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January 24, 2014

What the Animal Content in Entertainment Program Can Do for Filmmakers

The resources ACE offers are as wide-ranging as a filmmaker's imagination

  • ACE helped put animal issues in the spotlight. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

A project of The HSUS's Los Angeles Office, Animal Content in Entertainment (ACE) is the only entertainment-related advocacy program of its kind. ACE's guiding mission is to encourage filmmakers to recognize animal issues as rich source material for socially relevant documentary and narrative entertainment.

Through ACE's outreach with filmmakers, networks, and studios, The HSUS seeks to inspire creative and compelling ways of portraying animal issues in films and on television.


Are you a filmmaker looking for assistance or a consultation? Contact ACE »

What can ACE offer filmmakers?

There are countless animal issues waiting to hit the big (and small) screen. Here are some of the ways ACE can help

  • Research Assistance—We provide information, fact-checking, and story consultation for scripted or unscripted programming.
  • Referrals—Looking for interview subjects? ACE can help connect you with the right on-screen expert.
  • Footage Licensing—Browse The HSUS's video library, then contact ACE to license supplemental footage for your project.
  • Events—We can hold special screenings to showcase your project to HSUS supporters.
  • Financial Assistance—The HSUS has awarded financial grants to feature-length documentaries about animal issues.
  • Strategic Partnerships—We facilitate marketing and promotion to The HSUS's many supporters.

What issues should filmmakers keep in mind when pursuing animal storylines?

The Concerns about Wild Animal Performers—The HSUS opposes the use of captive wild animals as performers in film, television, and commercials. Scientific literature supports the contention that wild animals such as elephants and great apes possess highly developed emotional complexity, and that their needs are difficult to satisfy in a captive setting. The risk of harm to people interacting with them in a performance setting poses undue risk for all concerned. Another concern is what happens to these wild animals once their careers are over. They are sometimes sold into the exotic animal trade, and channeled to private owners, laboratories, canned hunts, or substandard roadside zoos or "sanctuaries" where they face unacceptable threats to their well-being.

The Trouble with Staging—As noted by HSUS President & CEO Wayne Pacelle in his blog, exploitation of wild animals in film and television does not always stop at scripted entertainment. Certain reality series and wildlife documentaries have been accused of staging scenarios with wild animals, often to the animals' detriment. Be mindful of ways to document wildlife without resorting to exploitation or staging.

"No Animals Were Harmed"—The HSUS is not the organization with authority to monitor the action of animal actors on film and TV sets. That oversight belongs to the American Humane Association (AHA). If you are interested in using an animal in your film, you can contact AHA via email or call 818-501-0123. But why not consider the next item?

Tech-Savvy Alternatives—Were you awed by the wild animals in the "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," "Big Miracle," and "Life of Pi"? Amazingly, nearly all of the animal action in those films utilized computer animation instead of real animals. These advances in CGI—not to mention animatronics, puppetry, costuming, and makeup—give you many humane options to create lifelike creatures without using actual animals.

What kinds of projects does ACE work on?

We work in all genres and all formats. The HSUS has partnered on such TV and film projects as these:

  • "Animal Planet Investigates" (Animal Planet)
  • "An Apology to Elephants" (HBO)
  • "The Back-Up Plan" (CBS Films)
  • "Blackfish" (Magnolia Pictures/CNN Films)
  • "Bones" (Fox)
  • "Born to be Wild 3D" (IMAX/Warner Bros.)
  • "Caught on Camera" (MSNBC)
  • "Charlotte's Web" (Paramount Pictures)
  • "Confessions: Animal Hoarding" (Animal Planet)
  • "Contagion" (Warner Bros./Participant Media)
  • "The Cove" (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Participant Media)
  • "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS)
  • "Curious George" (PBS Kids)
  • "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (ABC)
  • "Food, Inc." (Magnolia Pictures/Participant Media)
  • "Hoarders" (A&E)
  • "Hotel for Dogs" (Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks)
  • "The Last Lions" (National Geographic Films)
  • "Madonna of the Mills" (HBO)
  • "Martha Speaks" (PBS Kids)
  • "Minds in the Water" (Gravitas Ventures)
  • "One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss & Betrayal" (HBO)
  • "Rules of Engagement" (CBS)
  • "Thumbsucker" (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • "To The Arctic 3D" (IMAX/Warner Bros.)
  • "War Horse" (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • "The Whale" (Paladin)
  • "Year of the Dog" (Paramount Vantage)
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