The Art Of Casting For Film, Tv And Theatre.
IF YOU look through the history books you’ll find that the use of dogs to entertain is timeless. They have that ability to enchant and allure anyone who watches them perform and you’ll find it hard to turn on your TV, flick through a magazine or browse the internet without seeing how the appeal of a dog has been used to catch your attention.
In today’s multi-platform digital age there’s plenty of opportunity for ‘star dogs’ and when a company needs a performing dog there’s a man in the business who is the first call for many. That man is Gerry Cott.
Gerry, whose early career was in music and saw him play guitar alongside Bob Geld of in the The Boomtown Rats, went on to change paths and make a living out of animal show business. His credentials are impressive. He’s been doing it for over 30 years and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge which is hard to rival and which is why many of the biggest producers and filmmakers in the world value him as the most important man in the industry. He left The Boomtown Rats when the life of a musician failed to excite him and it became dogs and animals which breathed new life into him and gave him the drive to dedicate a lifetime’s worth of work to.
Gerry grew up in the countryside of Ireland where he was surrounded by animals and an abundance of dogs which included Cocker Spaniels, terriers and Collies. His mother’s family were farmers and his summers were spent on farms in County Wicklow surrounded by cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, dogs and the occasional horse. This is where he first caught sight of working dogs as he would squander hours watching large Collies being used as cattle herders.
“As a child, spending carefree summer days with a great Collie running across the fields leaves an indelible mark,” he told me.
It is clear that Gerry’s understanding of dogs began from this very young age and his time spent in the fields and woodlands of the magical Irish countryside.
However, it was in music where Gerry would first make his mark as an original member of Irish new wave band The Boomtown Rats. He was with the group for five years and when he left it he and his wife Cathy were living in rural Surrey where they kept horses and had a Jack Russell bitch called Ellie and a Border Collie named Marley.
It was through Cathy’s interest in the canine sport of obedience that they were introduced to acting work for dogs
Gerry recalled how the couple’s first experience of working with a dog for film came about.
“Cathy competed at obedience competitions with our Jack Russell and Collie and I would go along and watch. One day we were asked whether our Border Collie would be available to appear in a TV commercial for Pal dog food. That was in 1983.
“Then a couple of months later we were asked if we would be able to provide and supervise a black horse for a Lloyds Bank TV commercial.
“Then a little while later that same year we were asked if we would like to train pigs for a feature film called A Private Function being produced by George Harrison from The Beatles, which was written by Alan Bennett and starred Maggie Smith, Michael Palin and Richard Griffiths.”
The couple were soon in quick demand and before he knew it Gerry had fallen into a new line of work. He told me that the secret behind how he could be so natural with the animals was his love for them and the experience he had gained from his childhood.
The couple then set up A-Z Dogs as a part of A-Z Animals and the business has been booming for the last 33 years.
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