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22nd October 2012
Title of film: Toyota NZ, Feels Good Inside
Director: Hamish Rothwell
Production Company: Goodoil Films
We asked Goodoil director Hamish Rothwell for every furry detail on shooting cats with 99 lives

The first challenge of the production was casting the right cat. Cats are notoriously difficult to film. Once they decide they’ve had enough, they just opt out. There is no turning them around.

The breed we picked was, according to our animal trainer, the hardest kind of cat to train. Just the way I like it. The breed was perfect – obviously the hair length was crucial but I also felt that the natural attitude of the cat would bring a huge amount of personality to the spot. Those cats are great because they always have a really intense look on their face.

We managed to find four reasonably identical cats (brothers) and another two as very desperate backups.

We trained them for a month with very specific actions – you have to have every movement and shot planned otherwise you really are asking for trouble. You can’t just have cats on set and hope you’ll get something…everything has to be planned.

Everything was shot in camera with a real cat. There were a few comp shots (for obvious safety reasons), but the cat was always really there.

To be honest, the biggest concern on the shoot was with eye-lines. The cat had to be very deliberate about its purpose. Without very deliberate eye-lines it would have felt a bit loose and confusing. But with a huge amount of patience and very good training we managed it.

The other problem we faced was that cats are nervous – and also that cats are incredibly interested in anything that makes a noise or moves. Especially shooting exteriors. So we basically stopped producers talking on their mobiles.

My favourite shot would have to be the leap onto the Doberman. I loved the way the cat moves through the air…it’s both beautiful and insane at the same time.

My other favourite is the ending. That cat loved having the wind in his hair. The first take was rubbish – he kept looking around at anything that moved. But Caroline and James (the animal trainers) told us we have to go faster because he loves it. Sure enough, he loved it when we were belting along. That look he gives of being enraptured at the end is unfake-able.

Toyota Corolla, The Cat with 99 Lives   Production Company: Goodoil Films Director: Hamish Rothwell Producer: Sam Long DoP: Crighton Bone Editor: Pete Sciberras – Method Studios Visual Effects: Nigel Mortimer - Blockhead Production Designer: Guy Treadgold Music: Elliott Wheeler – Turning Studios Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Auckland Agency Producer: Jane Oak Creatives: Antonio Navas (ECD), Guy Roberts (CD), Corey Chalmers (CD)