Whether in a home movie or a scripted comedy short, this cat video checklist will prevent panic on the set, even if the set is just your kitchen. Remember these tips when filming cats:
1) Check Your Equipment It may sound basic, trivial even, but many a shoot has been scuttled because your camcorder batteries are weak or dead. Or you don’t have that funny prop your cats always does something comical with. Or the lens is dirty (cats have been known to lick them, you know). Get everything ready, ship-shape and up-to-date, and you won’t have any Uh-Oh moments when filming.
2) Stay Wide A big mistake that a lot of amateurs make is trying to do Close-Ups and get Reaction Shots first (nostrils, whiskers, funny faces). Then your cat is exhausted or uninterested when you try and get your “Master Shots.” Get those first, the Long Shots of bodies; the Big Movements. If your cat isn’t too tired after these things, then do the detail work.
3) Don’t Let Your Cats Get Tired People forget sometimes that cats and kittens, though exuberant, can get tired if you’re filming them too long. But they don’t always tell you. And they might not have an agent there to tell you either. You know your cat. Give him or her breaks-as often as necessary-plus water and rest. You’ll get a better performance from your cat actors if they’re rested.
4) Forget Linear Time The experts may disagree on how long it takes to get your cat videos “in the can,” but they generally think it takes two to three times longer than you think it should. So, be patient. Try to hang loose. And don’t worry. As far as we know, you actor-cat is not in the union. Or on the clock.
5) Be Flexible About Your Storyline — Improvise! That hilarious or adorable trick your cat does? The one you hope to get into the cat video? Chances are, the minute the camera starts to roll, kitty won’t do it for all the tuna in the sea. So, be flexible. When your feline thespian tries something else, get that on film. Remember, De Niro’s “Are You Talking To Me?” scene? Words uttered into the mirror were completely improvised. And people are still quoting them. Let your cats release their inner De Niro. Your cat movie will be better for it.
6) Stay Focused — Ignore Outside Sounds OK, so maybe your “film set” is not going to be as crazy as Michael Bay’s, but don’t let visual or aural distractions, uh, distract you. Look away, when there’s a noise in the street or a Jay in a nearby tree, and you may miss something endearing your cat does. Watch, stay cool, be focused.
7) Shoot It In Pieces, Edit Into a Whole Don’t expect your cat to do all the things you’ve planned in one fell swoop. Cat video experts say to film your scene in pieces. Get lots of good shots (and “coverage,” shots from many angles), then know you can take your time and “save” your film in editing on the old laptop. Hey, they’ve probably done it that way with Lindsay Lohan. Why not your pussycat?
8) If You Can Get One, Have A Cat Handler On Hand Whatever your film, something to send to Nana or Public Access, try and have handler on your set. It doesn’t have to be a professional. Just someone you know can calm the cat down, mover her around, pep her up. You shouldn’t wear too many hats. So find somebody to “wrangle” your kitty.
9) Reward Your Cat It never hurts to have some of your cats favorite treats around when directing. As a reward or motivation. This may help get your shots quicker. Certainly, this positive reinforcement is the right way to get your actor to behave.
10) No Sudden Moves Self-explanatory, but still, I’ll explain. Try to move stealthily and quietly while filming your actor cat. Unless, of course, you want to get a certain reaction that is unrehearsed. So, you can always jingle a bell for your cat or drop a book near your cat and see where it gets ya!