A producer of the family film “A Dog’s Purpose” is speaking out over the public outcry, detailing what he believes went wrong on the film’s set after a disturbing video of a terrified German Shepard being thrown into churning water was leaked online.
Producer Gavin Polone – who is also a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter – explains “what really happened” on the film’s set and how he believes PETA is sensationalizing the leaked video.
“Like you, I’m sure, I was appalled when I saw the video, shot on the set of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ in Winnipeg in October 2015, of a dog trainer trying to coerce a frightened German Shepard into a pool,” he writes. “Unlike you, the terrible feeling engendered by that video was heightened for me because I am the producer of that film and because much of my identity is fused with the belief that I am a lover and defender of animals and their welfare.”
Polone goes on to describe how he is a vegan and champion of animal causes. It is his love of animals that drew him to “A Dog’s Purpose”.
“I wanted to promote the feelings I developed for animals by making a meaningful movie about the same. So now, the idea that I’m connected to an accusation of the abuse of a dog is, to understate it, painful,” he writes. Though he was not on set the day the scene with the German Shepard was shot, Polone says he didn’t see any animal abuse on his time on the film’s set.
“I was on the set of the film for about 70 per cent of the 11-week production and witnessed the animal trainers, from a company called Birds and Animals Unlimited, handling the animals daily. Not once did I perceive any animal caused any discomfort or put in danger — and I am very aware what a distressed dog or cat is like. Seeing that distraught dog in the video did not comport with what I had observed in the prior weeks of production.”
After TMZ posted the video, Polone began his own investigation into the events, reaching out to Amblin Partners, the production company behind “A Dog’s Purpose” and screening all the footage shot on the day in question.
“As with the TMZ video that you saw, two things were evident: 1) the dog handler tries to force the dog, for 35 to 40 seconds, into the water when, clearly, he didn’t want to go in; and 2) in a separate take filmed sometime later, the dog did go into the water, on his own, and, at the end, his head is submerged for about 4 seconds. These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened. The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under,” he writes, describing the chain of events.
“In footage of the rehearsal for the scene, you can see the dog not only unafraid of the water but desperate to jump in. In fact, he had to be held back by the trainer from going in too soon (the dog was trained to retrieve a toy sewed into the hoodie of the stunt woman and give the illusion that he was pulling her to safety). The dog did the scene in rehearsal without problem, though it was from the left side of the pool, not the right side, which is where the dog is in the TMZ video,” he explains. “The TMZ video only shows the unfinished take of when the dog was on the right side. What is clear from viewing all the footage was that the dog was NEVER forced into the water.”
He continues, adding, “The American Humane Association (AHA) representative who is paid by the production to ‘ensure the safety and humane treatment of animal actors,’ as its website states, should have also intervened immediately on both of those parts of the filming. So should have whomever was running the set. Those individuals should be held accountable and never used again by that studio or its affiliates.”
Polone saves most of his energy for PETA who have called for a boycott of “A Dog’s Purpose” and continue to circulate the leaked video.
“[…] PETA has an impossible agenda and that someone probably tried to make money by making my film look bad, does not excuse the mistakes made 15 months ago, irrespective of the fact that the dog in question was unharmed,” he writes. “Not only have they been circulating the TMZ video, which portrays an inaccurate picture of what happened, but they have included a clip from our trailer where you see the dog jumping into a treacherous rushing wall of water. But THAT ISN’T A REAL DOG, it is a computer-generated dog leaping into the water. Isn’t that the definition of ‘fake news?’ In another post, they show a German Shepard in a dismal steel cage, which isn’t our dog. Again, misleading.”
Polone’s lengthy post describing the filming conditions and further details on PETA and the AHA can be read on The Hollywood Reporter.