How did the idea come about to use the monkeys and turn the tables on lab testing?
I think it all started when I found out that the guy who had given obedience lessons to my dog owned and trained movie baboons. I had been wanting to use them for a few years and finally saw a good opportunity when I got a brief for a band called Caged Animals. The rest was fate.
And what were the challenges of shooting with a troop of monkeys?
All through pre-production, I had this very naive expectation of the shoot being almost like a petting zoo with cameras…like the Island in the Sun video by Weezer. I thought we would have monkeys on our backs and we would toss them in the air and hug them and squeeze them…but I was very wrong.
These monkeys were absolutely terrifying. They have sharp teeth and make the loudest shrieking noises you’ve ever heard. We were not allowed to look them in the eyes or smile while shooting. We basically had to set up our shot and then abandon the set. The only person left behind was our DP Niko Weisnet; who is a very brave man.
The trainer would then come in with the monkeys and I had to watch the monitor from a separate room and whisper directions from under the door. “Can Jack look to the right? No, the other right…HIS right. Yes. Oh, he sat down now. Now he is laying on the floor. Now he is tossing the props around the set.” It was entertaining to say the least.
Did the final film turn out how you originally planned or were there some surprises along the way which you included?
I was surprised by how much these baboons were able to do. I thought I would show up to set and realize that the monkeys couldn’t do anything we wanted them to do; but I think we were able to complete our shot list with no compromises. They also worked really fast.
Directed/edited by Carlos Lopez Estrada
Produced by Sarah Lawson
Executive Producer: Danielle Hinde for Doomsday Entertainment
Director of Photography: Niko Weisnet
Production Designer: Tyler Jensen
VFX: Joe Sill
2nd Unit: Zach Wechter (director) Mishka Kornai and Andreas Attai (DPs)
Prod. Manager: Bret Rea
Art man: Paul Santagada
Animal trainer: Tim Williams.
The baboons: Jack, Janet, Jonas, Jojo, J.Lo and Jeremiah.