Producer beat Hollywoodto the punch

The Western Producer has always prided itself on being cutting edge, and the entertainment business recently reminded us of this fact.

The documentary Cow was one of the more unusual entries in this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film makers spent years documenting the life of Luma the dairy cow on an English farm.

The film was shot primarily from the cow’s perspective, and all of the reviews I’ve read revelled in the sheer novelty of being allowed access to the life of a cow as it lived in the barn, wandered the fields and interacted with fellow bovines.

Well, not so fast with the novelty accolades because The Western Producer beat Cow to the punch more than 10 years ago.

It was 2010, and wheat cams were all the rage. People would set up cameras in wheat fields, connect them to a website and allow people to watch wheat grow in real time.

Producer editors were intrigued but thought watching wheat grow was about as exciting as watching paint dry.

And that’s when Barb Glen, who was editor of the paper at the time, had a stroke of genius — what if they could attach a video camera to an animal and see what it saw over the course of a day?

Well, Barb just happened to know of an ideal candidate. Her sister raised cattle near Glenwood, Alta., and had a Simmental cow named Raven who was tame enough that the idea just might work.

Barb made the trip to her sister’s ranch, slipped a halter on Raven, attached the video camera, turned it on and let Raven loose.

For at least 24 hours Raven meandered her way through the pasture, doing what cows do. Then the camera was removed and returned to Saskatoon, where current editor Michael Raine set about editing the footage down to something watchable.

Barb says now that she had hoped the mountain scenery visible from her sister’s farm would provide the video with added beauty. Alas, it turns out cows in the pasture are either eating, which means looking at the ground, or lying down, which means looking at the sides of other cows.

So in the end, there were not a lot of mountains.

The resulting video never attracted a wide audience, but at least it gave us some bragging rights: been there, done that, long before Hollywood.

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