‘That Animal Rescue Show’ honors animals, people

Rick's Reviews

Sean ‘Peppy’ Meyer appearing on the CBS All Access docuseries “That Animal Rescue SHow.” (Photo courtesy of CBS Interactive, Inc.)

(KGET) — There are times when television shows are created after months (or even years) of research, testing and discussions. Then there are programs such as “That Animal Rescue Show” that just occur organically.

Nayeema Raza, an executive producer with the new docuseries program slated to start Oct. 29 on the streaming service CBS All Access, explains it all started with an idea from producer and director Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”).

“He, himself, rescues animals,” Raza says. “He had a pet pig and thought about rescuing a pig. He came across Central Texas Pig Rescue and he proceeded to rescue pigs from there.”

That was the spark for creating a show that looks at people who are very passionate in the care and safety of animals. The plan was to make 10 short documentary films that explore the animal rescue community in and around Austin, Texas. The initial idea was that the Central Texas Pig Rescue was to be featured in each episode but because the team discovered so many different stories, the pigs are prominent in two episodes.

It’s not just pigs who get love. Other episodes look at a ranch where humans and goats heal together, a program where female prisoners work with rescue puppies, a no-kill shelter that has saved the lives of 80,000 dogs and cats and an arena where children with disabilities learn to walk with the help of horses.

“We were introduced to so many different people and so many different animals where everyone knew each other,” Raza says. “We just kind of followed it pretty organically as opposed to being really traditional strategic television about it.

“What is unique about our show is that it’s not just about people rescuing animals. It’s about people also being rescued by the animals and stories of why they turned to this in the first place.”

“That Animal Rescue Show” joins a long list of programs dealing with animals. Despite there being such a huge demand for tales from the animal kingdom, the team with “That Animal Rescue Show” had no problem finding animals and people to feature.

The fact Linklater’s involved with the program meant there would be a different way of looking at the show. The Oscar-nominated director spent 12 years making his film “Boyhood” so he could show the passing of time.

Raza laughs when asked if Linklater ever suggested shooting a puppy and then coming back seven dog years later for more footage and then again seven dog years later. That was never an option for the show but Linklater’s influences can be seen.

“That Animal Rescue Show” ended up being shot in a very cinema verite style combining interviews with footage that often was shot at a lower level than the typical docuseries show to give a sense of the perspective of animals.

Many docuseries shows will have a story in mind when they go to a location. The team with “That Animal Rescue Show” used a more documentary style approach of going to a location and staying there until something of interest unfolded.

“There were places like Austin Wildlife Rescue where people are always bringing in wildlife from squirrels to birds. There’s always action happening so you just have to sit there and film,” Raza says.

The team was lucky they did most of their watching and filming before the pandemic shut down productions. Any filming done after the quarantine was done under very strict safety precautions.

Even having Raza as one of the producers and a writer on the new series is different. The New York Times writer – who previously worked as a policy advisor to foreign government leaders in the Middle East, Asia and Africa – had only worked on one project before “That Animal Rescue Show.” That was the 2019 documentary “Sublime” that looked at a reggae-punk band whose music bridged genres and cultures. Otherwise, most of her work for the screen focused on short-format video for political and advocacy campaigns.

Raza learned a lot working on “That Animal Rescue Show.” She called being part of the program “a great collaboration” where she learned a lot during her first job as a showrunner and executive producer.

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