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Katie Brock Interview

Katie Brock trained the animals in Nim's Island.
Courtesy of Fox Walden

By: Sindy

Katie Brock is the woman behind the animal scenes in Nim's Island. She trained all the animals that appear alongside Abigail Breslin in the upcoming adventure movie about an imaginative girl who lives on an isolated island with her scientist father. Kidzworld sat down to talk to this animal trainer, so check out the interview right here.

Sindy: Tell us about the work you did for the upcoming movie, Nim's Island.
Katie Brock: We did all sorts of prep training with Abigail with the animals. In most scenes, she's interacting between sea lions or bearded dragons. She's got a fair bit of interaction with those animals, so we trained with Abigail and helped her get a rapport with the animals prior to filming because it's very important to make sure the animal looks comfortable with the actor, and more importantly that the actor looks comfortable with the animal.

Sindy: Did Abigail Breslin interact well with these animals?
Katie Brock: Abigail was an exceptional gift! She was fantastic with the animals. One of our hardest jobs when we work with animals and actors is having the actor put the effort and time into getting to know the animal. We can train the animal, but the only person who can sell the relationship with the animals is the actor, so Abigail put a lot of time into the prep work. The producer of the film realized that was important, so he got her out to the set early. We had a good month of prep work, which is really not that much at the end of the day, but Abigail enjoyed it, so that makes a difference. She was calm, natural, confident and always supportive of the animals, and she couldn't have been better!

Sindy: Since Nim's Island takes place in Australia, did you use a lot of animals that are indigenous to the country?
Katie Brock: Yeah, most of them. We used two male Australian sea lions, five central bearded dragons and two Australian pelicans. We also had some dogs and some goats, and a whole myriad of lizards, which were indigenous to the area.

Sindy: Was it tough to train the animals?
Katie Brock: The animals were acquired though Sea World Australia, so they were highly trained animals. But they had never worked on a film set before, so getting them used to going to different locations and sound stages took some time. The whole idea of a film set is very different from what most animals experience in their lifetimes, like repeating things many times over for different takes and from different angles, and working with an actress. It takes a lot to get used to.

Sindy: Do you have any tricks to get animals to act on cue?
Katie Brock: We train the animals and do lots of prep work to hopefully ensure that the behaviors will happen on the day. We went through many of the scenes with Abigail. Of course, they were never shot the exact same way we thought they were going to be shot! We have to try and get the animal to be able to do it in any situation at any time, and quite often, the animals do 100 percent of their behavior on cue, but it's very difficult when you're far away and the camera's between you and there's a rain or wind machine and things are flying everywhere and somebody's yelling at the top of their lungs, "Action!" and there's lightning strikes. So we had to prep these animals with that and they did a great job.

  • Click here to get Katie Brock's advice on how to get into the animal training industry!
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  • World Wildlife Fund Profile
  • Check out More Interviews on Work It!
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