The animals “really like it”
Netta Bank with Tai
Netta Bank has been an AHA rep for nearly 20 years. Her extensive background includes a two-year program in wildlife and zoo-keeping, an exotic animal training and management program and prior to working with AHA she worked with and studied animals in India, Africa and Venezuela. In 1993 she spent three months in Thailand on the set of Operation Dumbo Drop with Tai the elephant.
“They treated her like a princess,” says Bank. “They gave her bottled water.” And when they had to quickly vacate the vicinity due to a rapid and alarming infusion of drug lords, Thai was FedExed to safety in Florida “with her trainer inside the cargo with her.”
Bank says she has witnessed time and time again the joy most animals experience while on set. “They really, really like it,” she says. “They’re happy, they’re attentive. They like the stimulation and the fuss and the attention.” Bank was on set with Michael Jackson just days before his death last June. “He often had animals in his videos and he was always so respectful. It was a special event, being there that day.”
Irene Matijick has trained horses for over 30 years and has been an AHA rep for 13. She says 12-hour days are not unusual. “My friends always want to hear about the actors in the scenes shot on a given day, but all I talk about is the animals and the animal action,” she says. “Not that you don’t take a peek every once in a while, but it really is all about the animals.”
AHA’s film and television unit recently relocated to spacious offices in Studio City, California – a stone’s throw from Universal Pictures, Warner Brothers and CBS Studios. Bouman says they ultimately aim to span the globe – offering protection for animals in all international productions is their goal.
And if some production opts to signal its animal safety by running the “No Animals Were Harmed” insignia during opening credits instead of its current home at the tail end of the scroll? “Well,” says Bouman with gusto, “that would be something!”
Judith A. Proffer is Vice-Chair of Meteor 17 and founder of Magpye Media/Huqua Press. Former publisher of LA Weekly, she was owner and editor of Sun Community Newspapers and is writing her first book, “How to Love Your Dog.” She lives in California with two remarkable pugs.