Distributor:  Scorpion TV
Length:  89 minutes
Date:  2012
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Color/BW:  Color
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Wolves Unleashed

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World-renowned animal trainer Andrew Simpson travels to Siberia in winter to make the biggest wolf film ever attempted, revealing the deep bond between human and wolf.

Wolves Unleashed

Wolves Unleashed takes the audience on an unbelievable journey. World-renowned animal trainer, Andrew Simpson travelled to one of the coldest places on earth with his Canadian crew and his pack of wolves, to help make the biggest wolf film ever attempted. The crew lived in a remote camp in Siberia for five months during the winter where the temperature drops to -60°C (-76°F).

Wolves Unleashed goes behind the scenes of making a film --€” there are no computer effects, everything happened. Simpson and his crew clearly have a strong bond with his wolves, but the challenges of filming in such a harsh environment takes an emotional toll on everyone.

Wolves are one of the most misunderstood animals. Wolves Unleashed shows them in a new light and will challenge commonly-held beliefs about them.

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Winner: Audience Choice Runner Awards/Festivals  Up Anchorage International Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Best Feature Documentary Cincinnati Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Golden Ace Award Las Vegas Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Overall Festival Winner Myrtle Beach International Film Festival (2012)
Winner: (Audience choice) Best Documentary Charleston International Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Sierra Nevada Award Mountain Film Awards (2012)
Winner: World Cinema Best Documentary Phoenix Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Award OF Merit Lucerne International Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Best Cinematography Cincinnati Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Honourable Mention International Wildlife Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Best Documentary Myrtle Beach International Film Festival (2012)
Winner: Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award Geneva Film Production (2012)
Winner: Best Documentary Winter Film Awards, New York (2012)
Winner: Best Ci



00:00:21:16        ANDREW (VO):  

To challenge yourself I believe is the purpose of living, to go beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone.


Witness our challenge as we travel to one of the coldest places in the world to make the biggest wolf film ever attempted.


This is our story.


00:01:20:12        ANDREW (VO):

I’ve been training animals in the film industry for almost 20 years, but this is the most complicated project I’ve ever taken on.


We’ll be dealing with translations between the English, French and Russian languages, and everything from the planning, shooting locations, and the wolf action required just seem impossible.


The script tells the story of a young ranger herding boy and his relationship with a pack of wolves. It is to be filmed in the Siberian mountains of Russia, one of the coldest regions on earth.


Although the script only requires six wolves, we will take 13 wolves with us; this way, each wolf will have a body double to help ease their workload during filming.


Both my crew and the wolves will be tested mentally and physically on a daily basis,


but perhaps the biggest test will be on the relationship between my leading alpha wolf, Digger, and myself.


00:02:16:12        ANDREW (VO):

The first step in the journey is the scouting. It’s where we get a sense of what to expect and how to prepare for it.


Our first stop is to see our living quarters, which are just being made.


It’s a shock to see where we will be spending a Siberian winter, especially when Arnaud describes the situation.


00:02:34:23        ARNAUD:             

It’s terribly cold.


00:02:36:18        ANDREW:             

It’s terribly cold.


00:02:37:16        ARNAUD:             

So inside, if the heat system work properly, it will be -20, -25 in the mornings.

00:02:44:04        ANDREW (VO):  

I have been in many cold places before, but this is the coldest I’ve ever felt. Here, they only close children’s schools if the temperature drops below -55 Celsius. Yakutsk certainly deserves the title of the coldest city in the world.


As we leave the city behind us and start our 16-hour drive into the mountains, I can only wonder what lies ahead.


Our driver is a battle hardened soldier, and whether it’s driving high speeds along forest tracks,


across frozen lakes,


or just missing ex- military trucks, he’s an exceptional guide.


As we approach one of the most dangerous sections of the road, I can’t help but wonder how many people have lost their lives here, but soon the number of wooden crosses answer my question.


00:03:41:14        ANDREW (VO):

We arrived at the campsite, and the temperature was -54 Celsius. It’s hard to imagine that in two months, this location will be ready for us to bring the wolves to.


And I’m not sure if my crew is ready for the non-Hollywood standards.


00:03:57:10        ANDREW (VO):

Once back in Canada, we need to quickly prepare the wolves for the trip ahead. They get conditioned to their travel kennels, and we construct rough transport cages similar to what I had seen in Siberia.


Every day we drive the wolves around to get them used to these strange conditions.


00:04:18:01        SALLY:  

Crazy scary. After that, everybody settled in, I, I was scared. But it was good.


00:04:26:12        ANDREW (VO):  

After every trip, each wolf gets some reassuring one-on-one time.


In one of the biggest scenes in the film, the wolves need to break into the reindeer corral and cause a stampede.


For this sequence, Tyka trains to focus on and bite just one of the wooden rails. Once she understands this, she learns to bite the rail and pull backwards. In the final step, she’s taught to pull the rail until it breaks.


00:04:53:14        SALLY:  

She’s gettin’ tired.



00:04:55:00        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

Is she really still yankin’ on it?


00:04:56:12        SALLY:  



00:04:59:23        ANDREW (VO):  

The paperwork process to allow the wolves into Russia takes over six months to complete.

The final part of the process requires each wolf to be micro-chipped, vaccinated, and to give a blood sample to be tested at a government laboratory.


Although most wolves accept this process, Sweet Pea has her own opinion on vet care.


Sweet Pea is finished, and she returns to the other wolves. She quickly joins in to take advantage of the alpha wolf, Digger, on his back. This is a very rare occasion, and not one to be missed.


00:05:40:15        ANDREW (VO):

This morning, we are leaving our home in Canada. All the wolves load into their kennels without a problem. It seems all the hours of preparation have paid off. All the same, I can’t help but wonder what’s going through their heads right now.


