The Bear Necessities
“Good boy!” was the most exclaimed phrase on set this week, but it’s not a golden retriever we’re proud of; it’s Bonkers, a 650-pound black bear.
Bonkers is the star of Black Bear Casino Resort’s newest commercial, and like all great stars, he always gives a laudatory performance. However, to get this show in the can, a lot of work was required from the crew.
Before any cameras rolled, we needed a full day walk-through covering each of our scenes with Bonkers. The walk-through gave us an idea of what our compositions would be for each of our shots, and also allowed the bear trainers to figure out exactly what Bonkers would need to do for each of the shots being filmed over the three day shoot.
Starting on day two, almost a third of the casino needed to be marked off and closed to accommodate the space needed for shooting; this was a big task that was executed to perfection by the Black Bear security staff. Also, Bonkers has very specific safety rules that had to be followed while he was in the casino. He was led in and out of the casino under close guard, through electric wiring that guided his every move for each shot.
Once the lights were on and the cameras were rolling, there were other tricky 650-pound-black-bear-in-a-casino production issues we had to be aware of. One was that Bonkers has about five takes per scene in him. Also, he needs breaks between each shot, so it was important that we got our shots quickly and efficiently. Another thing we had to keep in mind was that we were completely on Bonkers’ schedule. If Bonkers wanted to break, we were on break. If Bonkers didn’t feel like cooperating, we were on stand-by. And this happened a time or two, mostly because Bonkers is easily distracted by smells, and rightfully so; his sense of smell is 200 times stronger than humans’ sense of smell. And there are many, many smells in a casino, and therefore, many, many distractions (hello buffet shot!). Overall, Bonkers was good at staying on task. He was patient, efficient, and well-behaved, with much thanks to his kind and caring trainers.