“I feel this is the film ferret owners have been waiting for,” said Alison Parker, a filmmaker who is in pre-production on the short film Jake And Jasper: A Ferret Tale.
Why a film about ferrets? Because it’s been her dream for a while, and it’s important to her to portray ferrets in a positive light. She said that ferrets too often receive a negative portrayal in the media, being shown as aggressive, dirty, stinky and ratlike; she thinks of ferrets as cute, playful and cuddly.
The idea for Jake And Jasper came to Parker in May 2011 while she was at work on another film, Brain Juice, which she is currently editing. In addition to wanting to do a film featuring ferrets, Parker was also looking for a project that could utilize the young actor Connor Stanhope, who appeared on the television show Smallville. Stanhope’s mother mentioned that he liked animals, and Parker decided to put the two together. The focus of the approximately 15-minute film is how the ferret Jasper helps the boy Jake reconnect with the world after he closes himself off following the death of his mother.
Once Parker had the idea, she took it to David B. Beleznay to create the screenplay. With her lead actor cast, and one of her own ferrets playing Jasper, she began the search to finalize the rest of the cast. For the part of Jake’s sister, Parker tapped actress Laci Mailey, whose audition for the film Throw Away People had made Parker cry. The part of the father and school principal are still being finalized, but Parker is excited about who may come on board for those. (To add to the excitement, the grammy-nominated group Crash Test Dummies recently gave Parker permission to use one of their songs in the movie.)
With most of the production coming together, Parker came to a stark realization. The film includes a forest scene that shows Jake and Jasper discovering multiple woodland animals. The snag? Animal actors cost quite a bit of money. Parker hoped to feature a skunk, raccoon, rabbit, fawn, black wolf, owl, bats and frogs. But to do that, she would need $10,000. If she raises the money to do this, it will make Jake And Jasper her biggest-budget film to date.
With so much money to raise, Parker got creative. She took her cause to the IndieGoGo website and began a social media blitz, doing multiple daily posts on Twitter and Facebook and reaching out to the ferret community. The campaign features a clever video promo for the movie that’s a must-see (be sure to watch until the end).
The response to her efforts surprised Parker. She said that her Facebook friend list shot up by 300 to 400 people in just two weeks, and 90 to 95 percent were ferret people. The IndieGoGo site listed seven levels of donation ranging from $10 to $1,000, each with its own perks. On June 28, Parker decided to thank ferret owners by adding a special feature to the DVD when it comes out — a section that shows photos of ferrets belonging to people who donated to the film. The IndieGoGo campaign topped $6,700 and has 24 days left for contributions to be made. This means that the production can afford all the animals on the list except for the fawn, which Parker still hopes to get.
Parker is set to film the movie around the final weekend in August. Timing is critical because Vancouver’s rainy season begins soon after that. This won’t be Parker’s first time filming ferrets, as she has a few ferret commercials on her resume. What she learned from those experiences will help her in filming Jake and Jasper.
“Ferrets go hard, then sleep for 18 hours. This is a problem if you plan to film all day,” Parker said. “You can’t get held up by sleeping ferrets.” She also realizes you can’t overwork the ferrets. Her plan is to use Falcor when he is awake for the close-ups, and in wide-angle scenes, her other ferret, Frisco, might be a body double.
Stanhope already met Falcor and Frisco. He and his mother visited Parker, and he was right at home on the floor playing with the ferrets. Parker said he even taught them tricks in just one visit.
Parker has high hopes for Jake And Jasper. She plans to show it at major film festivals, with the goal of having it nominated for an Oscar or Leo award and/or being picked up for distribution. The big dream would be for someone to finance making it into a full-length feature film and have it released in theaters.
For now, Parker continues to prep and plan for filming, and she’s grateful to all who have already donated to the production.
Whatever happens, Parker believes a DVD of the Jake And Jasper should be available on the Jake And Jasper website perhaps as early as November 2011. Will that DVD include a fawn in the forest scene? The funds raised by August 10 will answer that question.
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