At the airport, all the kennels get placed onto special airline pallets. The wolf kennels were specially designed for this trip. Each one has food and water access, and custom size allow plenty of air flow even inside the plane’s cargo area.


It’s not until I see the first pallet of kennels go into the aircraft that I suddenly realize what we’re about to do and where I’m about to take them.


The next time I see the wolves, we are in Germany. They are being transported from the            quarantine holding facility in Frankfurt to the first Russian cargo plane.


As they’re driven to the aircraft’s loading hatch, I cannot help but think nothing in my planning could prepare them for the screaming engines of a 747.


The whole time, I never leave the wolves. I travel and sleep in the cargo section of the plane with them. It’s the least I can do to make them feel safe. Even the sound of my voice or the smell of my hand against their kennels lets them know they’re not alone on this journey.


00:06:54:10        ANDREW:             

Hey guys, we made it. Hey buddy. Hey Sweet Pea.


00:07:06:13        ANDREW (VO):  

Many hours and two Russian cargo planes later, we arrive in Yakutsk. With the outside temperatures around -45 Celsius, our goal is to get the wolves loaded into the transport trucks as soon as possible.





Once again, I question my preparation. I never imagined we would be lifting the wolves into the air with a forklift, driven by someone who can’t understand our directions and cannot know how important this cargo is to us.


The original plan was to have the wolf transport kennels waiting for us at the airport. But as it turns out, nothing here is as simple as it seems.


We have to drive the wolves across town to the Customs holding facility, unload them again, and wait until the wooden kennels are placed into the truck.


My hopes of this being a quick process are soon destroyed. We can only sit and watch as the show unravels before us. After much arguing and some last minute alterations, everything appears to be ready.


The wolves are finally loaded, and all our paperwork is complete. We have been here for over 12 hours.


00:08:06:16        ANDREW:             

We’re going to have pizza and then we’re going, for 16 hours, driving.


00:08:12:23        ANDREW (VO):  

With darkness upon us, we have no choice but to start our journey into the mountains. Although the temperature is close to -50 Celsius, I decide to travel on the back of the truck with the wolves, a decision that is not shared by everyone.


The next several hours are plagued by breakdown after breakdown. It seems we go for a few hours, and then another breakdown occurs. We are in the middle of the mountains with no help around; all we can do is wait and hope the drivers can fix the problem.


We had agreed to all stick together in a convoy, but this plan seems to have been lost in translation.


And the quality of the wooden kennels can’t hold up to the pressure of the wolves. When we finally catch up to the other trucks, we make an alarming discovery.


00:09:01:09        ANDREW:             

Fuck. 2-Toes ripped his fuckin’ gate apart and got out, so we have to try tie wiring all together again. No one’s injured, they just got out. These guys were supposed to wait so we could check them and they kept going, and, so now we gotta reconfigure all the kennels and…


00:09:26:06        ANDREW (VO):  

As the morning sun comes up, we can begin to appreciate the beauty of where we are, and my crew can see just how remote an area we are in.


With only a few miles left to go, we experience yet another setback.



00:09:37:06        ANDREW:             

I’m not sure, I think either the brakes or the, the engine, some funny noise and they wanna stop and check it.


00:09:51:11        ANDREW (VO):  

After 26 hours, we finally arrive at the wolf camp. It has been a terrible trip thus far. All I want to do is let the wolves out to run and for us to try and get some sleep, but everything is not as it should be here either.


Just like the transport cages that were built in Yakutsk, the kennels inside the wolf barn were not built to securely and safely hold the wolves. So instead of getting some well-deserved rest, we are starting a major construction project. This is the last thing we expected.


We use whatever material we can find laying around, which includes borrowing from other construction projects.


The wolves don’t seem to mind the chaos; in fact, I think they’re enjoying our company.


00:10:35:08        CREW:  

A 1 x 4 on here, and then a 1 x 4 here?


00:10:38:00        ANDREW:             



00:10:38:13        CREW:  



00:10:39:11        ANDREW:             

We’re going to go two, two, two, two, two.


00:10:42:12        CREW:  



00:10:43:00        ANDREW:             

Some of it’s not like we wanted, but we will make it work. I’ll be happy when it’s done. At this moment, not so happy, but happy when it’s done.


00:10:57:04        ANDREW (VO):  

Once outside, the wolves welcome the chance to run free and stretch their legs. This is their chance to reconnect with each other. They’re once again a pack, and there is strength in numbers.


They take this opportunity to tell any local wolves they have arrived. This is now their place.


00:11:42:14        ANDREW (VO):  

Despite the freezing temperatures, we have no choice but to keep working the wolves. With a tight filming schedule, we need all the prep time we can manage.


00:11:49:12        ANDREW:             

Hold it, pay.


00:11:56:18        ANDREW (VO):  

And it seems we’re having more trouble adjusting to the cold than they are.


00:11:59:08        CREW:  

How do your hands feel?


00:12:00:04        ANDREW:             

Fucking cold, man. Fucking cold.


It’s so hard ‘cause it’s all, it’s all frozen and stuck together. When you pull it out with your gloves, it sticks to your gloves and you drop it all over the ground.


00:12:31:09        ANDREW (VO):  

After every training session, we always let the wolves run and play with each other. This is important to reinforce the pack structure.


The alpha wolf, Digger, takes this opportunity to remind everyone of his social standing.


00:13:25:22        ANDREW (VO):

The local reindeer herders use only small dogs and primitive lassoes to catch and move their herds. Despite how easy this may look, it’s really very difficult to do.


They have a very special relationship with the reindeer, and I can’t imagine someone trying to do this anywhere else in the world.


By bringing some reindeer to the corral beside the wolf camp, my hope is that the wolves will get a chance to become familiar with them and perhaps forget their predatory instincts, at least for a while.


Because Digger is the pack leader, I always try and let him experience new situations first and on his terms.


