Here Piggy, Piggy, Piggy

Nov 23, 2008

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The days of Farmer Arable and Wilbur are long gone.

One of the main locations in Undercover is a pig farm, where a Muslim cop goes undercover to find a missing pig.

So, as Producer, I need to find this pig farm. In the process of this hunt I learned about the state of the farming industry and the history of pig farming for the past 20 years (spoiler alert – corporations don’t help).

Normally a trip to Google or seriously thinking about Tallahassee (or whatever city you’re in) will lead to possible locations. A lot of location hunting is thinking abstractly. “Could we make the outside of this modern building look like the town hall for 2050?”

However, pig farms aren’t really listed online and I couldn’t think of any in Tallahassee.

So I had to think further. Pigs = meat, meat = butchers. So I started calling every butcher within 50 miles of Tallahassee. This is where things started to get interesting.

Not only did no one know of any pig farms, but they all got their meat shipped in, some as far away as Kentucky.

I also tried local knowledge. Any conversation I had with someone who’s been in Tallahassee for a while went something like this:

“Hey, how’ve you been?”

“Good, good. Do you know of any pig farms?”

I got a few leads from this strategy, but no farms.

New thought – the fair was in town and they always have those livestock competitions, so I thought there must be pig farmers there, and when there’s pig farmers there’s pig farms.

So I went to the fair, got sent around to a million gates because apparently fairs don’t open until 5, and finally meet up with the owner of the pigs at the fair. Yes, owner, there was only one.

He was super nice but basically explained that corporations have industrialized pig farming into massive 3-story high warehouses where pigs never see the light of day. They’re able to sell the meat at half the price of the traditional farmer, so there really is no way for them to compete, and so there are very few small, private pig farms left.

So just when it seemed we’d all have to learn Maya and build computer animated pigs, someone told me about a butcher a little north in Georgia. I gave them a call, they said they knew of one guy who raised pigs, I gave him a call, and he was total open to us visiting the farm and filming there. Score!

The Director, Director of Photography (DP), and I took a trip up to this farm. It was about an hour and half away, so that’s a minus.

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I thought the farm itself was great. There were a few hundred pigs, Terry the Farmer was super nice and I think super excited that someone was interested in what he did.

“No one really cares about agriculture, they think the food just grows in the food store.”

The only downside, especially for Julie the DP, is the barn is mostly outdoors, meaning the light and shadows will be moving all day. For a scene that’s supposed to take place over five minutes, when the light is jumping around from side to side, that can be a problem for continuity.

While the search continues, at least we have a place that could work. Production starts in less than 2 weeks. There’s some work to be done.

This post is part of the Moviccino Producing Series, taking you through the production of a movie from start to finish.

Written by Joey Daoud

Joey Daoud is an award-winning documentary producer. When not filming he likes to climb mountains and brew coffee.

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