The New Normal – How Our Production Community Is Adapting To Covid 19 – Lauren Henry, Talented Animals



In our series of blog posts – the “New Normal” – we are looking at what creative options have been put in place to offset the disruption that Covid-19 has caused for production businesses here in Oregon.  This month we caught up with Lauren Henry and Talented Animals one of the Pacific Northwest’s busiest Animal Wranglers with decades of professionally trained, diverse species and hundreds of film, television and commercial credits.

Oregon Film (OF): Assuming the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted your business, like so many others, what aspect would you say has been the most surprising?

Talented Animals (TA): Not sure it is surprising, but for us the biggest issue has been that you cannot really shut down or reduce overhead with animals. Most of our expenses are ongoing: feed, care, training, veterinary, etc. So we are not perfectly able to just “hunker down.” On the other hand, I think most people in the film industry are fairly accustomed to cycles of feast and famine, so mostly we felt pretty ready for a period of less work.

OF: What are the main modifications you have had to make to accommodate this new normal? (What ideas have worked/been successful, which ones not so much…)

TA: We have had to spend some time acclimating animals to masks, and getting them used to listening to commands without seeing facial expressions. Perhaps the biggest challenge/hurdle is socializing young animals during a pandemic. Getting them used to crowds and noisy environments and lots of strangers is a bit more challenging. (I suspect this will be a real problem for laypeople and pet owners in the next few years who acquired puppies and did little to socialize them and who spent all day every day at home and at some point are going to return to work and I imagine a lot of dogs will have separation issues and less sociability…)

It is also a surprisingly big challenge to handle Covid testing. We normally have a pretty high degree of flexibility and right up until the day of a job we may switch people around, but having to get them tested beforehand has made it harder to shift and pivot as needed. And, because of our animal needs, we live considerably out of town, so a quick run-in to get tested can be a pretty big pain in the butt.

On most jobs, we have an American Humane rep, which has been done virtually during the pandemic, but this means that we have to spend a significant amount of time on the phone showing them video of everything which is a significant distraction and time requirement.

OF: Are there any surprising areas of growth in your business since the pandemic started?

TA: We have improved our online ordering and delivery skills.

OF: Have you had to implement new training for your staff?

TA:  Not beyond the basic mask, handwashing, distancing, etc.

OF: If there has been any impact on staff morale, how have you successfully been able to mitigate this?

TA: I think pretty much everyone has a higher level of stress than usual, not sure we have any great solutions, but we certainly have spent lots of time discussing it. Particularly when working with animals, you cannot be curt or impatient or have angry energy, so we have tried to help one another talk through frustrations, and perhaps increased or improved our habits of taking a few minutes before training sessions to really meditate and let go of emotional baggage.

OF: What are you most proud of doing well during this challenging time?

TA: Surviving 😊  Not hoarding toilet paper. Not letting our own selfish desires or fears get in the way of our being decent human beings… 😊

To contact Lauren and Talented Animals:

503-787-3144

[email protected]

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Lauren Henry (photo: Talented Animals)

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