Wednesday, March 14, 2012

HBO has cancelled Luck after a third horse died on set

According to TVLine and EW, HBO has cancelled the David Milch horse-racing drama Luck, which was recently picked up for a ten-episode second season, after a horse died on set. This is the third animal that died during production of the show.
“It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series,” the pay cabler said in a statement. 
The latest equine casualty was being walked back to its barn by a groom at Santa Anita Racetrack when it reared up, fell backwards and was injured. “Unfortunately, the injury was serious and could not be treated,” says the American Humane Association, which had a representative on the premises at the time. Though the injury was neither sustained while on set nor during the filming of a scene, the AHA went on to demand that “all production involving horses shut down… pending a complete, thorough, and comprehensive investigation.”  
“Safety is always of paramount concern,” HBO’s release continues. “We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures. While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.” 
HBO’s statement closed by saying, “We are immensely proud of this series, the writing, the acting, the filmmaking, the celebration of the culture of horses, and everyone involved in its creation.”
via TVLine
Let's pause for a moment to consider the irony of HBO saying that the show is a "celebration of the culture of horses" while canceling a show for killing said horses.

Now that we're done with that, does anyone else find this situation extremely odd? To start, this is not the first horse that died on the set of Luck, but the third. You would think that at some point, maybe after the first death, someone would have suggested that they switch to CGI or puppets or even stock footage. I know the network said that they maintained high safety standards throughout production, but it seems like they would have started rethinking those standards after the death of an animal on set. (And touting the safety standards by claiming that they are higher than those of actual horse racing is akin to saying that Mitt Romney is a liberal because he is less conservative than Rick Santorum. It's technically true, but it's not a compelling argument.)

It's not like it's impossible to film horses without killing them: as far as I know, no horses have died on the set of Game of Thrones, and while the Lord of the Rings trilogy featured lots of horses in battles, there were no reports of deaths on that set either. It seems sort of strange that there is no middle ground between "killing horses" and "cancellation."

And while it is completely unconscionable that three horses have died filming less than twenty episodes of television, there are other ways to put a horse on screen. We live in the age of computer graphics; couldn't HBO just have the GoT FX team render a few extra horses one day instead of using actual horses that are dying? It's got to be easier than making CGI direwolves and dragons, right?

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