If he has the confidence and feels safe with everything, he will pass his energy on to the rest of his pack. He takes his time to approach, and his body is tense. He uses his sense of smell to try and determine what they are. I don’t know if the reindeer have ever seen a wolf before, but I know that Digger has never seen a reindeer. These two animals will never be this close in the wild, except in a predator-prey situation. With the number of scenes they have together, I can only hope Digger can work this out quickly, but it may take a few days.


00:15:07:18        ANDREW (VO):  

Due to the extremely cold temperatures at night, my crew has devised some very creative methods to avoid going outside to use the toilet that I was unaware of.




00:15:15:03        ANDREW:             

So, apparently, there’s a little problem with the Canadians in the camp; they’re shitting in their rooms in plastic bags.


00:15:31:08        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

Imagine that.


00:15:38:10        ROWAN:               

What’s the problem?


00:15:40:15        ANDREW:             

And they’re putting the plastic bags in the holes in the ground. The plastic bags cannot go in the holes in the ground because it’s a, we’re on a reserve here, and everything has to be biodegradable. So, he said perhaps we could shit on paper.


00:16:02:00        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

And we can, and we can make a puck?


00:16:07:15        ANOTHER CREW MEMBER (OFF CAMERA):

Well I’m not or-, origami, we’re going to make a toilet out of origami.


00:16:12:13        ANDREW:             

If you could just, there’s, hang on. There’s some paper by the front door there, if you can just get two or three feet of paper and put it square on the ground and do it on the paper, and fold it up and take it outside. If you have to shit in your room.


00:16:28:00        CORY:   

Hey, whatever works.


00:16:29:18        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

Tell, tell me again Cory what you said?


00:16:31:20        CORY:   

Hole out of the bottom of the long johns. And the legs are warm, it’s like.


00:16:38:16        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

Do you run outside with your ass showing?


00:16:40:10        CORY:   

No, no, no, no, no.


00:16:44:20        ANOTHER CREW MEMBER (OFF CAMERA):             

He’s got apple chunks comin’ out of his…


00:16:46:13        CORY:   

I just don’t understand what the problem is.



00:16:52:14        ANDREW:             

(inaudible) it’s not a bad idea really.


00:16:58:08        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

He’s got apple in his mouth, we’re gonna have to give him the Heimlich okay?


00:17:07:12        ANDREW (VO):  

With the temperatures becoming almost unbearable, the debate over the ice hole sequence continues.


To make this scene work, I need to take Digger’s trust and use it against him. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The outcome may only not only affect the filming, but it may destroy the relationship between Digger and myself.


00:17:23:19        ANDREW:             

So the wolf will fall in there, then Sergei will come from, tie his reindeer off, come running down, jump in the water, help the wolf out, and go meet the waiting wolf pack which will be over here. That’s the plan, but it, uh, never goes that smooth, and it’s the hardest sequence I think we have to shoot. With him, he won’t trust me again to walk on the ice, so. I hope we only do it once.


00:17:49:02        ANDREW (VO):  

In these conditions, everything becomes difficult. We need to thaw out the wolf food in our rooms so they can eat, we have to break apart frozen hay for bedding, and we have to change out the water constantly to allow the wolves to drink and stay hydrated.


The level of commitment from my team is unquestionable.


00:18:12:16        ANDREW (VO):  

Today is our first day off, and with the brutal storm no one wants to go outside. That is until I’m told the wolf barn roof’s about to blow off.


00:18:22:20        ANDREW:             

There’s no screws, there’s no bracing. We have to fix the toilet, roof is blowing away. I mean, I’m surprised it still stays there.


00:18:29:17        ANDREW (VO):  

As I walk back to my cabin, it’s hard not to feel a little frustrated with the constant problems we seem to be having.


00:18:41:17        ANDREW (VO):  

The weather today is not much better, but we need to introduce Digger to the clothes the actor will be wearing. Normally, actors’ clothes are made of fake fur and hide, but this is Siberia and these are locally made from real skins. This will be the first time anyone has tried this approach with wolves in a filming situation. It will be a true test to see if they can ignore their wild instincts and not bite the animal skins I will be wearing.


Digger’s first instinct is to check my face to make sure I’m the one inside this fur suit.


He now knows it’s me, and he assumes a submissive position to let me know he understands and that he won’t bite the suit. I spend the next few minutes touching him all over to help transfer the scent onto his fur.


Now that the boundaries have been established, Digger is free to take his time and investigate the suit as much as he wants. He needs to be completely familiar with it, because the next time he sees it it won’t be me inside.


Our next challenge is trying to get the young actor comfortable working with an adult wolf, not something normal people do every day. The first step is having the actor sit beside the wolf at the same eye level. This allows them to feel each other’s energy.


To prepare for the hand warming scene, I place the actor directly in front of the wolf and then I ask the wolf to walk towards him. This allows the wolf to feel more in control of the situation. Digger’s focus stays on me as the actor is told to touch the wolf, as he will in the finished scene.


00:20:20:00        ANDREW:             

I put one hand outside and one hand inside.


00:20:45:03        ANDREW (VO):  

In this final step, I lay Digger down on top of the actor. If they both accept this without incident, then they have made a good foundation to start working with each other. This is a complete circle of trust. I must trust Digger to listen to me and allow a stranger to touch him. Digger must trust me to ensure the actor is safe, and the actor needs to trust in both Digger and I for his own safety.


00:21:20:09        ANDREW (VO):  

The morning of our first filming day is exceptionally cold. As the sun finally appears over the mountains, we are ready to start. This is a build up to the ice hole sequence. This scene requires the wolves to walk across the frozen river and look down at the ice.


