Producers of France’s longest running TV show have been to Leighton Buzzard this week to make a documentary – about a flying dog!
Our story last spring about Callie, the co-pilot dog, who accompanies the LBO’s Eye In The Sky contributor Graham Mountford on his flying trips, was picked up by many national and international newspapers and magazines at the time.
The story about the chocolate Labrador has now come to the attention of 30 Millions D’Amis – a programme about animals and animal welfare – which commissioned a specialist animal documentary film-maker, Heinz Cadera, to track Callie down and make an eight-minute film of her adventures to include in the program.
The film-maker arrived at Leighton Buzzard station early on Thursday morning with a three-day plan that would take him and Callie, the only canine official member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, as far away as Inverness!
First stop was Ark House Vets in Leighton Buzzard. As the programme is very strong on animal welfare they wanted to begin by talking to a Vet about how to prepare an animal for a long journey, any special precautions for flying and also to film Callie being given a health check.
Senior veterinary surgeon and clinical manager at Ark House, Adele Caldwell spent half an hour being filmed with Callie and interviewed about animal health on long trips.
Once that part of the film was completed, Heinz and Callie were taken to Turweston Aerodrome in Buckinghamshire to be filmed around the airfield and preparing for a flight.
Graham, from the Mentmore Road area of Leighton, said: “The airport staff were fantastic and very accommodating, and Robin Aris particularly was filmed in the control tower talking about Callie who is a regular visitor there.”
The crew then took off and flew to Inverness where Callie was filmed meeting her best friend, Graham’s sisters’ Labrador Archie, where they were filmed running on the beach and playing together.”
Friday involved a walk through the woods and then back to Inverness Airport where the security man was filmed inspecting Callie’s very own photo Air Crew card, before flying back to Turweston.
Graham added: “Heinz was captivated by the local villages and we stopped several times to film local areas with and without Callie walking through them. Residents of Soulbury and Heath and Reach especially may have noticed a camera man rushing around trying to get best shots before the light changed.”
The busy schedule ended with the part of the film that will be the start of the documentary – filming with Callie and her friends at Leighton Buzzard Children’s Theatre in Heath and Reach Village Barn.
Callie and her film crew arrived at the Barn at 8.30am Saturday to set up and talk with LBCT director Sally Allsopp. The children were then filmed arriving, meeting Callie and asking questions about her, before the whole group took to the stage with Callie to sing one of their favourite songs.
Graham explained: “The reason for this is that Callie’s owner Helen Mountford, 17, has been a member of LBCT since she was five, and introduced Callie to the group as a puppy, always taking her along when they were singing In Leighton town centre at Christmas to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.
“It was noticed that the cute Labrador sitting next to one of the collectors seemed to always end up with more money in the bucket than the rest, and so Callie became adopted as a mascot for LBCT for their charity work.”
The shoot ended with three of the children (Adam Derland, Billy Knibb and Gwen Firoozmand) being filmed with Helen and Callie, asking questions about her flying.
Graham said: “This was a great insight for the children of the theatre group into the real world of filming, with several re-takes from different angles and in different lights until it was just right. No such luxury on the live stage they are used to for their shows.
“Reviewing part of the film with Callie’s owners Helen and Graham Heinz was heard to say over one shot ‘that is fantastic – this will melt the heart of every grandmother in France!’
“Finally a few more shots of views around Heath and Reach village and the film-maker was off to his next assignment – filming at a Donkey Sanctuary in Devon.
“A little different from one of his earlier documentaries filmed in Libya documenting the saving of the animals in Tripoli Zoo while the palace across the road was being bombed from the air!”