Is your pet a potential film star?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 April 2017
Cheadle-based Davinia Hamilton-Maddox knows all about putting pets in the picture as she runs her very own animal model agency. Janet Reeder finds out more.
Ever wondered how you could make your pet pooch a star? Well you could sign up to a model agency specifically created for our four-legged friends.
Davinia Hamilton-Maddox, from Cheadle, runs Animal Direction, a company that supplies pets to film production companies, photographers, PR companies for anything from TV shows to advertising campaigns.
It was when she was working on a big campaign for a marketing company that she had the idea to set up a model agency specifically for animals.
Davinia explains: ‘We had a pet client and we needed some animals for a photoshoot, so I contacted two I had found. One was in London and one just outside London. Both were extortionately expensive and also the service was just horrendous. They were just so rude. It was like they couldn’t be bothered, so I ended up using my own dogs and all my family’s and friends’ dogs on the shoot.
‘Everybody I knew with a pet was on it! We had 15 dogs, ten cats and more and amazingly managed to pull it off. It was then I thought “Hang on, there’s a business idea in this somewhere”. I looked into it, did all my research and discovered that my only other option would have been to contact dog trainers but even that wasn’t viable. They had their own jobs to do, so I set up Animal Direction.’
Davinia continues: ‘It cost virtually nothing to do it. I built a website, I did a little bit of PR and before I knew it, owners around the country stated hearing about us. It seems that because we are a nation of animal lovers we all want our pets to be on TV. People really want them to be used in marketing campaigns and adverts. The business grew very, very quickly. I was still working full time but ended up doing Animal Direction full time. It’s been brilliant.’
That was in September 2012 and four-and-a-half years later there are thousands of animals on her books.
‘There is a lot of work around here and we get a lot of work out of London,’ says Davinia, who shares her home with her partner, Rachel, and two dogs, one a Yorkshire Terrier crossed with a Westie called Callie and the other a Shih Tzu crossed with a Jack Russell called Tehya.
‘The great thing for me is that everybody who works with us always says the service is fantastic and we are so helpful.’
Over the years she has supplied animals (mostly dogs but there has been a demand for rabbits, hamsters and even a tortoise in the past) for a variety of campaigns and film projects.
‘We supplied the Great Dane for the Sofology advert. He was great,’ Davinia recalls.
‘Such a character! At one point he went behind the sofa to get some treats from the trainer, then put his head over the settee and that became part of the advert. It wasn’t planned he just did it and it looked really good.
‘We’ve done TV with Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane on the TV drama National Treasure, we’ve done TV with Craig Cash, it was a football one and we had a dog that had to wee up the corner flag. We’ve also worked with Jerry Hall and Phil Spencer.
‘We’ve done adverts with Magnet kitchens with a dalmation which had to put his paws on the kitchen counter and pinch a bacon sandwich. We’ve done lots of brochures and online work as well.’
So is the old saying ‘Never work with children or animals’ true? Davinia admits that at times it can be chaotic. ‘But we don’t ever turn up for a shoot without a professional there,’ reveals 39-year-old Davinia.
‘Of course once you’ve got more than three animals in a room it can be chaos. We did a shoot for More Than recently. They had a doggy bus going around London with about 25 dogs. That was chaotic but that’s how they wanted it to be.’
The good news is that registering your pet for work is a relatively simple process.
‘You go onto the website and fill in the registration form, telling us something about your pet’s character, its training, skills and personality and then we need to know if it has been vaccinated, whether he or she is OK with children and other animals, things like that,’ explains Davinia.
‘Then the owner sends in photos and we create a portfolio for that animal, making sure they tick all the boxes. We’ve got about 4,000 animals registered with us right across the UK from John O’ Groats to Land’s End, even some in Ireland and on the Isle of Wight. And it’s free to join so we get 10/20 new registrations every single day. ‘
The bad news is that an animal is unlikely to make a fortune for its owners.
‘It’s not about the money,’ says Davinia.
‘For most people the reward is to see their dog on TV or in an advert. We don’t like to make it about the money because then the animals are open to exploitation. They might get £100, or something around that for a job.’
For more information about Animal Direction, get in touch at www.animaldirection.com