Death of a Chipmunk (Or, a New Procurement Category)

Here’s the new procurement category: buying animal protection services in a movie production environment. How do you do that in a serious way?

The challenge isn’t really the absolute safety of the animals, as that would easily be addressed by not shooting the movie. In the real world, however, how can anyone think that a $100MM+ budget will be set aside or otherwise jeopardized over the lives of a few rodents, fish or other fungible critters? Obviously some interpretations will have to be made, such as stating “no animals were harmed during the shooting of this picture” – emphasis on during the shooting. Any animals killed or injured when the camera wasn’t shooting doesn’t count.

For those of us who grew up in the real world, heaven forbid the reporter behind this article ever ventures onto a farm, or tags along during a hunting or fishing outing. Animals die there – and then they’re eaten! Speaking of animals, Stripes, our Calico cat, has (undoubtedly cruelly) butchered and slaughtered so many critters that I'm sure the reporter would get sick at the mere thought of it.

Here's the challenge: how would you procure and manage Animal Humane Association (AHA) services – when the only deliverables that you're ultimately truly measured by are producing the movie on time – on budget – and with the precious AHA stamp of approval?

Eventually, CGI (Computer Generated Images) will come to the rescue, but in the interim, having to be involved in this window-dressing effort must stink. On that note, number 2 happens all the time. Animals die – or kill each other given half a chance – when you least suspect them to.

This points toward the difference between a "best efforts" management towards an outcome versus an absolute "never, never ever" having any incidents or accidents. The latter is impossibly difficult and will create bending of rules that demoralize staff, and in turn create headlines.

This mindless protect-all-animals-at-all-costs effort caters to the same hand-wringing crowd that wants wind power above all else – while willfully ignoring the tens of thousands of bats, hundreds of eagles, and numerous other critters killed. Hard audience to please, although recent court cases have started to point out the many birds slaughtered in the process.

The article points out that horses were injured (or worse) during the production of the movies. This is not something anyone wants, of course. So let’s not use horses, good, right? However, and ironically, the fewer "approved" uses there are left for horses (we can't eat them, it’s becoming a no-no to race them or even use them for show jumping, and now we can't have them in movies, and Jason can't make shoes or belts out of them without wrinkling noses, etc.). Well, simple economics state that fewer horses will be around if there’s no economic use for them. Next, expect to see headlines around an equine shortage.

Somewhat humorously, one of the movie scorecards from AHA point out that the natives in charge of the dog-sleds wanted to go off and hunt their traditional prey – seals! – during breaks between movie shoots. This horrified the movie producers too. You see, it's an “image problem” for them. It's the conflict between two modern sensibilities – be nice to animals, and defer to all native customs and cultures. The dilemma! The ostrich principle won – go do your native thing, but wait until the camera isn’t here.

Everything in life is a compromise – procurement especially. Can’t say I’m envious of the buyers in charge of procuring these services. The KPIs are simply too conflicting.

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