Every episode is wildly different but always creative. One of my favorites is a charming story about finding love French style with Guy La Furr.
I asked Grelyak what the film making process is like when working with animal “actors”. Alana said, “I do my best to write the scripts around specific behaviors that I know a cat will have. For instance, I know that Rocky loves to talk and doesn’t mind wearing clothes. He made the perfect lead for CHATastrophe, a talking, beret-wearing French cat. In Catalogue, I vacuumed him. Why? Because it’s something he enjoys even when the camera is off.
Most of the things we have the cats do are things that cat will do naturally. We group our shots together so the cats are on set for the shortest amount of time possible, and we use stand ins (e.g. puppets) for any situation that a cat might be uncomfortable with. We also work with split screens and special effects to give the impression that there are more cats than there really are in a given place. We’ve also, on several occasions, changed the scripts on the fly to suit whatever the cat prefers. Sometimes, the cats give us better performances that I could possibly expect or make up and we use those takes instead. We make the cats’ safety and comfort number one on all the shoots.
Rehearsal time is tough to come by! We have one, if possible, especially for the longer episodes. Kris and I have been working together for three years now, though, so we’re kind of used to each other and that makes things go faster. As far as takes, Michael will continue until he gets the shot he’s looking for.”
Lil Bub is a huge kitty star and if you think stardom has gone to her cute little head, think again. Mike Bridavsky, Bub’s cat dad or Dude, kindly offered his recording studio to film in. Grelyak said, “Working with BUB was a breeze. BUB sat very well for us and was a perfect actress. She’s actually a good example of us using a stand in. When we had to film the scene where Kris and I are falling, we didn’t want to scare of injure BUB, so we used her BUB stuffed toy as a stand in and she went home to nap. We didn’t require any special perks. Also, she waived her fee and instead she agreed to a donation to Lil BUB’s Big Fund with the ASPCA. She’s very generous that way.”
One of the happiest moments or “side effect” of the shoot must be when a kitty actor gets adopted. Alana, said, ” A lot of the younger kittens get adopted right away. Sometimes, we’ll post or re-post on Facebook about cats that are still available from our films. On our latest shoot, one of our actors tried to adopt our star but was a few hours too late – he got adopted when he left the set!”
It comes as no surprise that Kris Flanagan is a cat man and recounts how his recent cats came into his life.
“Hell yeah, I’m a cat man. They’re hilarious. My guys right now are Declan and Goon. They’re brothers that were rescued from under a porch by Treehouse here in Chicago. My girlfriend and I had been looking for the right fit for us for about a month and a half. We were kinda losing hope until the day we found them, which was funny the way it went down.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you had friends over to your house for a birthday or whatever and your old toys that you no longer had interest in, suddenly regained value when you saw your buddy having a great time playing with it? That’s kind what led to us snatching them up. We were playing with them at the shelter, they’re domestic longhairs, which I was hesitant of because of the shedding and allergies. Well we’ve got em’ both cradled in our laps when some prospective adopters are filling out paperwork and kept eyeballing them.
My girlfriend knew my hesitation and we were in the middle of talking it out when I noticed. The child inside me woke up outta nowhere and said “NO! MINE!”. So without her total consent I just yelled to the lady working “yep, we’ll take these two with us!” And then shot the other people a ‘take that!’ look.
8 months later they have ruined curtains, lamps, glassware, couches (yes multiple) and my ability to sleep in past 7 AM. But they’re always there to greet me when I get home, they cuddle like crazy and sleep like drunk old men. They’ve tied our home together and I couldn’t really see my day-to-day without them.”
The cast and crew are skilled and funny cat lovers with a message.
“We hope our work will make more people aware of important topics, like adopting special-needs pets, or making sure their kittens are spayed and neutered,” said Grelyak, “but we want to do it in a funny way that will make people want to hear more about it. We feel like it’s a fresh approach to reaching viewers that would prefer to laugh instead of having their heart strings tugged.”
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FTC disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Discovery Digital Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about CATastrophes, but Cat Wisdom 101 only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers.
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