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I had often wondered in the past why people strongly warned me to ‘never work with animals or children!’ My mind always went straight to Andrex puppies, Lassie and Haley Joel Osment (the kid from ‘The Sixth Sense’) … all well behaved and frankly adorable … how little I knew.

Recently, pet product company Beaphar UK asked MIC to create a video to illustrate the effects of their ‘calming spot on’ product for cats and dogs, as part of their campaign in the run up to Fireworks Night. The idea was to show a cat in a completely relaxed state, whilst all sorts of chaos was going on around it, including fireworks. We felt that the best way to achieve this would be to use a real cat and an assortment of green screened windows.

For the filming day we enlisted the help of Summer Isle Films, who turned up with some marvelous equipment, including: an HD camera, a crane, several tripods, lights, and some green card to place over the windows.

Together we spent a rather enjoyable morning setting up the camera equipment and green screen, working out the best way to create some shadows of party guests on the walls, and creating a suitable stage for our star. Satisfied that we were ahead of schedule and ready to film we stopped for lunch.

The ‘star’ of our advert, a feline thespian by the name ‘Bumble,’ is owned by Tom, one of Beaphar’s employees and in whose house we were filming. We introduced Bumble to the set. Bumble sniffed. Bumble rubbed. Bumble explored. Bumble investigated. What Bumble did not do however, was sit anywhere near the place we wanted her to. We didn’t panic. We thought ‘she’s just getting used to the changes made in her living room, she’ll settle soon and then we’ll place her where we need to.’

However, after a couple of hours with no luck, we did start to panic. We tried a number of desperate techniques to try and make Bumble co-operate, including: leaving the room and locking her in to settle by herself, giving her catnip treats, and, perhaps with hindsight the worst of our ideas, bringing in Tom’s enthusiastic labrador, Poppy. Needless to say, none of this worked.

Beginning to wonder if we’d get any shots at all with Bumble in them, we started to think of alternatives, such as creating a CG cat and integrating it into the footage. Whilst doable, this would neither have been on budget, nor a fast process.

It was at this point that someone had the brainwave of using the calming spot on on Bumble herself. How ridiculous that it took us four hours to think to use the very product we were trying to advertise. We applied the spot on to the top of her head and during the hour waiting for it take effect removed the crane from the room and replaced it with a tripod. The tripod would create a more static and less interesting shot, but, if Bumble still didn’t sit where we wanted, at least we could move it to where she had settled.

Miraculously, when reintroduced to the room, Bumble sat happily on the floor close to the chest we wanted her to sit on. We positioned the camera to frame both Bumble and the window and finally started to get some shots. For the next hour, Bumble kept moving and resettling and so we moved and filmed around her, getting a number of interesting angles but none as good as the shot we’d intended. Bumble, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly more relaxed.

Eventually we decided to give Bumble one last try on the stage we’d created for her. We placed her on the chest. She circled, sniffed and after a couple of tense minutes curled up in the perfect position. We were all ecstatic, until we realised that the crane necessary to get the shot we wanted was now outside the room, behind an inexplicably creaky door. Determined to get the shot, Tom and the Summer Isle guys set about bringing the crane back in and setting it up as quietly as possible whilst I served as a sort of ‘cat whisperer,’ keeping Bumble relaxed and in position.

Five and a half hours after we first introduced Bumble, the artistically temperamented diva, into the room, we got the shot! Tired, sweaty and flabbergasted, but nonetheless elated, we concluded that it had, in the end, been a successful day and that the product we were advertising really worked!

... watch the window

From here, we at MIC, created a new video view from the window complete with fireworks, and integrated the new background in place of the green screen windows. We also integrated some packaging of the spot on product and created some audio using steadily revealed party and firework sound effects over the top of the sound of purring and completed the finished video which you can now see on our portfolio page.

All in all the project was a huge success. The people involved were all fantastic! We got everything we needed out of the filming day, in spite of the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever had such a frustrating afternoon.

We’ve come away with some conclusions:

Firstly, if you have an anxious cat on Fireworks Night, get Beaphar’s calming spot on.

Secondly, I would urge anyone who’ll listen to ‘NEVER …EVER work with animals or children!’

Check out the full video on our portfolio page and don’t forget to keep checking back for news, tips and updates on the MIC blog!