Lights! Camera! Action!

Casting Call for Goats

Lights! Camera! Action!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Animals are bound to melt your heart and tickle your funny bone when featured in television commercials, YouTube escapades, music videos, and print advertising. People are drawn to their antics, whether it’s a tiny Chihuahua touting tasty tacos or mighty Clydesdale draft horses tossing a football in the snow. There’s just something endearing about furry and feathered critters promoting products in front of the camera. 

For years, research has shown that animals in advertising increase feelings of emotion and connection. Their presence in a campaign produces loyalty, brand awareness, consumer trust, and positive buying behavior. It doesn’t matter if the animal is real, animated, or a puppet; if it captures an audience’s attention, there’s bound to be a success. Just ask the creative team that introduced a soft-spoken gecko with a British accent, assuring customers that 15 minutes could save you 15 percent on car insurance. The little green CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) character first appeared on television in 1999. He quickly became an advertising icon, proving that cuteness can be captivating and lucrative. 

Discovering Animal Talent 

In most cases, a client promoting a product hires an advertising agency to brainstorm ideas. Once approved, a detailed storyboard is sketched with a description of the animals needed for the production. Then the agency contacts animal talent trainers/consultants to discuss the project. 

At the heart of the company is every animal cast’s overall well-being for a production role.

Lauren Henry of Talented Animals, located in Corvallis, Oregon and West Hollywood, California, is always happy when the phone rings with a new assignment. She’s well known and respected as a true professional with over 30 years of experience in the field, training and working on location with hundreds of animals annually for film, television, and other projects. 

Lauren delights in sharing stories about her many adventures, like when she taught a deer to play dead, a raccoon to carry a bird in its mouth without hurting it, or getting a mouse to type on a keyboard. She has worked with various animals: dogs, cats, birds, barnyard livestock, and exotics such as wolves and tigers. She is highly creative and has pioneered training techniques that other top trainers in the industry have adopted.  

At the heart of the company is every animal cast’s overall well-being for a production role. From the first day of training to the final camera shot, Lauren and her team provide an atmosphere of enrichment and companionship, including plenty of time for exercise and play, optimal nutrition, and on-call veterinary care. Every decision made involves an animal’s safety, health, and happiness. Clients are reassured knowing that their project will be handled with professionalism and integrity with a team of caring and experienced trainers and handlers on location. 

A Casting Call for Goats 

Lauren was intrigued by a New York advertising agency telephone call requesting a group of wild-looking goats for a sport truck commercial. The plot involved a lone colt lying on a snowy mountain ledge by the water’s rocky edge. Along came a friendly herd of goats, encouraging the young horse to get up and join them on their journey. Together they ventured, helping their new friend build strength and vigor as he grew into a magnificent stallion. 

Fortunately for Lauren, she heard about a nearby farm in Dallas, Oregon, that raises Cashmere goats — Goat Knoll Farm, owned and operated by Linda Fox. After an initial visit, five goats were selected based on their rugged looks and easy-going personalities. 

Off they went for three weeks of training at Lauren’s property. Most of the script called for traipsing about the mountain with their new friend, but one goat named Barney had an added role in approaching and gently nudging the horse to get up from the ground and later climb the steep incline. To achieve this, Lauren used a rubber ball during the training sessions to represent the rock and the foal’s hind legs. 

“Everything worked out beautifully,” reports Lauren. “Barney was a natural, learning his part in record time. I saw lots of potential in him, so much so that I arranged to purchase him from Linda, foreseeing a bright and busy future.” 

Once they were on location outside Seattle at Mount Baker, the team set up camp for the crew and animals. This included Linda’s goats plus Vinnie, Lauren’s Nigerian Dwarf goat taking on the role of a young kid in a cameo shot. He blended in nicely with a bit of makeup — a non-toxic dye applied to his fur, giving him the look of a wild mountain goat. 

“Goats are a delight to work with,” says Lauren. “They are extremely intelligent and can learn and retain information from previous training sessions.”

In addition, three horses were cast — Lauren’s adult horse, Hummer, plus a foal and yearling from another company. They also had a dependable and delightful Border Collie on location to help herd the goats from one scene to another. Since they were shooting the commercial at a state park, it required that all animals had to be leashed, and they easily accomplished this by using long leads that they could edit out of each shot. 

The result is a beautifully crafted story that draws viewers in, celebrating the goats and colt on their mountain adventure. In the end, the truck appears with the same ability to navigate any terrain, no matter how rough the road. 

“Goats are a delight to work with,” says Lauren. “They are extremely intelligent and can learn and retain information from previous training sessions. Like dogs, most goats do well with clicker training and seem to enjoy being part of a team. In retrospect, there aren’t many casting calls for goats nowadays, but one never knows what the next project might be. There’s just something endearing about the looks and personality of goats that garners the attention of clients, ad agencies, and the general public.”  

Lauren invites goat owners to submit photos and information about their animals, suggesting they read more about what’s involved on her website: 

www.talentedanimals.com Access the link, Effectively Hiring Animal Talent, and then read the section, How to Get Your Animal Into Showbiz. 

She explains how to contact a trainer and what questions to consider before submitting a photo. Most importantly, what’s the animal’s temperament? Are they sociable? How are they around new sights and people? What about a willingness to send one’s animal with a trainer on location? Is your animal distinctive in looks and behavior? It’s important to research and ponder the possibilities. 

Who knows what’s on the horizon? Look how Barney found his way into the limelight. Goats might be the next Lassie. One can always dream! 

Photos by Linda Fox of Goat Knoll Farm



Originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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