Herding Cats Is Harder Than… Well, You Know…

February 9, 2012


A commercial I shot recently is finally done – the company it was for has been unsure how to best utilize it (I assume they’re concerned whether or not the world is prepared this much wonderfulness), but I can share it now, at least.  So I’m officially finished with that one. Yay!

Here it is, for the interested.  No, I’m not in it, although that’s my voice narrating at the end:

This cat.

You know why it’s done?  Because it’s for a product called “Cats,” instead of a production involving cats.  It’s a crucial difference.  I’m actually finishing up another commercial for the same company and… it’s a little rocky.  You see, since the product is called “Cats,” this commercial involves the participation, cooperation and on-cue action of a cat.  A real cat.  Therefore, as anyone has ever owned, met, or heard of a cat may have surmised, things got complicated.

The initial planning involved a lot of real cat activity.  Cats interacting with people, sitting, responding on cue and engaging in specific actions.  Ah, those were the days… so naive, so carefree. Then, as things got closer and the shot-by-shot planning came about, we got more realistic;  Then we got started and the plan shifted to “Okay, we’re going to film a blur of a fake cat whizzing by, then insert the real cat later.  Much later.”   And thus the bulk of the day was spent hurling a fake cat at actors.  Ever tried to throw a stuffed cat so it looks like it’s lunging at something?  Of course not.  Why in God’s name would you?  Well, it’s harder than it sounds.  It’s harder than anything, actually.  Harder than Chinese math.  Harder than stale Grape Nuts.  Harder than bull’s-eyeing a womp-rat in a T-16.

Here's a shot from making the first one. See how relaxed we all look? Know why? No cats.

The kicker, of course, is that we’re needing the cat to do cat things.  Chase a toy or laser-pointer.  Meow.  Lie there.  Areas where cats really excel.  But that’s because you’re not asking them to do it.  Pleading.  Cajoling.

One moment involves a cat, who is by nature very cranky, being cranky.  But he has to hold still.  That wasn’t happening, so finally I scattered a little catnip and he nestled right in.  I’m a genius!

Then he was so mellow from the catnip he couldn’t get angry about anything.  I’m an idiot!

Kitty's not here, man.

The shot involves someone being scared, trying to get his keys from this crazed, cranky cat and, even after I tinkered with the footage and added a yowl, he looked – at worst – like someone’s harshing his buzz a little.

It’s getting there, though. Now I’m at a point where the cat is largely implied.  It’s going to be a conceptual meditation piece on catness, rather than merely focusing on some physical entity.

I’m hoping the next product they make should be called  “Sandwich” or “Glob of clay” or even just “Inert.”  Anything but “Cats.”

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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40 Comments on “Herding Cats Is Harder Than… Well, You Know…”

  1. Kitchen Slattern Says:

    Lucky for you the product isn’t called ferrets. Or mothers-in-law.


  2. MJ, Nonstepmom Says:

    Great spot !
    Could’ve been worse, could’ve been called “Brat”.
    You’d go from “Kitty’s not here” to “I’m here, meet my every whim” temper tantrums (& catnip does not work, I’ve tried).


  3. PCC Advantage Says:

    I just have to say that I laughed so hard when the waiter said to the girl, “So, my band’s playing this weekend…”

    Also, I would buy a product called “Sandwich”…no matter what it was.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Thanks. I was especially pleased with the waiter’s dialogue, most of which you can’t hear. The script also has him saying, “You know, I work out a lot” which I just laughed and laughed over.


      • Rumpleteazer Says:

        I think that was mainly funny because I know the guy (although didn’t in the days of the trucker-‘stache, thank gods for small favours) and that is totally something he’d be doing…

        Also, I’m currently working on reading my way through the entire backlog of Things You Have Blogged. It’s taking a while, but providing much-needed giggles. So thanks for that.


  4. becomingcliche Says:

    I can only imagine. I also recommend avoiding any project that involves toddlers. They have a lot in common with cats – they don’t like to be told what to do, and they’ll scratch you if you get too close.


  5. gojulesgo Says:

    Yessss!!! You’re FAMOUS!! I was not expecting the commercial to be in this post (based on the title)! Awesome. The waiter is hysterical. “Send All!”

