Fed up with seeing animals unintentionally mishandled on set, former farm girl Caroline Girdlestone decided to do something about it. Now one of the most respected animal trainers in Australasia, she’s worked with almost any animal imaginable across more than 500 projects – ranging from the cute barnyard animals of Racing Stripes to the horrifying ovine creatures in Black Sheep.

They’ve gotta like you or they won’t do it. You can’t make them do it – you can’t beat them, or starve them, or pay them more money. They’ve gotta like you, and they’ve gotta understand. Caroline Girdlestone, in a 2016 video interview with Brian Kassler of Showtools

Ghost in the Shell

2017, Animal Trainer - Film

Thor: Ragnarok

2017, Animal Trainer - Film

Pete's Dragon

2016, Animal Trainer - Film

Feeder

2015, Animal Trainer - Short Film

Out of the Woods (Taylor Swift)

2015, Animal Trainer - Music video

Piggy Sue - Vodafone

2015, Animal Trainer - Commercial

Purple Cows Campaign - Milka Chocolate

2015, Animal Trainer - Commercial

Krampus

2015, Animal Trainer - Film

Birdsong

2013, Animal Trainer - Short Film

Sheep taking over the city - Royal Bank of Scotland

2011, Animal Trainer - Commercial

Cows Undercover - Milka Chocolate

2010, Animal Trainer - Commercial

Lucky Dog (globetrotting dog) - Lotto

2010 - 2012, Animal Trainer - Television

Boy

2010, Animal Trainer - Film

Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

Birds vs Humans - Tooheys 5 Seeds Cider

2009, Animal Trainer - Commercial

Boy cycling with his Dog - New World

2009, Animal Trainer - Commercial

The Lovely Bones

2009, Animal Coordinator - Film

Scriptwriter Philippa Boyens has described Alice Sebold's bestselling book The Lovely Bones as "brutal, surprising, gorgeous". A tale of murder and how the victim's family and friends try to deal with it, the story is told from the perspective of the victim — 14-year-old Susie Salmon. For the movie adaptation. Peter Jackson and his Weta FX team engaged in more Heavenly Creatures style world-building, rendering an afterlife for Susie that "alters and shifts" with her mood. Time praised the film's "gravity and grace", plus Saoirse Ronan's BAFTA-nominated performance as Susie.

The Strength of Water

2009, Animal Trainer - Film

Released in Kiwi cinemas in mid 2009, The Strength of Water marked the big screen debut of Māori playwright Briar Grace-Smith and Pākehā director Armagan Ballantyne. The drama centres on a 10-year-old twin brother and sister living in an isolated part of the Hokianga, and the events that follow when they encounter a young stranger. The Kiwi-German co-production was invited to film festivals in Berlin and Sydney, after debuting in Rotterdam. The extras include interviews with Grace-Smith and the four main cast members, plus making of footage. 

Aftershock

2008, Animal Trainer - Television

This award-winning telefilm imagines the effects of a major earthquake on New Zealand’s capital city, and how its citizens react to chaos, death, isolation and tsunami. It was completed in 2008 — before Christchurch took Wellington’s mantle as NZ's shakiest city, and made Aftershock's imagined scenes a reality. Aftershock was produced for TV3 by The Gibson Group, and written by veteran screenwriter Graeme Tetley (Out of the Blue, Vigil). The following week saw the debut of Aftershock - Would You Survive?, which put a real-life family through a three-day survival test. 

Time Trackers

2008, Animal Trainer - Television

Black Sheep

2007, Animal Trainer - Film

A mutant lamb escapes from the lab after dodgy genetic experiments, and herds of sheep are turned into bloodthirsty predators. Three hapless humans are stranded on the farm as the woolly nightmare develops. They discover a bite from an infected sheep has an alarming effect on those bitten. With his first feature, director Jonathan King (Under the Mountain) provides splatter thrills and attacks a few sacred cows. Black Sheep was invited to 20+ international festivals, where it scored acclaim and multiple awards. The interviews include King, Weta's Richard Taylor, and the cast.

Racing Stripes

2005, Head Animal Trainer: Barnyard Animals - Film

The Lost Children

2005, Animal Trainer - Television

Babe: Pig in the City

1998, Farmyard Training Supervisor - Film

Aberration

1997, Animal Trainer - Film

Flight of the Albatross

1996, Animal Trainer - Film

Mirror Mirror

1995, Animal Trainer - Television

Two 14-year-old girls discover that they have a lot in common in this two-part 1995 children's fantasy drama. They live in the same street, same house, same bedroom, but 76 years apart. An antique mirror/portal leads them on a time travel adventure involving nerve gas, a Russian Tsar and an English soldier. Created by Australian Posie Graeme-Evans (who devised TV hits Hi-5 and McLeod's Daughters) this award-winning trans-Tasman co-production between the Gibson Group and Millennium Pictures was sold to more than 60 countries. A second series followed in 1997.