We find the easiest way to train this is to place random treats along the path we want the wolves to walk. Once we have shown each wolf the path with the treats on the ice, we remove the treats and the cameras can begin filming. It’s a very simple but effective training method. The end result shows the wolves checking out the ice as they walk across the frozen river.


The film crew is happy, our work day is over, and the wolves return to camp for a well-deserved meal and a good night’s rest. Tomorrow will be another challenge for sure.


00:22:32:01        ANDREW (VO):  

Many of the scenes in the film require the wolves and reindeer to work together. We already have reindeer living outside the wolf camp, but this is the first time they will meet without any fences between them. As always, we start slow and let the animals ease into the situation. Rubbing my hand on the deer and then letting the wolves smell it, they can get all the scents of the animal without ever touching them. To my surprise, the wolves are totally calm and seem uninterested in this exercise.


00:22:59:03        ANDREW:             

He can just come with the reindeer, but not right up behind us. Just stay over here and just do a circle, ‘cause we’ll go like this. This is a ridge right there. We’re gonna walk this way and along the ridge, if he wants to do that.


Digger, 2-Toes, Tyka, Sweet Pea. (inaudible).


00:23:22:15        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

I heard you.


00:23:23:03        ANDREW:             

Digger, Two Toes, Tyka, Sweet Pea. Yeah. Okay Mike.


00:23:28:20        ANDREW (VO):  

However, once the reindeer start to move, the wolf instincts begin to kick in. This may prove to be harder than I first thought. Perhaps that’s why it’s never been tried before.


The wolves are allowed to follow the sled and smell as much as they want, but some show more interest in the deer than I would like.


00:23:54:16        ANDREW:             

I mean it’s just, when they’re like this, they don’t care. When they’re not movin’. It’s once they start movin’, they just wanna, yeah, they wanna grab ‘em by the leg. They’d definitely chase ‘em for the attack scene, but there’s no way we’d stop them.


00:24:10:18        ANDREW (VO):  

The amazing thing about my team is their ability to laugh with each other, especially at meal times. During lunch, we once again try and guess what we’re eating today. Someone suggests maybe it’s the camp stray, Poubelle.


00:24:25:23        SALLY:  

I heard…Poubelle.


00:24:33:14        ANDREW:             

I shoulda, I shoulda waited ‘til they (inaudible).


00:24:38:01        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

He’s still there, he’s hurtin’.


00:24:41:04        ANDREW (VO):  

But she is safely eating her own lunch outside.


00:24:53:16        ANDREW (VO):  

For the opening sequence in the film, the wolves are seen eating a deer. Before we can film this scene, we have to wait until some roadkill is available, regardless of how cold the weather is when it’s found.




The wolves have no trouble making this scene look realistic. Their natural instincts take over and nothing can distract them from their surprise meal.


Normally in the wild, there is a distinct order in the way the wolves feed. But this deer is large enough for all three wolves to eat together without feeling threatened by one another.


By using a zoom lens, the camera crew can get the close-up shots they need without moving and disturbing the wolves.


The shots are all done, and then the hard part begins. I have never seen anyone take wolves away from a carcass before, and it’s not something we do every day either.


As always, our approach is slow and easy. Even with the bond we share, this is different; this is not a piece of chicken they have. In their minds it’s a kill and giving it up is not easy, even to me.


Sweet Pea gives me a clear signal it’s her food.


As I carefully put the chain around her neck, she gives me her third attempt to make me leave.


00:26:29:21        ANDREW:

                  Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey it’s me, it’s alright. It’s alright.


00:26:36:02        ANDREW (VO):

When she bites again, I gently push against her. Using vocalization just like any other dominant wolf would, I change her mind and she gives in.


With the rest of his pack gone, 2-Toes decides to eat as much as he can before agreeing to come quietly.


00:27:14:18        ANDREW (VO):  

Just as Poubelle the camp stray is starting her day, we have already spent three hours working.


We have just finished setting up our fence enclosure for the wolves. This will be a fun day for them. All they have to do is run and play, and for once they get to be the wolves they are.


00:28:07:16        ANDREW (VO):

Taking time to eat is very important, especially in cold climates. But sometimes, wondering what is in the dish is difficult to figure out.


Our plan today is simple; position trainers and wolves at different locations within the fenced area, and just let them go and play.


00:30:28:23        ANDREW (VO):  

With our regular transport truck broken down, we have no choice but to use one of the transport vans to take Digger to the ice hole location.


Even the freezing temperature can’t quite make me forget how difficult the sequence will be.


This scene is a turning point in the relationship between the boy and the wolf, and we only have one chance at getting it right.


Digger is trained to go from one wooden mark to another wooden mark. I’m sure he thinks this is the easiest task he’s ever done. He has no idea of the real purpose behind this training exercise.


00:31:09:19        ANDREW:             

I don’t, I don’t think it’s big enough. Do you?


00:31:13:15        CREW:  

No, I hear what you’re saying.


00:31:15:03        ANDREW:             

If it was back to here, even another two feet longer. I mean, if he comes straight it’s wide enough…or if he walks to here and it starts to crack…


00:31:28:04        CREW:  

Crack, he’s just gonna back up or go forward…


00:31:30:14        ANDREW:             

Yeah, he’s gonna leap it.


Oh well, we’ll chat about it tonight. I just wanted a second opinion.


00:31:59:00        ANDREW (VO):  

Poubelle is a natural reindeer herder, but only when she feels like it. She is a stray who just wandered into our camp and prefers to stay with people all day instead of being a working dog. However today, she decides to shake things up around the camp.


00:32:23:05        ANDREW (VO):  

With Tyka’s corral scene only days away, Rowan puts some finishing touches to her training. This will be Tyka’s most difficult challenge yet. It’s another major turning point in the film, and there’s a lot of pressure on her to get this right.


Howling as a means of communication between the wolves is a normal every day thing for them, but our job is to encourage the wolves to respond to our signals and sort of howl on cue request.


