If you need a model for your latest shoot that happens to be covered in fur, scales or feathers then Animal Actors is the agency you should be talking to, and they’re sure to be able to help.
IF YOU’RE A COMMERCIAL photographer working for a variety of clients then, sooner or later, you’re going to land a job where an animal is required as part of the shoot. It could be a set-up that’s as simple as a model walking a dog or perhaps riding or petting a horse, or potentially the call could be for something way more exotic: whatever, you’re going to find yourself needing to source an animal that can perform to order and make your life on set as straightforward as possible.
This is where specialist animal handlers and trainers come into their own and few can match the pedigree and history of Animal Actors. The origins of the agency lay way back in the 1960s and originally their speciality was horses. However, because legislation on selling and owning exotic creatures was way laxer back in those days, there was a problem created by the fact that people could buy cute baby animals over the counter that would, over time, go on to become larger and unmanageable.
Once this happened there would be an urgent need to re-house them, and people such as Paul Davis and Mark Collins, the co-founders of Animal Actors, would often come to the rescue and offer a home on their large Norfolk holding. As the collection expanded the opportunity arose to hire out creatures for use in films and photo studios, and so the business was born and, some sixty years on, it continues to flourish.
“Over the years we’ve worked with everything from big cats through to bears, snakes, rats and bird eating spiders,” remarks Paul, “and we even had a baby elephant to look after at
one time! Alongside the exotics, of course, we also supply domesticated animals such as dogs, cats and parrots, and those working on a tight schedule in a film or photographic studio will still benefit from working with a professional supplier such as us since they can then be sure there will be no disruption and their shoot will go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”
Talk to Paul and you quickly find that he’s full of brilliant stories about past collaborations, which included supplying over 5000 rats for the memorable sewer scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the bird eating spider (a gentle specimen known as Gertie incidentally) who crawled up the bare chest of a genuinely terrified Sean Connery in Dr No and a huge snake that made an appearance in the iconic film A Clockwork Orange. Along with the films Animal Actors also has a long tradition of working with stills photographers and the agency remains to this day one of the go-to destinations for anyone looking for an animal extra.
“Animal Welfare regulations were toughened up considerably a couple of years back,” says Paul, “and we’ve always very much put the needs and comfort of the creatures we’re supplying at the forefront of everything in any case. Though many of our more exotic animals are looked after at our base in Norfolk we have handlers based all around London and other parts of the country and we can service the requirements of photographers wherever they happen to be working.
“People can head to our website to take a look at what we have to offer and we can usually source subjects that we might not be able to supply ourselves. For the more exotic creatures there could be a longer time line, but for more regular animals we can usually be quite flexible and work around the requirements of the shoot.”
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