Diane Haithman is a Deadline contributor:
UPDATE: The American Humane Association’s planned industry confab took place this morning at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to discuss issues surrounding the monitoring of animal action on film and television sets. After the event, AHA spokeswoman Jody Frisch told Deadline the meeting was a “productive exchange of ideas” with total attendance 45-50 people including panelists and guests. One news report claimed only Warner Bros had accepted the invite that went out weeks ago, but Frisch told Deadline that “yes” responses continued coming in early this morning. She confirmed invitees included representatives of “any and all filmed entertainment” but noted “we’d like to see more participation”. The names of the attendees were not made public at the closed-to-the-press roundtable discussion described as “a small private affair” at the Academy’s North Hollywood headquarters. Deadline confirmed that notably absent from the invite list were Hollywood’s professional animal trainers. They have a love-hate relationship with the American Humane Association — the group behind the well-known “No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval for movies and TV — which oversees their work. Frisch told Deadline trainers were not invited because the event was geared to educate the production side of the industry. But trainers were represented on the panel, however, as part of what Frisch said were “a mix of industry executives, producers, writers and directors along with trainers, veterinarians and AHA representatives”.
The reasons for Wednesday’s meeting? Mostly money. AHA is now solely funded by the nonprofit Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund overseen by SAG-AFTRA and says it needs more dollars to continue overseeing an explosion in productions worldwide. This despite the fact that more films are using CGI for animal action than in the past. Still, Life Of Pi, for example, used 4 live tigers along with computer-generated ones. In 2002-2003, Frisch said AHA monitored 2,392 days of animal production and issued about 144 certifications. In 2012, the organization monitored about 3,500 days of action and handed out about 570 certifications. Far-flung locations call for more travel than ever before. And the organization has added a veterinary adviser and a scientific committee. “It’s difficult. We’ve grown about 395%, and our grant has really only increase about $600,000 over the last 10 years,” Frisch said.