How to Work with Animals and Hire an Animal Trainer for Your Independent Project

Hosted by Theresa Carroll


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Theresa Carroll

Webinar hosted by: Theresa Carroll


Theresa Carroll is an accomplished animal trainer and coordinator with over 15 years of experience and credits on projects like THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, ANNIE and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Starting her career by providing pet therapy at children’s hospitals, Theresa has since provided animal acquisition, training and set coordination for countless films, TV shows, theater productions and commercials. Her other recent credits include MR. ROBOT, HIGH MAINTENANCE, THE LEFTOVERS, BILLIONS, POWER, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MYERS, and commercials for AMERICAN EXPRESS, BLUE BUFFALO and NICKELODEON, among many others. Theresa’s deep experience working with animals on many different projects of varying budgets and requirements has made her an expert in this field and given her a passion in ensuring animals and the cast and crew around them are safe and have positive experiences. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary


Any filmmaker who has worked with animals on set even once knows things can get complicated fast. Even actions as simple as walking a dog or petting a cat get tough when the animal is uncooperative or overwhelmed by crew, equipment, and multiple takes. No matter how small or independent your production is, it’s often worth it to bring on an animal trainer or handler when dealing with your furry (or scaly or feathery) castmates. And whether you have a trainer or not, it’s critical that you understand some key protocols and strategies to get the performance you’re looking for and keep the animal, cast and crew safe, comfortable and happy.

Getting a great animal performance for your project can be a huge boon, but there’s a lot that goes into this and a number of considerations you need to make ahead of time. Yet this side of filmmaking can feel fairly niche—it’s not something a lot of people in the industry are adept at, and it’s certainly not usually taught in film school. So where do you even start? Do you hire an existing animal actor or can you bring on your own pet? How do you find a good animal trainer or handler that doesn’t use adverse training methods? And what do you need to do to keep everyone safe and comfortable but still get the animal performance you’re hoping for? There’s a lot to consider, but knowing general safety preparation, protocols and strategies can make all the difference.

Theresa Carroll is an accomplished animal trainer and coordinator with over 15 years of experience and credits on projects like THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, ANNIE and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Starting her career by providing pet therapy at children’s hospitals, Theresa has since provided animal acquisition, training and set coordination for countless films, TV shows, theater productions and commercials. Her other recent credits include MR. ROBOT, HIGH MAINTENANCE, THE LEFTOVERS, BILLIONS, POWER, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MYERS, and commercials for AMERICAN EXPRESS, BLUE BUFFALO and NICKELODEON, among many others. Theresa’s deep experience working with animals on many different projects of varying budgets and requirements has made her an expert in this field and given her a passion in ensuring animals and the cast and crew around them are safe and have positive experiences.

Theresa will teach you how to safely and effectively work with animal actors for your independent production and bring in animal trainers or handlers to get the performance you’re looking for and keep everyone safe and happy. She will first explain how you should find and bring on an animal trainer, including when you need one, where you should look, what aspects you should focus on, and how much you should expect to pay. She’ll also outline what you need to do ahead of production to prepare for shooting with animals, including setting safely guidelines, insurance, and proper documentation and paperwork. Theresa will then dive into how to actually navigate the shoot day with animal actors and will show you how cast and crew should interact with animals, where to hold them, how to acclimate animals, and much more.

What You'll Learn

  • Finding and Bringing on an Animal Trainer for Your Project
    • When do you need an animal trainer for your project?
    • How to find an animal trainer and what to look for
      • Experience
      • Training Methods
      • Fee Structure
    • Deal Memo / Contract
  • Preparing for a Shoot Day with Animals
    • How to work with the American Humane Film Unit
    • Setting safety guidelines
    • Animal health documentation
    • The difference between preparing for domestic and exotic species
    • Prepping your animal actors
    • Holding requirements
    • Production animal insurance
  • Navigating the Shoot Day with Animal Actors
    • Safety protocols you need to follow on and off set
    • How cast and crew should interact with animal actors
    • They keys to animal holding
    • The acclimating process
    • Rehearsal time on set for animals
    • Getting the performance from animal actors
    • Working with trainers on set
    • How actors should work with animals on set
  • Q&A with Theresa

About Your Instructor

Theresa Carroll is an accomplished animal trainer and coordinator with over 15 years of experience and credits on projects like THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, ANNIE and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Starting her career by providing pet therapy at children’s hospitals, Theresa has since provided animal acquisition, training and set coordination for countless films, TV shows, theater productions and commercials. Her other recent credits include MR. ROBOT, HIGH MAINTENANCE, THE LEFTOVERS, BILLIONS, POWER, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MYERS, and commercials for AMERICAN EXPRESS, BLUE BUFFALO and NICKELODEON, among many others. Theresa’s deep experience working with animals on many different projects of varying budgets and requirements has made her an expert in this field and given her a passion in ensuring animals and the cast and crew around them are safe and have positive experiences.


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