American Humane Association has been doing a lot of work over the past year to bring home our nation’s military hero dogs and reunite them with their former handlers and battle buddies with whom they fought overseas on the hot sands of Iraq and Afghanistan. So we are especially proud to be involved with MGM’s upcoming film, Max, which is the perfect on-screen depiction of the unbreakable bond between military dog and handler. Max is the story of a beloved dog who returns home after serving Marine Kyle Wincott, and his platoon in Afghanistan. After Kyle is killed in battle, Max is shipped back to Kyle’s family where he befriends his younger brother, Justin Wincott. At first, Max and his adopted family are reluctant to get close to each other, mostly because Max suffers from post-traumatic stress following his experience in the war.
Soon, however, Justin and Max forge a special friendship, and in doing so discover a dark secret about one of Kyle’s fellow soldiers who has returned from the frontlines. Justin and Max’s journey is a tale of hope, compassion, and love. Their friendship reflects the depth of the human-animal bond and also shines an important light on the vital role of military dogs in this country. Max is not only a family drama filled with excitement and intrigue but is also an important film everyone should see.
There’s a lot of intense animal action in the film, especially with some of the battle scenes, but don’t worry: Certified Animal Safety Representatives from American Humane Association’s “No Animals Were Harmed®” animal welfare certification program were on set. I am proud to say that Max received our top rating for excellence in ensuring the humane treatment of all of the animal stars. Mark Forbes was the animal trainer for Max, played by animal star Carlos, and he did an outstanding job! American Humane Association’s representatives were on set working with the trainers, producers, director Boaz Yakin, and the excellent cast, and it was a pleasure to be there with this great group of people.
Constructing visually stunning scenes while ensuring the animals were not harmed in any way made our collaboration with Max a grand success. Using green screen effects, CGI, and the skill of the animal actors the direct, animal trainers and our own certified animal safety representatives were able to construct an intense-looking action movie.
However, in reality, the animals were never in harm’s way, and by utilizing various tricks and tactics of the trade – what we call movie magic – amazing action sequences were created, especially the dramatic “fight” between Max and a Rottweiler. Let me give you a little more insight into how that climactic scene was filmed:
- When we see a quick shot of Max biting the Rottweiler in the rear leg, trainers used a fake dog head (which looked exactly like Max’s head) to simulate Max’s head bending down to bite him.
- The dogs in this scene were filmed on green screen so CGI could fill in the blanks and really make it look as if the dogs were biting and fighting.
- The dogs were filmed separately. By filming them separately, trainers had the freedom to cue them to bark and growl. Editing made it look as if they were barking and growling in close proximity to each other.
- The dogs never really “fought” or “bit” each other. Trainers and two American Humane Association Certified Animal Safety Representatives were on set to make sure the dogs were safe the whole time.
- The two dogs were kept together prior to shooting scenes to get them acquainted with each other.
We are so proud that we got to work on the set of this movie that promotes the importance of the human-animal bond and the vital role that dogs play for our military. Please stay tuned for our next blog posting about the story of Max and American Humane Association’s advocacy efforts for military working dogs! And be sure to go to a theater on June 26 for the world premiere of Max! Your family will love it!