    GREAT job, B-Man!!

    I cannot wait to see the next one. I’m totally on board for a conceptual meditation piece on catness.


  6. Lenore Diane Says:

    What was it W.C. Fields said? Something along the lines of hating to work with kids and animals. By animals, he probably meant ‘cats’. Nice commercial!!


  7. booksnob Says:

    This commercial is awesome!

    Oh, and I’ve done the “I’m a genius! No, wait…I’m an idiot.” far more times than I’d care to say.


  8. truthspew Says:

    The CATS device is interesting. I suppose it’s an encrypted short range RF or WiFi back to the POS system?


  9. audreygjohnson Says:

    Nice Star Wars reference! Catnip sounded like such a great idea… Maybe they can call the product called “Bats”? Then you’ll really have fun!


  10. Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

    Oh, geez. I’ve been so corrupted by work, I wondered why the “e” in Excel wasn’t capitalized.


    Video-watching will happen tonight. Hurrah!


  11. She's a Maineiac Says:

    Great commercial, nice work, Byronic!


  12. Mands Says:

    After a week of being ill, I took today to recover by reading blogs… especially those that made me laugh. (I haven’t done any work, I’ve answered no email or even thought of a single chore 😉 ) This is my last read of the day and I have laughed, and laughed the most. I could ‘see’ my cats doing (or not doing) exactly what you described with words.
    I just have to start reading… “this commercial involves the participation, cooperation and on-cue action of a cat. A real cat” …and I start laughing hysterically. My tummy muscles are so sore from laughing. I don’t even want to get started on what happens to our male cat when my son give him catnip… oh my gosh! Thanks so much for the great read, for sharing… and for inspiring laughter, it has been fun.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, I’m glad I could be a worthwhile finale to blog-fest! And thanks for reading. And yes, I think as a cat owner, just the concept of filming a cat is enough to induce visions of chaos.

      Hope you’re feeling better.


      • Mands Says:

        I’m feeling much better thanks! And no I’m not a blog stalker… just had to have one more read for breakfast to start my day with laughter. *Grin* Thanks… I just know it’s going to be a fabulous Friday.


  13. Life in the Boomer Lane Says:

    I’m impressed out of my mind that you do this for a living. And a second commercial, wow, although the thought of working with actual cats conjures up the loss of at least one of my eyeballs. My son and a friend used to make commercials for a local pizza place and a local restaurant delivery service. They made one of the commercials at my house, using local actors. My job was to stay up in the attic with the dog. I felt like Cinderella.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, it’s only supplemental, “living”-wise. So, far be it for me to convince you not to be impressed, but I also don’t want to totally misrepresent myself. I will let you know, though, the moment there is more to be impressed with.


  14. Gow Says:

    Great commercial. Ya know . . . not showing the actual “animal” very much didn’t work out so badly for Mr. Spielberg. Just sayin’


  15. BrainRants Says:

    Great job! And hunting womp-rats isn’t so hard. I did it all the time at… oh. Right. That’s the pretend part.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Did I ever tell you about the time this guy Greedo cornered me in a cantina to collect the bounty on me? He was all “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.” And I was like, “Yes, I bet you have.”

      And then I totally shot first. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


  16. secretlyhardcore Says:

    Maybe next time try animated cats. Paula Abdul did it once, and look how things worked out for her. You could be American Idol’s next judge!


    • Jackie Cangro Says:

      Or get the actors from the theater production of Cats to play the cats. I hear they take direction better but are unionized.

      Great commercial, by the way! I’m really impressed.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I bet for that Paula Abdul video they wanted to use a real cat, then after a few hours just yelled, “God! Let’s just animate the damn thing!”


  17. cassiebehle Says:

    Absolutely loved the commercial! If you need a cat extra, my Chloe is really good at ignoring everything. EVERYTHING. And that’s what you’re looking for, right? A REAL actress? One who knows how good she is and shows up two hours late because you’re on HER time and you know it?

    I’m, I mean SHE, is asking $15 per hour. And she’d like a trailer filled with Cheetos. Let me know.



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