Have you herd all about the new breed
of film star?
Farm animals are finding a new role.
Watch out Ewan McGregor and Liam
Neeson. Tom Montgomery reports
LIGHTS, camera, action! Britains latest moo-vie star prepares for another take. Shes sexy, temperamental and doesnt like to be kept waiting. Her name is Cachet, a thoroughbred Jersey cow.
Cachet is one of the stars of a recently released film called The Match where she appears with Pierce Brosnan. Its about a farmer who leaves his wife for a cow because it is more understanding. She appears in several scenes, including eating at a dinner table.
Shes owned by Norman Brough, of Cotland Farm, Tinwald, near Dumfries, a town rapidly becoming Britains moo-vie capital. A sort of Hollywood with horns on. Norman supplied six Jerseys for the film and farmer, David Gibbon, of Carsphairn, another five. In the script a cow soccer team plays a pub side. Norman, who runs beef and sheep on his 310ha (700 acres), has provided animals for several cinema and television films in the past year. Nearly 200 of his Angus and Herefords had an important part in Hold Back the Night, a Ken Loach film about runaway teenagers starring Sheila Hancock. They had to stampede through a market at Castle Douglas and jump down a short drop. Norman was pleased with their performance. "They only needed a few takes before they realised what was needed. That was less than some of the actors," he said.
The pet lamb of his 12-year-old son, George, has had a walk-on part in a television comedy and a flock of the farms sheep have been photographed for an internet advertisement. Cachet landed her starring role because she looked "sexier" than other cows. The four-legged stars have even got their own agent. Dave Stewart of Gubhill Farm, Forest of Ae, "dabbles in agriculture" but also runs Creature Feature which supplies "anything from ants to elephants, but mostly dogs" for films and television.
Cows like Cachet are screen naturals because they have become used to attention and handling when shown.
John Jamieson, of Upper Locharwoods Farm, Dumfries, is another farmer who has discovered hidden talents in his pedigree Holstein herd which produced a national show winner in 1995. Film moguls eyed their vital statistics and signed them up for a starring role in The Little Vampire about a family of the blood-suckers, alongside screen idol Richard E Grant.
Roxy, Lulu, Beth, Vigue, Fury and Lucy have been in front of the cameras this summer. "Can you stop them chewing the cud for a moment?" asked an innocent director wanting to shoot a scene. As if! Theres more work and organisation getting cows on the silver screen than John imagined. Even when using local professional transporters like Davidsons, getting to locations can take three hours and each animal has to have an experienced handler. Cows wont stand around awaiting the clapper board, they wander off and have to be coaxed back.
And Hollywood or no Hollywood they have to be milked twice a day, hence the accompanying portable machine.
"The cows liked the attention, I now feel like asking them for their autographs," said John, who has 120 Holsteins and 600 ewes on his mixed 310ha (700-acre) farm. "Filming is not all glamorous and you have to be adaptable. One day they wanted to shoot the animals at noon, didnt call them until 5pm and we got home at midnight. The weather can also upset schedules." The cows would also have gone on location to Germany but for the BSE regulations.
* Flying cows
The Holsteins are the heroes of The Little Vampire in which they "fly" aided by computer technology. "You could not walk into any field and choose cows at random for filming. Ours were suitable because we do a lot of showing, including indoors in winter. They had to be quiet, well haltered, more white than black and used to bright lights and travelling," he said.
John found the film work profitable and worth the time and effort. Working with highly professional film crews had been a refreshing change.
"We feel highly privileged because it was a tremendous experience we thoroughly enjoyed and would certainly do again," echoed Norman, whose wife Margaret and children Sarah (16), Alison (14) and George (12) all got involved.
"The film peoples outlook is totally different to farming and the pressures are not the same. They have the time and patience to wait until they get the right shot."
Cachet, meanwhile, is enjoying the fruits of stardom. She opened a produce market in Dumfries in June and there were plans to have her at a cinema when The Match got its first local showing. She calved last November.
Like the other prima donnas of the milking parlour shes "resting" until more film work comes along. Not beefcake roles, perhaps, but cowboy parts? Let the cameras roll.