE.”
Peruse social media and you’ll find, for every 10 people expressing outrage, at least one saying the video was edited (as it clearly was), that there’s a conspiracy afoot (as is likely) and that we shouldn’t have an opinion about what we see on the video until we see it “in context.”
Guess what? I don’t, in this case, need context. Show me hours of footage of Hercules, the German shepherd, being pampered by his handlers and it won’t make a whit of difference.
Even the author of the best-selling book the movie is based on, while admitting mistakes were made, is spinning things as positively as possible.
“…When I was on set, the ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs,” W. Bruce Cameron wrote on his Facebook page. “I have since viewed footage taken of the day in question, when I wasn’t there, and it paints an entirely different picture.”
“The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water — I’ve seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool,” he added.
Again, it’s the argument that the dog was mostly treated right. That’s good to know, but not the least bit relevant.
The 45 seconds showing the handler nudge, push and lower the dog in the water against his will make it clear he was frightened, resistant and stressed — and that should have been enough to call off the stunt, at the outset.
That eventually they maybe did, for that day, or for that dog, doesn’t change the 45 seconds.
The producer, the director, and one of the stars have all said they found the video disturbing. The American Humane Association agrees, and they’ve placed the representative they assigned to monitor the movie on leave.
And yet the apologists — motivated maybe by their love of the book, or by their hate for PETA, or by their ties to industries that exploit dogs — keep saying it is too early to say anything bad occurred.
That said, what the video shows is only borderline abuse, if it’s abuse at all. Hercules was not physically harmed. In the history of animals in the entertainment industry, far worse things have happened, which is why this IS a story and why vigilance and monitoring are necessary in movie productions involving live animals.
Pursuing criminal charges, or a boycott of the movie (as PETA is calling for), may be over-reactions. I won’t say what the video shows meets the legal definition for animal cruelty.
But stating this is not proper treatment for an animal in a movie? I have no qualms with doing that. And I have no problem pointing out perfectly realistic results could have been achieved with computer graphics.
After Hercules went in and out of the churning water — outboard motors were used to create the effect of river rapids — the video cuts to another scene showing a German shepherd in the water, and going under it, for long enough that someone on the set shouted “cut it” and handlers rushed to his aid.
Some reports suggest that part of the video was taken on a different day, and could have even involved a different dog.
That second part of the video, I’d agree, though it does seem to convey a little bit of alarm on the set, is so short and blurry that it does require some context.
But pointing out flaws in the video, or the questionable motivations of those who provided it to TMZ (probably for a fee), does nothing to excuse the behavior on set — or the movie maker’s bottom line responsibility for it.
Cut through the haze of Internet hubbhub, sparring, intrigue, and guesswork and what we can see in the first part of the video — in or out of context — is enough to remind us that animals in the entertainment industry need to be protected, and that they should never be forced to pursue stunts against their will.
That, I suggest, should be step one in sorting through this episode — seeing the underlying concern, not obfuscating it — whether you were a party to it, or just watching from the outside.
Step two? The movie’s makers need to accept responsibility, and none seem to have gotten anywhere close to doing that.
Instead, they almost all seem to be saying “I was disturbed by video. I didn’t see it when it happened. I wasn’t there. Mistakes were made. I would have stopped it. Why was the video just now leaked?”
Movie fans, dog lovers, and most of all Hercules, deserve something better than that.
(Photo: Amblin Entertainment)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 23rd, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: a dogs purpose, amblin entertainment, american humane association, animals, animals in movies, book, churning, context, controversy, cruelty, director, dogs, encouraged, entertainment, fear, forced, fright, german shepherd, handlers, hercules, industry, judgment, lasse hallstrom, leaked, movie, opinions, peta, pets, pool, responsibility, stress, tmz, trainers, treatment, video, w. bruce cameron
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.”
The 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.
“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.”
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 20th, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: a dogs purpose, aha, american humane, american humane association, animals, book, boycott, canceled, cruelty, dog, dogs, film, filming, forced, german shepherd, hercules, investigation, josh gad, lasse hallstrom, leaked, movie, movies, peta, pets, pool, premiere, video
A German shepherd was forced against his will into a churning pool of water and disappeared underneath it during the filming of “A Dog’s Purpose.”
Footage leaked to TMZ shows the German shepherd resisting efforts by a trainer to get him into a pool of water.
Once in the pool — whether it was by choice or force — the dog can be seen sinking under the water, which was being churned by eight outboard motors.
An alarmed voice yells “cut” and the dog is pulled out of the pool.
The footage — depending on how dog lovers react and how viral it goes — is likely to damage how well the movie fares at the box office after its release this month.
At the very least, it may earn its makers reputations as hypocrites, given the film’s dog-loving, feel-good message.
As of yesterday, there had been no reaction to the video from major animal welfare organizations, including the American Humane Association, which monitors productions and bestows the “No animals were harmed …” tag on the finished product.
The movie is based on the 2010 novel, “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron, currently No. 1 on USA Today’s best-selling books list.
In the film, a dog’s story is told from the perspective of a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of life through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.
The German shepherd was one of at least five dogs used in the film, TMZ reported. The movie’s director, Lasse Hallstrom, was present during filming of the scene, TMZ said.
In the scene, a police dog rescues a young girl who has fallen into a rushing river.
The footage at the pool was shot outside of Winnipeg, Canada, in November 2015.
It shows a handler pushing an obviously frightened German shepherd into the churning pool of water. The dog manages to claw his way out. Later, the dog is seen back in the pool and, at one point, going under.
After a few seconds, someone yells, “Cut it!” and handlers rush to help the dog.
Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures say they have seen the video and are investigating.
“Fostering a safe environment and ensuring the ethical treatment of our animal actors was of the utmost importance to those involved in making this film and we will look into the circumstances surrounding this video,” they said in a joint statement.
The movie debuts on Jan. 27. It stars Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton.
According to USA Today, the book “A Dog’s Purpose” has sold 2.5 million copies. It is the first publication about a dog to top the chart since “Marley & Me,” which was also adapted into a film, in 2006.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 19th, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: a dogs purpose, amblin pictures, animal welfare, animals, book, box office, churning, cruelty, dennis quaid, dog books, dog movies, dogs, entertainment, film, footage, forced, frightened, german shepherd, goes under, humane, investigation, lasse halstrom, leaked, movie, movies, novel, outboard motors, pets, pool, sinks, tmz, trainer, universal pictures, water