AN UNFINISHED LIFE
Jennifer Lopez plays Jean, a single mother who
moves in with her estranged father-in-law Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford), a
retired rancher living on a lonely stretch of rugged land in Wyoming. With a
precocious 11-year-old in the mix, eager for a father figure and to learn about
life in the West, Jean and Einar must learn to forgive past mistakes if they
hope to forge a new life together as a family.
American Humane’s Role
American Humane’s Film & Television Unit monitored this film. An
Unfinished Life is a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) production, and therefore
it was required to provide American Humane’s Certified Animal Safety
Representatives on-set access whenever animals were used. During pre-production
of the film, American Humane’s Film & TV Unit received a copy of the script and
the daily call sheets. American Humane’s Animal Safety Representatives carefully
reviewed these materials to determine whether any scenes or situations appeared
to put animals at risk. Animal Safety Representatives were then on the set to
ensure the animals remained safe throughout production.
This film met the Guidelines established by American Humane, received the
Monitored Acceptable rating, and was awarded the "No Animals Were
Harmed”® End Credit Disclaimer.
Featured Animal Scenes
While Einar milks a cow in several scenes, a few nearby cats drink bowls of
milk. A raccoon appears amongst the cats, also drinking from a bowl. From time
to time, cats are seen roaming around the barn as Einar does his chores. On the
director’s cue, trainers released the cats and used buzzers to cue their action.
To attract the felines, trainers smeared cat food in the bowls and then added
milk before the action was filmed. For scenes in which the raccoon appears,
trainers placed a waist tie on the animal and positioned the raccoon on mark. An
off camera trainer held one end of the waist tie, and the cats were then put on
their marks by handlers who stood nearby throughout filming. Wranglers showed
Redford how to milk the cow before filming began.
A three-year-old brown grizzly bear makes his acting debut in this feature film.
In one scene, the bear roams around the ranch area and then wanders along the
roadside. Later, the bear is seen wandering around an alley and in people’s
yards. Kids on bikes and on foot come near the bear as he peers inside a garbage
can. A police car follows the bear through this residential area.
To cue each of these simple movements, the trainer placed the bear on mark and
used a food stick to attract his attention. The grounds were checked ahead of
time for any hazards or debris, and production had the road closed to traffic
during filming. Activity in the town was filmed in front of a green screen and
the people were added in later during post production.
Another scene shows Einar mounting his horse and riding toward the bear with his
rifle aimed straight at him. The sheriff pulls his car in front of Einar before
he can shoot the animal. For this scene, the bear was filmed separately and the
footage was added in during post production.
Later, the bear is seen in a cage on the back of a truck that passes Jean and
her daughter as they drive to Einar’s ranch. The trainer doubled as the driver
anytime the bear was shown traveling. Throughout the movie, in order to get the
bear to lunge against the cage or to look or walk in various directions, a
trainer would stand outside the cage holding up food.
The Great Escape
At Angie’s Zoo, Einar and his granddaughter attempt to free the bear and set him
loose into the wild. They position their truck, which has a cage on it, up
against the bear’s barred enclosure. When Einar opens the cage, the bear attacks
him. This attack sequence is made up of several separate shots. A trainer
situated the bear in the enclosure and then spent a few minutes playing with him
before filming began. In order to make the bear walk toward him, Redford threw
some meat into the cage. The trainer then stood in for the actor when the bear
gets out and attacks Einar. This bear is used to play-wrestling with the
trainer; although the two are having fun, it appears on screen as if the bear is
attacking the man.
Both cages used for this scene were opened and closed via a pulley system
operated by an off-screen trainer. The bear accessed the cages using special
ramps, and the space between the two cages was blocked by portable metal
The informal zoo set was made especially for these sequences and closely
supervised by all of the trainers and American Humane Safety Representatives.
Some of the animals were in cages, which had been previously inspected for
safety and comfort. Other animals appeared on the grass near the cages; these
were placed on mark by their trainers with food spread on the grass to keep them
in place. All of the trainers stayed just off camera near their animals during