Babe

1995, Sheep Training Supervisor - Film

Bitch

1995, Dog Handler - Short Film

Bitch is a tale of "infidelity among friends" which explores trust and romance, and stars three people and a dog. Isabel (Inside Straight's Joanne Simpson) recalls a trio of relationships — one with a man in the middle of discovering he is gay, one with a man who doesn't like the smell of Isabel's pet dog, and the last with her friend Ruth (Carol Smith). Creator Fiona Samuel (TV's Marching Girls) intended the short, one of her earliest as a director, to combine two perspectives: the world as the main character perceives it, and how things might appear to the casual observer. 

Forgotten Silver

1995, Field Worker - Television

An epic documentary chronicling the extraordinary life of  Kiwi filmmaker Colin McKenzie. Or is it? McKenzie's achievements included cinematic innovations involving steam power and eggs, and an unfinished biblical tale filmed on the West Coast. The first television screening of this Costa Botes/Peter Jackson production memorably stirred up New Zealand audiences. Forgotten Silver went on to screen at international film festivals in Cannes and Venice — where it won a special critics' prize. 

Godzone Sheep

1995, Subject - Television

This thoughtful but humorous documentary offers a wry tribute to sheep in New Zealand. Interviews with Chris Knox, Dog's Show presenter John Gordon, Dick Frizzell and Michael Parekowhai (among others) pull the wool away from our collective eyes, and examine Aotearoa's much ridiculed relationship with sheep. Artists' images, souvenirs, pets, and shows for tourists all feature, as do songs and plays. The documentary also examines the foundational role of sheep in the country's economy. This was one of the first productions from company Greenstone Pictures.

The Last Tattoo

1994, Location Scout - Film

This 1994 ‘home front noir’ is set in World War II Wellington, where the plots — a murdered marine, exploited working girls and gonorrhea — spread amidst the invasion of US soldiers stationed at Paekakariki. Kerry Fox (An Angel at My Table) is a public health nurse who becomes romantically linked with the US investigating officer (Tony Goldwyn — Ghost, TV's Scandal) while pursuing the STDs and the truth. They’re supported by Oscar-winning US veterans Rod Steiger and Robert Loggia. John Reid (Middle Age Spread) directs, from a Keith Aberdein script.

Wonderful World - TV One Channel ID

1991, Animal trainer, As: Helicopter rescuer - Television

One shaggy dog, dozens of humans, and a smorgasbord of Kiwi scenery: viewers were glued to the screen for this TV One promotional campaign, which began screening in August 1991. The six-part promo followed a lovable sydney silky poodle cross travelling the country by car, train and paw. En route, roughly 50 Kiwis make blink and you'll miss it appearances: including sporting figures, local townspeople, and 20+ TV personalities (see backgrounder for more info, and clues on who is who). The popular promos were directed by Lee Tamahori, before he made Once Were Warriors

The Rogue Stallion

1990, Animal Trainer

Bad Taste

1988, Art Department - Film

After concocting all manner of outlandish images on 8mm film, Bad Taste was Peter Jackson’s breakthrough; years in the making, it was the first feature to make it from his Pukerua Bay backyard to cinema screens, where it quickly began to rack up sales. An all-male cast of public service Alien Investigation and Detection Service operatives run amok with guns, food, vomit, rockets and misguided enthusiasm, to rid the earth of alien Lord Crumb and his fast-food gang — who want to turn earthlings into hamburgers. Jackson took two acting roles in this ‘splatstick’ sensation.

Flight of Fancy

1987, Subject - Short Film

This whimsical film starring New Zealand artist Michael Smither, animal wrangler Caroline Girdlestone, and cartoonist Burton Silver, documents Smither's quest to learn to fly. It is a documentary in the accepted sense but lyrical and full of surprises. Made by Wellington filmmaker Tony Hiles, edited by Jamie Selkirk (future Oscar winner for The Return of the King), and gorgeously shot on location at Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach. Smither is well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks With Mountain.

The Lie of the Land

1987, Art Department - Film

The Ray Bradbury Theatre

1989,1992, Art Department, Animal Trainer - Television