How Are Insects And Spiders Trained To Perform In Movies And TV?
We have all seen movies and TV shows that feature creepy insects or arachnids. While arachnophobes may be scared away from watching a TV screen for the rest of the day upon seeing such a scene, this does little to damage the frequently impressive cable tv statistics that shows and programming manage to bring in on a regular basis. In many cases, creepy-crawlies are created on the big screen by resorting to computer generated imagery. In movies that were made before computer graphics were in use, robotic insects and spiders were often created. However, sometimes directors insist upon using real-life insects and spiders for their movies. In these cases, directors must call upon experienced arthropod trainers. These trainers are most often well educated in the field of entomology. It is the job of spider and insect trainers to make sure that the arthropods perform properly in different scenes and to make sure that the actors and crew are safe from potentially dangerous specimens.
Steven Kutcher is an entomologist who has been training spiders and insects for movie roles for several years. Kuther has worked on more than one hundred major motion pictures including Spiderman, Arachnophobia and Jurassic Park. Kutcher insists that he does not “train” arthropods for movies as much as he “controls” them. According to Kutcher, there is not enough time to train arthropods for movies, so he learns to control their movements instead. For example, if a scene calls for a group of spiders to swarm toward a person or object, high speed winds can be used to facilitate the spider’s forward movements.
For one film, Kutcher was tasked with making a spider crawl across a room and into a slipper. In order to pull this off, Kutcher placed vibrating wires within the slipper. Kutcher knew that the spider species was attracted to vibrations, so his wire contraption successfully led the spider directly across the room and into the slipper. In some scenes, Kutcher has to ensure an actor’s safety when a dangerous arthropod is supposed to crawl on a character. In one movie, a scorpion had to crawl on an actor’s shoulder. In order for Kutcher to protect the actor from scorpion stings, he placed a cap over the scorpion’s stinger. Some spider species can be prompted to move forward by tapping on their back legs, and they can be made to stop by covering their eyes. For Kutcher, the most enjoyable aspect of his job is making the actors and crew less frightened of spiders and insects.
Is there any other job in the field of entomology that you believe would be more enjoyable than Kutcher’s job?