The decline of the feline empire


We know how easy it is for Denys Arcand to film characters in their intimacy. But let me tell you that it would probably have been another story if he had to film … cats! Yes, cats!

I’m also in the film industry and telling stories with pictures fascinates me. But when I was proposed this crazy idea to participate in a web series with cats, I froze! In movies, there is a golden rule. If you want to multiply the chances that your shoot will go well, AVOID two fundamental things: children and ANIMALS.

But hey, do not worry, I said to myself, you can do this! It is a wonderful challenge after all, and above all it is for a good cause. Full of confidence and good will, I accept the mandate: film a dozen cats in the largest shelter in Montreal, to invent them stories and make them participate in events.


Off to a difficult start …

The first day of shooting, I quickly realized that the famous golden rule is not made for dogs … but rather for cats. I did not know anything about shelters and I quickly realized that each move involved a lot of complications. With 120 cats around, installing a tripod requires a lot of precautions.

Everything must be calculated, measured, anticipated! Not to mention that the refuge is made so that cats with diseases or allergies are in separate rooms. And to move from one room to another with your hands full of stock … WATCH OUT! First of all, you have to be careful that cats are not in the way when you open the door, then you have to disinfect your hands and shoes every time. A pleasure constantly renewed.

Although this protocol – a bit tedious indeed – requires patience, the real test is filming the cats themselves. And that’s the real challenge. Forget everything you’ve learned. Forget that the earth is round, you are now entering a world of total uncertainty!

Filming a cat is like hitting the Plank wall at 200km / h with a scooter. We do not come out unscathed. The first days of shooting were, how could I say it, INTENSE.

At first, we try to follow the cat with the camera. WRONG. We find ourselves with footage that even the most advanced stabilizer could not fix. A cat, adorable as he is, does as he pleases. We tried to call him, coax him with croquettes, talking to him with tss-tss, kitties, if he does not want to, he does not want. There are also cats who run away.


Stars who do their best

I remember Chocolat, an adorable cat but very camera-shy. Every time I entered the room with my camera, Chocolat was eager to climb to the ceiling to hide. FAIL!

Conversely, there are cats who love the camera. So everything is set up, the lights are on, I’m on all fours trying to take some beauty shots of Gaby. But here it is, Gaby decided that rubbing his muzzle on the lens would be his activity of the moment. We try to position him, throw croquettes his way to scare him, nothing to do. It’s the lens or nothing.


Finally !

Finally after a few failed attempts, where I thought that maybe I should think about a new career, bim it clicked! Instead of trying to capture everything, I went into patience mode.

Let the cat come to the camera, not the other way around. This state of mind has changed everything. I began to learn about each cat that I had to film. His character, his favorite nap time, his fears, his favorite games. This completely changed my approach.

Also, I helped myself a little by shooting in slow motion (I should have thought about it before). FINALLY, I had found the key that allowed me to make shots that I am very proud of today, despite the lack of resources and the special conditions of the film set.


Régis Coussot