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A dogs purpose film

January 21, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

images-1On Wednesday, TMZ released video that was shot behind the scenes during filming of “A Dog’s Purpose.” The video, which shows a trainer attempting to get a German Shepherd into water he does not want to be in, and in a different cut shows the dog’s head go under, caused such a furor that it is in many papers today, including the New York Times and numerous papers throughout Canada, where the scene was shot. The Associated Press tells us that the producers have cancelled the film’s Hollywood premiere this weekend, and other stories tell us that a rescue group has been forced to cancel a fundraising preview, despite having paid in advance for the theater.
On the TMZ site at http://tinyurl.com/zluoov3 you can watch the video, which the entertainment site titles, “A Dog’s Purpose’ — Terrified German Shepherd Forced into Turbulent Water.” The opening line of the story is, “One of the dogs in the upcoming film ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ desperately resisted shooting a risky scene, but chilling footage shows filmmakers apparently forcing the animal into rushing water.”

“Apparently” is an important word. Indeed the way the video is cut implies that.

The next paragraph tells us:

“TMZ obtained this video of a scene shot in a pool outside Winnipeg, Canada in November 2015. You can see a trainer forcibly shoving a German Shepherd — one of at least 5 dogs used in the production — into the frothing water, but the animal wanted NO part of it … and repeatedly clawed at the pool’s edge.”

I’ve watched the video many times. Once the shepherd was put in the water, and was still making it clear that he desperately didn’t want to be there, I see him being pulled out, an important detail that description omits.

This is what author W. Bruce Cameron says in “Variety” about the scene, on line at http://tinyurl.com/hs66ktd :

“The written commentary accompanying the edited video mischaracterizes what happened. 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. When he was asked to perform the stunt from the other side of the pool, which was not how he had been doing it all day, he balked. The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay — the water wasn’t his issue, it was the location that was the issue, and the dog happily did the stunt when he was allowed to return to his original spot.”

“’I also didn’t like it when Hercules’s head briefly went under water, but there was a scuba diver and a trainer in the pool to protect him. He loves the water, wasn’t in danger, and wasn’t upset,’ he added.”

As in the case of Tilikum’s death, the Christian Science Monitor has a particularly thoughtful take, looking at some of the wider issues. It is titled,

“Outcry over alleged abuse in ‘A Dog’s Purpose.’ Do live animals have a place in film?” The subheading is, “Animal-rights activists have shut down Ringling Bros. Circus and the orca shows at SeaWorld. Now, a leaked video has put the film industry in their crosshairs.”

On the details of the video, that publication tells us:

“In a statement given to People magazine, Amblin Entertainment, the production company for ‘A Dog’s Purpose,’ and Universal Pictures, its distributor, maintained that they ‘followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals…. There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts. On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot.’

“But that decision came after a trainer spent 46 seconds trying to wrestle him into the pool, which activists groups such as PETA find unacceptable.”

That story is on line at http://tinyurl.com/hyw82rx and you can thank the Christian Science Monitor for its sensitive coverage of animal issues at http://tinyurl.com/h4pnadb

I think we can all agree that Hercules had a truly unpleasant 46 seconds. And as the TMZ story has gone viral and now has close to 3,000 comments beneath it, we need not wonder why that outlet chose to frame the story as it did. As for PETA – that may be more complicated.

I am a passionate PETA supporter on many issues. And I love that PETA emphasizes spay-neuter over rescue. But it might be fair to say that PETA is actually in some ways resistant to rescue work, because so many millions of dogs end up “warehoused.” While actor Josh Gad has described the movie, “A Dog’s Purpose,” as “a love letter to animals,” having just started reading the book I am not sure that PETA would agree. In the first chapter a family of dogs living in the wild is trapped and rescued by a kind woman who some might consider a hoarder. There is an expressly voiced message that dogs are better off under human control. In the case described at the beginning of the book, where the rescued dogs live in a yard with other dogs and spend the day playing, I might agree with that premise. But knowing that many millions of dogs in this country spend their days entirely alone in a yard or apartment, I was somewhat uncomfortable with that message as I read it. So I can’t help won

dering if PETA’s call to boycott the film could be based on underlying concerns that have less appeal to that film’s prospective viewers than the boycott of a film whose makers abused a German Shepherd.

As I watched the video in question I compared it in my mind to PETA or Mercy for Animals undercover video from factory farms and slaughterhouses. As I searched for articles on it I came across a story of a man in Detroit who cut off a dog’s ears and nose. When I wrote “Thanking the Monkey” I included many stories of animals being killed on film sets — all of which PETA is familiar with. Thus my suspicions around PETA’s horror over Hercules’ bad day (or minute) on the set.

Whatever your personal response to the TMZ video (and I think different responses are valid) it offers a fantastic opportunity, not for letters demanding the boycott of “A Dog’s Purpose,” but for letters that discuss considerably less publicized horrors that animals face. I urge you not to squander that opportunity. As I noted above, the story is in papers all across Canada today, as well as in the New York Times, and will be in many more papers tomorrow. And while the original TMZ story has thousands of comments, the Variety story I link to above has few, none of which discuss other areas of animal cruelty. I urge you to comment beneath it, and elsewhere when you see the story.

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