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Context for that leaked videotape from ‘A Dog’s Purpose’

On January 18, TMZ leaked incredibly damaging footage of the making of the upcoming wide release film, A Dog’s Purpose. It shows a couple of clips stitched together: a dog being forced into raging waters, and then later, that dog submerged while rescuers rush to get him out.

In a column on THR, producer and dog lover Gavin Polone tries to explain the circumstances that led to this situation:

Before the first real take, the handlers were asked to change the start point of the dog from the left side, where he had rehearsed, to the right side. That, evidentially, is what caused him to be spooked. When the dog didn’t want to do the scene from the new position, they cut, though not soon enough, and then went back to the original position. The dog was comfortable and went in on his own and they shot the scene. The TMZ video only shows the unfinished take of when the dog was on the right side. What is clear from viewing all the footage was that the dog was NEVER forced into the water.

From a front angle, when they shot the scene, you can see that there is a calmer path in the artificial water turbulence for the dog to move through. This is not visible in the TMZ video. You can also see, at the end of the scene, the dog going underwater for four seconds, which never should have happened, and then the diver and handlers lifting the dog out of the pool. The dog then shook off and trotted around the pool, unharmed and unfazed. They only did one take of the full scene and then ended for the day. TMZ’s edited version gives the impression that the dog was thrown in and eventually drowned, since the two parts seem to be connected. You never see him pulled out and OK. This is highly misleading.

Polone does not excuse everyone’s behavior — he believes things should not have happened as they did, and he calls out the AHA and PETA for being not up to the task and for being uncooperative, respectively. But there is more to the story that the tape does not show.

Polone also speculates that the videotape was held until this month to be sold to TMZ for the highest value possible. This part is highly plausible to me: The tape’s timing and the way it is edited were done to have maximum damage to the release of the film. That doesn’t just happen by accident.