00:33:17:09        ANDREW (VO):  

By teaching the wolves to chase a fur lure, it focuses their attention on a moving object and kicks their predatory instinct into gear. This is very useful when we need all the wolves to run together and focus their attention in the same direction. It is also a fun game for the wolves, and with a bite pressure of over 1500 pounds per square inch, when they get it they mean to keep it.


With another day over, I can’t help but feel pleased with both the wolves and my crew for how they have adapted to Siberian living.


00:34:02:11        ANDREW (VO):

The next two days have a huge workload for both the wolves and the trainers. We will be working with over 200 reindeer in a very confined and dangerous space. No one wants to think about the possibility of something going wrong, but there is always a chance in this kind of situation.


The reindeer breaking out of the corral are filmed first. This allows us to match their path when we film the wolves.


Everything is a matter of timing. Trying to adjust to wolves so they run out of the corral in a single line.


00:34:40:12        ANDREW:             

You know what I mean? So it’s like boom, boom, boom, boom, don’t wait until they’re here before Digger gets out.


00:34:48:08        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    



00:34:48:17        ANDREW:             

Do you know what I’m saying?


00:34:49:10        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    



00:35:03:04        CREW:  

They said the last one was not bad at all.


If you, if you run more fast it could be better, he thinks.


00:35:19:20        ANDREW:             



00:35:21:04        ANDREW (VO):  

Once everything is worked out, the final take is just what’s needed. Getting the two thumbs up makes all the running worthwhile, and it lets us know the wolves are performing as we promised they would.


The next step is to fill the corral with reindeer. To start with, we run the wolves between two trainers. This gives the camera crew the opportunity to film the wolves with the reindeer running behind the fence, as if they were in real danger.


Next, we make the wolves jump with the fence, as if trying to get in to the deer. Once again, we focus their attention on the fur lure. We give the illusion the wolves want the reindeer without actually letting the wolves focus on them.




Then, we focus the wolves’ attention between the wooden rails. This allows the camera to get the magic moments of the wolves’ faces with reindeer legs running past.


In a heart stopping moment, Two Toes jumps into the corral and into danger. The thundering hooves of the reindeer can kill him instantly.


Now he’s safe, the camera crew decides they’ve got all the footage they need. There’s no need to push the limits anymore today.


I am told they won’t film Tyka breaking into the corral, and I can’t believe it. So much time has been spent on this. So we decide to demonstrate her ability to try and change their mind.


00:37:08:20        ANDREW:             

So we have a bunch that are done like that.


00:37:11:05        DIRECTOR:           



00:37:12:13        ANDREW:             



00:37:13:05        DIRECTOR:           

Yeah, it’s very good. Twist it a little bit more.


00:37:23:15        ANDREW:             

And then she comes in. If you have a chance to use it, we’d like to, just ‘cause we trained it.


00:37:30:15        DIRECTOR:           

No, no, no, no, no, no, we gonna do it.


00:37:32:06        ANDREW:             

Okay, okay.


00:37:34:00        DIRECTOR:           

Okay, we’ll do it. We want to do it.


00:37:36:08        ANDREW:             

Thank you.


00:37:40:12        ANDREW (VO):  

Today, Tyka’s in perfect form as she warms up for the camera. With a few last minute tweaks, she’s ready for her big moment. Even though she has done this many times in practice, now is the moment that counts.


With two cameras rolling, people taking pictures and everyone else watching, Tyka performs like the professional she is. The endless hours of preparation that Rowan has put in have paid off.



Suddenly, a new idea is formed: let’s have Tyka bite the rail while the reindeer run past. This is something we have not prepped for, something we never knew about.


The first time they run past, Tyka is a bit confused. There were no reindeer here before. With Rowan close by to offer encouragement, Tyka begins to understand what she needs to do. As they pass by again, she goes straight to work. If anyone had asked me before if this was possible, I would have said no. But you can never underestimate the bond between these wolves and their trainers. Their commitment to each other is moving. This is one of my proudest moments.


00:39:08:08        ANDREW (VO):

Yet another seemingly impossible sequence in the film, the wolves have to follow the ranger sled across the frozen valley. Although we have shown the wolves the reindeer sled before, the way they acted did not fill me with confidence and now they will be running free as a pack.


My plan is to first walk all the wolves behind the sled as a group and let them see the reindeer up close.


Then, with me sitting on the sled, we let Digger off first followed by each wolf in turn, slowly building up the pack numbers to avoid any sudden bursts of energy within the group.


I try and focus their attention on myself in the sled. This approach seems to work until we let Tyka off.


She just can’t help but test her boundaries.


The final element is to throw the fur coat into the mix. Hopefully, we have shown the wolves everything they need in order for this scene to work.


00:40:19:01        ANDREW:             

Like wide shots, and then you use the double sled they have and put the camera behind with me, and put the actor in the front? You can still call him and they’ll still go to him, and…


00:40:27:11        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    



00:40:28:16        ANDREW:             

…have those magic moments that will sell the movie and look good 17 feet high and 35 feet wide, with Tyka breaking the rail (inaudible).


00:40:34:05        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

That was, me? I didn’t miss that, what was that? I wanna see it. Yeah, that was, I mean that was a little bit of magic.


00:40:57:00        ANDREW (VO):  

When you work with wolves, you try and avoid surprises in their day, especially during filming.




All of our surprises have been blamed on information getting lost in translation, which has happened again today. A stuffed wolf needs to be added to the scene, just the kind of surprise I didn’t need, as we try and lay two wolves down on top of an actor.


Today is especially tough with the freezing temperatures. Even the wolves are cold, and keeping their focus is getting harder every minute.


During these moments when you’re so cold, it would be easy to give up and say you can’t do the scene. But we didn’t come to Siberia to give up. I trust in the wolves, and I know we will get through this.


