08 January 2010

Rising Stars in front of and behind the camera!

When Christine Mahaney’s friends sent her information about the “Petco Stars” competition in 2007, she knew her border collie Toula had a shot at winning.

She never dreamed that would be the catalyst for film industry careers for both her and the dog.

After winning the nationwide competition, the pair worked together on “Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp and an upcoming movie called “Highland Park,” but Mahaney worked sans Toula on the made-in-Michigan film “Youth in Revolt,” which opens today.

“Michigan’s tax incentive has been instrumental in my career and putting Michigan on the map,” Mahaney said, referring to the 40 percent tax credit moviemakers receive for filming in Michigan.

For “Youth in Revolt,” the 41-year-old Mahaney, of Plainwell, was an assistant animal trainer, helping train Oscar, a terrier mix rescue dog from Los Angeles, for his role as Albert, the furry companion of Sheeni Saunders. Saunders, played by Portia Doubleday, is the love interest of main character Nick Twisp, played by Michael Cera.

“It was absolutely wonderful working with (director) Miguel Arteta,” Mahaney said. “Michael Cera is such a nice guy, he truly loved Oscar. Oscar didn’t lack any kind of love or attention on set.”

The movie was shot all over Michigan, despite the California license plates seen in it, Mahaney said. Filming was done in Metro Detroit, Ann Arbor, Ludington, Frankfort and Lake Leelanau. Lake Michigan on a sunny day easily passes for the California coast, Mahaney said.

In addition to dogs, Mahaney has also had the opportunity to train a six-point buck on the set of “Red Dawn,” several chickens for an upcoming Rob Reiner film and a large mouth bass for a student film at the University of Michigan. She attributes her seemingly preternatural skills for training animals to patience, respect and understanding for the creatures.

“Food is also a pretty good motivator for any animal,” Mahaney said.

“But I always think of them first as a pet and second as an actor. You never put them in jeopardy and you respect them.”

[Source: MLIVE.Com]