Critters on Camera: 6 hints for working with reptiles, snakes, and insects on film sets

South Africa is well known for our magnificent wildlife – and they’ve made thousands of appearances in films, TV shows and other ads.

But we’re also home to thousands of other magnificent and creepy creatures, including bugs, snakes and other reptiles that also slither onto set from time to time.

Animal wrangler Damien Elliet is the owner of Ingwenya animal wrangling services in Hoedspruit, and these tips for handling scaly and squiggly things on a shoot.

 

  • Listen to the wrangler

This is especially important when working with venomous reptiles or other dangerous animals. Sometimes camera crew try to push boundaries to get the perfect animal shot – but this is when accidents happen and things go wrong.  The animal wrangler knows the animals and how close or far you can be away from them.  Trust him – he really has yours and the animal’s best interests in mind

.Listen to the animal wrangler to avoid accidents on set

  • Don’t delay the shoot

Anyone in the industry knows delays of a few hours happen sometimes. But a delay of a few days or weeks, at the last minute, is especially bad where insects are involved. Some of their life spans are only a few days long and by delaying it, you could be shooting old, dying animals who can’t do the required performance.
 

  • Lights, lights, lights

The best lights to use when working with reptiles and critters are LED’s – stay away from hot heads. Reptile are ectothermic, which means they rely on external conditions to warm up and cool down. Using hot lights causes their body temperature to warm up too fast, and they’ll simply seek a place to hide from the heat. LED lights are much, much cooler.

Light reptiles with LED lamps to avoid overheating the animals

  • Brief the wrangler beforehand

Some directors want animals to do unnatural things. Speak to the wrangler well in advance about exactly what you want the animal to do – and not do – on the shoot day. Reptiles and critters’ behaviour are instinct-based and some can’t be trained up to do certain things. By making sure the wrangler knows exactly what needs to be done beforehand, you’ll save a lot of time and disappointment.

 

  • Keep shooting

Even if it doesn’t seem like you are getting the behaviour you want, keep rolling. Sometimes, things happen unexpectedly with these small creatures. You might also end up with some behaviour shots that you could use later.

 

  • Be prepared for longer sessions

Although this is not always the case, sometimes animals just don’t want to do what the wranglers want them to do, and can take more time to “perform” than expected. Allocate enough time for your animals shots, and be patient in case the animal is a bit camera-shy.

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