With the scene over, everyone grabs some hot soup to warm up, but I cannot eat right now. I have just been told that with today’s freezing temperatures the ice has formed, and the ice hole sequence is going to be next.


My heart is sinking with the news that we will now be shooting the ice hole scene. I’ve been dreading this moment since I read the script. It’s so easy for people to write scenes and draw storyboards. For them, there is no emotional attachment to the wolf, no bond to break, no trust to betray. There is no way to prepare Digger for what’s about to happen. I can’t tell him it’s safe, or that I will be right there beside him all the time.


As the cameras roll and Digger comes towards me, I know he sees the thin ice, but he trusts me it will hold him. The second the ice breaks under him, his eyes are filled with confusion.


As I had feared earlier, the construction of the ice hole was not correct. By the time the actor was directed into the hole, Digger has clawed his way out. Even as we rush to dry him off, I know I will have to put Digger back in the hole. Without having both the actor and the wolf in the water at the same time, the scene is useless.


It’s hard to describe my emotions as I carry my friend back to the hole. I don’t know what he feels towards me, or what I feel towards myself right now.                  


With the scene over, we rush Digger to a waiting vehicle. He will go straight to my room to dry off and keep warm.


00:44:15:23        ANDREW:             

Ah, at least it’s over. It’s finished, it’s done, so.


00:44:20:06        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

Are you sad?


00:44:21:00        ANDREW:             

Yeah, very sad. I hate putting him back in the water, he did so well the first time, but it’s movie making, it’s what we do, so. I’ll make it up to him, he’ll sleep in the big bed tonight. It’ll be good.


Come on, come here, see your papa. Come and see your papa. Come here, come and see me. It’s alright, it’s alright, oh, it’s alright.


00:44:41:22        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

Everything’s okay now.


00:44:43:11        ANDREW:             

Yes, he’s not so mad anymore. Hey? You’re not so mad anymore? Hmm? You’re not so mad? You thought I was gonna put you back in the water? Hey?


00:45:03:19        ANDREW (VO):  

Digger spends the next three nights in my room. This is the least I can do to try and rebuild the trust that I have broken, trust that takes so long to earn.


As he lays in my bed looking at me, I can only hope that somehow he understands.


00:45:30:15        ANDREW (VO):

Today, we decide to walk the wolves for 30 minutes to the filming location. Our idea is to try and burn off some of the energy and make them more relaxed.


But once again, we didn’t have all the information. It seems no one told us there was a third reindeer tied to the back of the sled, a very important fact to leave out. This now adds a whole new twist to everything, and it could go terribly wrong.


I have no choice but to put all my faith in the wolves as we begin to film. There is no time to change anything. The wolves suddenly appear on each side of me, my heart races, but they just ignore the reindeer and simply follow my direction. Any fears I had of this going wrong were soon put to rest. It was as if they had read the script themselves, as if they knew the story.


As we travel back and forth, I am reminded of the bond we share. This has never been done before, and I’m sure it will never be tried by anyone else again. People get a chance to see predator and prey working together, against nature’s instincts. These moments are the heart of the film. These moments are magical.


00:47:28:13        ANDREW (VO):

Now that all the wide master shots are complete, we only need some close-up filming with the actor and the wolves to finish the scene. I use my creatively built double sled; I can ride with a camera and move the wolves as the director wants.


Once all the wolves are safely gathered up, we begin the walk back to camp. This gives me time to think about everything we just did with the wolves, but I try not to think about tomorrow. It can wait a few more hours.


As we pass the local crew cutting up ice water for the kitchen, we discuss just how much we take for granted back home. It’s so simple to just turn on a tap and get water. I wonder how many people in our camp realize the work that goes on every day to give us our water.


00:48:48:00        ANDREW (VO):

This should just be another day filming with the reindeer sled. Up to this point, things had gone really well. But today, the energy seems different for some reason. The wolves, the reindeer, and even some of the people just seem to be on edge. Not the feeling you want to have before doing a scene like this.


Digger seems to be very focused on the back reindeer, and it seems to be getting agitated as we prepare to start work.


00:49:22:06        DIRECTOR:           

Okay Andrew, when you want.


00:49:25:05        ANDREW:             

Okay, well just tell me when you’re ready. Em are you uh, can you go?


00:49:29:04        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    



00:49:29:12        ANDREW:             

Thank you. So are you ready Sally? Everyone else is ready, you know where you’re goin’?


00:49:36:00        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    



00:49:36:12        ANDREW:             

Okay. So Digger, Sweet Pea,  2-Toes, Tyka…


00:49:41:16        ANDREW (VO):  

Right from the start something is wrong, then I realize what it is. The back reindeer is new. It’s never seen the wolves before, and the way it’s acting is stirring up the wolves. Despite asking to have the same three reindeer and sled as we had before it doesn’t happen, and that mistake is about to be realized.


Suddenly Digger can’t fight his instincts any longer, and he goes for the back reindeer. He’s quickly followed by 2-Toes and the others. It’s suddenly a dangerous scene with me in the middle.


00:50:19:14        CREW (OFF CAMERA):

                  Andrew, are you okay?


00:51:03:06        CREW:

                  I wanna watch for Toby though.


00:51:03:23        ANDREW:

                  Go for Toby, just pick a wolf and watch him.


The people in charge of reindeer need to walk right in and grab their collars, otherwise someone’s gonna get killed with that shit going on.


00:51:13:23        CREW:  

Okay, so there’s gonna be two people at the front of the reindeer, okay?


00:51:17:12        ANDREW:             

Yeah, so when we get to here, the shot’s over. So as soon as we get to here, this is base camp, these guys walk in, take the reindeer so we don’t have that shit going on.


That’s enough. You leave the reindeer.


