Vanity Fair produced this video as part of their Notes On A Scene series on YouTube featuring Bonnie Judd giving us a play-by-play look at how dog-centric scenes from popular movies are filmed. She gives us a detail look at scenes from “Air Bud: 7th Inning Fetch“, “Marley and Me” and explains how she trained the dogs who star in “A Dog’s Journey“.
Bonnie Judd has a long and respected resume of working with dogs, and other animals, on production sets. She has worked on productions like Smallville, Police Academy, Sandlot 2, Racing in the Rain, The Dogfather, and dozens of commercials. She has even contributed to Jimmy Fallon’s Race Through New York ride at Universal Studios Orlando.
In this video below from Vanity Fair, Bonnie gives us a behind the scenes look at some of the commands that are used to direct the dogs in various scenes. She tells us of the many safety measures in place to ensure the dogs and human actors are comfortable, and safe during the production.
One of the best things she shared with us is that the happiness of the dogs is important. She places a heavy emphasis on ensuring the dogs are not just following commands, but that they are enjoying the experience, and they aren’t placed in stressful or dangerous situations.
Some of the fascinating parts of the video are when she goes in depth in the process of how they trained the dog over time to interact with people and props. In the backpack scene from Air Bud, she tells us that they started with a small bag for the dog to carry, then gradually increased the size of the item until they ended up with a (newspaper-stuffed) backpack that the dog would carry without irritation.
In the hotel-chase scene from A Dogs Journey, she explains that they needed a series of events to occur where the dog would approach the door, sit, speak, dig, then release the dog so they got their reward (a dollar store toy duck!) after doing that sequence.
Another fun quip is that while telling us of training dogs for a basketball scene, she says that the dogs were very easy to teach repetition. They would perform each task exactly the same way, every time, but it was the trainers and the actors who were struggling to, in this case, throw the basket ball to the exact spot where the dog was expecting it!
Bonnie is delightful in this video. She clearly loves the animals she works with, she enjoys the challenge and reward of seeing the dogs show off their skills, and her laughter as she re-lives the scenes is contagious.
I have previous written on this blog about the American Humane Association and the work they do with the “No Animals Were Harmed” initiative to ensure the safety of animals on stage, film, and tv productions.
This excerpt from their website gives a quick overview of their participation
“American Humane works with production personnel and trainers in the pre-production planning stage, monitors the animals on set during production, and enforces American Humane’s Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media. It also investigates allegations of mistreatment and cruelty and sanctions productions that do not meet its standards of humane animal treatment.”-American Humane Association
I would recommend checking out the other videos in the Vanity Fair “Notes On A Scene” playlist if you like to get a glimpse behind the scenes of some of your favorite movies.