00:51:32:00        ANDREW (VO):  

Even as I scold Digger and we finish the scene, this was a good reminder of how quick things can change when you’re dealing with a pack of wolves.


In the end, the wolves listened to me and everything was okay. The pack order is once again established with me on top, but I can’t help but wonder perhaps the bruises on my body are his payback for the ice hole day.


00:51:58:04        CREW:  

Just to say to you that it was really good.


00:52:00:12        ANDREW:             

Oh, you should get that on camera. Let’s try that again.


00:52:29:02        ANDREW (VO):  

To make the hunting scenes look realistic, we need to have close-up shots of the wolves biting the reindeer’s legs. Normally, we would use a fake animatronic leg, but since we’re in the middle of the mountains, a frozen leg from the camp’s kitchen will have to do. Tyka has no problem with this, and she doesn’t need any encouragement. Once again, she demonstrates the awesome power of her jaws.


Although this is a rough and ready contraption, it serves the purpose of teaching the wolves to run after the leg and try and hold onto it.


Again, we build this into a game and let the wolves have fun with it, and as always they don’t seem to have much trouble figuring out the routine.


By the time everyone has had a turn, there’s not much left of the frozen leg, and as I pick up the remains of the day, I can only hope we had enough time to teach them because we film the scene tomorrow.


00:53:39:18        ANDREW (VO): 

I am pleased to see the grip department has devised a more creative leg attachment. I also wonder if the kitchen knows we’re using another one of their legs.


We’re going to film this scene in a frozen river so we can get the longest, smoothest run possible. This will help both the camera crew and the wolves focus on the leg. Sweet Pea is the first to have a go. The tricky part is getting the speed just right so the wolf has a chance to bite the leg.




Sweet Pea has done a great job, so good a job in her mind she decides there’s no need for her to do it again.


Each wolf has their own personality; everyone is different. You can never force a wolf to do anything it doesn’t want to do, and if Sweet Pea says she’s done then she’s done.


00:54:37:12        DIRECTOR:           

For me, the only problem is that they are, sorry, it’s not, there is not a moment where the leg is out of frame, and, and the, the wolf is speeding up and catching the leg.


00:54:49:02        ANDREW (VO):  

As Digger watches the progress from his cage, it’s time for us to try Tyka. And once again, her diehard wolf instincts end the day on a high note.


00:55:03:05        DIRECTOR:           

The moment where, where you shake it, and uh, it was, that was very good. Very realistic, yeah.


00:55:13:04        ANDREW (VO):  

Today, we’re back on the frozen river but without the ice hole. This is the scene where the actor has to say goodbye to his wolves after leading them across the mountains. I will wear the fur costume for all the wide shots; this way, if anything goes wrong between the wolves and the reindeer, I will be in the middle of it, not the actor.


As the wolves begin to walk towards me, they ignore the reindeer as if they’re not there. The reindeer also ignore the wolves. In fact, they act as if they have been around them all of their lives. At this moment, I’m as proud of the reindeer as I am of the wolves.


Energy is a very important element when working with animals, especially in these situations. By finding the calmest reindeer possible and having the film crew just relax and stay quiet, everything is okay. Once again, what could have gone so very wrong goes just the way that we had planned. You can never underestimate the effects of the energy you project.


When the cameras are ready, we begin to film with the actor and the wolves. Without seeing his face among the wolves, the wide shots we did earlier don’t have the same impact.


The actor is given the signal to call the wolves; if he is nervous, it doesn’t show. Just like earlier, the wolves walk into their correct positions and wait until the actor prepares to leave.


Once the shot is over, the wolves are called back and leashed up. Everything is done calmly and effectively. I don’t think this scene could have gone any better today considering all the elements involved.


The calming effect had worked with everyone.


All the water we bathe in comes from the frozen lake behind the camp. Nikolai is one of the hardest working men I have ever met. Every day, he will auger through the three feet of ice to the water below. Then, using only a bucket, he fills the barrels and takes them back to the camp for everyone to use.


I never feel he gets enough credit for what he does in a day.


00:57:36:02        ANDREW (VO):

With all the difficult sequences we have filmed during the winter, I think we saved the best for last. In this dream sequence, the actor is going to be wearing his usual fur suit from head to toe, but he is going to be lying flat on the ice with his legs buried and fake legs on top. The real challenge is to have the wolves eat his fake legs without touching any other part of his body.


                  Once again, the circle of trust between the actor, the wolves and myself will be put to the test.


When the camera is ready, the wolves are placed onto the fake legs which contain some meat. But Tyka is very dominant, and 2-Toes moves away to find another place to eat. By quickly moving in to comfort him and showing Tyka I am the boss, she soon accepts 2-Toes eating beside her.


The fake legs contain some meat hidden inside. By only cutting a small hole in the hide, we are able to focus the wolves’ attention on this spot and make them forget there’s even a person lying next to them.


The vital part is keeping them interested in the legs without making it so hard they will look somewhere else to bite.


When the shot is over, the actor gets out of the hole and some adjustments are made to make him feel more comfortable.


Tyka seemed very focused on her spot as I reset the meat in the legs, then a director asked me for a third wolf; another curveball thrown in at the last moment.


Because Digger’s the alpha wolf of the pack, I decide to use Sweet Pea as she will be less likely to challenge anyone over the meat in the leg.


Once the crane is ready, the two original wolves are placed onto the legs. When they are fully committed to their task, Sweet Pea is sent in to join them. But once again, Tyka is dominant and chases Sweet Pea away. Everyone holds their breath as Sweet Pea returns and goes for the actor’s head.


But her name is Sweet Pea for a reason; this is why I chose her for the scene. She only wants to play with the hat and have some fun. Some days they surprise you; they can take a difficult, stressful situation and turn it into a lighthearted occasion just by being themselves. I can think of no better way to end the winter shooting.


01:00:01:04        ANDREW (VO):

As the winter filming schedule ends, everyone leaves the remote camp. Everyone except the wolf trainers; we have to wait until a transport plane can be arranged to take us home.



With the sun there getting warmer, the melting snow is causing some minor problems for the kitchen staff who were kind enough to wait behind and feed us.


With nothing but time, we find some creative ways to entertain ourselves, from ice hockey to baseball to local reindeer rides. Nothing is above our imagination.


01:00:44:16        ANDREW (VO):  

After another eight days in the camp, we begin the trek home. The drive to Yakutsk only takes 20 hours this time. The rest of my team are sent home on regular flights; myself and the wolves will wait for the cargo plane.


01:00:54:17        CREW (OFF CAMERA):    

How many degrees there (inaudible)?


01:00:57:04        ANDREW:             

Right now? Um, -22.


01:01:23:09        ANDREW (VO):  

As I wait in a Customs warehouse with the wolves, they begin to howl. It is a low, heartfelt howl, the kind of howl that touches you inside. I want this journey to be over for them.


But as always here, moments turn to minutes, and minutes turn to hours. There’s nothing I can do but wait.


01:01:41:20        ARNAUD:             

Andrew, I’m going to try to move the ass of the girl, (inaudible), so I go now, right now to have a look what we can do. You might leave this week. Nothing is sure in this country. Be brave Andrew.


01:01:58:08        ANDREW (VO):  

Whatever magic my friend Arnaud pulled worked. Within the hour, we were loaded and heading to Krasnoyarsk.


I arrive in Krasnoyarsk, and another problem arises. Due to a snowstorm, the cargo plane’s schedule to pick up the wolves is delayed for another 48 hours. I cannot keep the wolves in the travel kennels, so I clear out the lost luggage section of the warehouse and I spend the next two days rotating the wolves in and out of this holding pen I had created.


I always let them out in groups so they can play and interact with each other. This seems to keep their spirits up. I eat from the vending machine and sleep with the wolves in the warehouse. I will not leave them here alone.


01:02:52:16        ANDREW:             

Spent the day out and played again.




01:03:00:20        ANDREW (VO):  

Finally, the plane arrives to take us to Germany. It’s a brand new 747 on its maiden flight. As the snow begins to fall and the cargo door closes, I wonder if anything else can possibly go wrong.


When the door opens in Germany, I am surprised to see Sally standing there. She has waited behind to share the last leg of the trip with the wolves. After an overnight stay in a Frankfurt quarantine station and several interviews later, it is time for the last flight home.


I will never be able to describe the feeling of letting the wolves out and watching them play together. I wished for this moment for so long, in every warehouse and on every plane. This was my focus, just to get them home safe.


Wolves are one of the most misunderstood animals of all time. If people had the chance to see them as I have seen them, their opinion would change I am sure.


Once I finally sit down, the realization of what we have just gone through and have accomplished finally hits me. I had chosen this project, the wolves had not. But once there, they gave me everything I asked of them, every time I asked. How can they know that for some of them, it isn’t over yet.


01:04:11:07        ANDREW (VO):  

Although the winter filming is behind us, the project is not over. We will go back to Siberia in a few weeks to finish the shooting. As we prepare the new wolf enclosures and start to plan for the final trip, summer training is already underway.


All the pups are trained to respond to a buzzer. This enables us to direct them as needed for the camera. They all train and live together as a group. This allows them to bond with each other and to form their own little pack.


We raise some of her pups from three weeks of age. This allows us a chance to build a unique bond with them. Even at such a young age, all the contact with people is very important.


Their development rate is far above that of a domestic dog, but just like a dog they still like the human affection.


Besides playing, all the pups are photographed and weighed every day. With these records, we can carefully keep track of their development and spot any problems before they become serious.


Every work session with the pups ends with playtime. This interaction is so important in their development with us and with each other. Equally important is making sure they get enough sleep.


Because we are taking such young pups with us this time, we have hired a private plane to fly us the shortest way possible, which is over the top of Alaska. This is a whole new experience for the pups as they are loaded one by one onto the ramp.



01:06:00:04        ANDREW:             

Hey guys, uh, hey, hang on a sec, give me one of the big metal ones first.


01:06:04:21        ANDREW (VO):  

I can only guess Digger’s reaction at once again getting loaded onto another aircraft. This may be a much faster plane, but it takes some careful packing to get everything to fit. Once all the gear is loaded, the pilots waste no time in getting us into the air.


01:06:18:00        PILOT:   

We’re closing, get that stuff out of here.


01:06:29:04        ANDREW (VO):  

When we arrive in Yakutsk, the temperature is unbearable. Just like the freezing cold in the winter, the summer heat is a shock to everyone. The problems start almost immediately for us again. The truck provided for the wolves has a metal floor, which is too hot to touch, so we quickly need to devise a wooden floor to keep the heat from reaching the wolves. While we hurry to complete the floor, we keep the wolves cool by spraying water on them. Even Digger seems to enjoy this treatment.


The frozen river we drove over in the winter now has a ferry system operating, although as

Arnaud explained they require some guesswork to get on.




Main credits

Simpson, Andrew (Director)
Simpson, Andrew (Screenwriter)
Simpson, Andrew (Producer)
Simpson, Andrew (Narrator)

Other credits

Editor, Todd Buhmiller; music composer, Alex Harrison; camera, Guillaume Mazille.

Distributor credits

Andrew Simpson

Director: Andrew Simpson
Screenplay: Andrew Simpson
Music composed by: Alex Harrison
Producer: Andrew Simpson
Editor: Todd Buhmiller

Docuseek2 subjects

Animal Behavior

Distributor subjects

Natural world


wolves,filmmaking,animal training; "Wolves Unleashed"; Scorpion TV

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