A Hollywood Studio Where Dogs Learn To Fly

Hollywood studio teaches dogs how to fly on planes

Despite being considered a long shot, he spent hours in his backyard practicing his jump shot and working on his moves until he made the team. “It was a pretty impressive feat,” said his younger brother, Dan Shell, a Fox Sports executive. FALL MOVIE SNEAKS 2013: Films, videos and photos Jeff Shell has again nabbed a high-profile assignment. This week NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke tapped him for the top job at Universal Pictures film studio. The move startled Hollywood insiders because Shell, 48, has never worked in a film studio. Furthermore, Universal Pictures has been riding high this summer. Its animated “Despicable Me 2” has become Universal’s most profitable movie ever with more than $830 million in worldwide box-office sales, and “Fast and the Furious 6” has fetched more than $785 million. But Shell, who spent the last two years running NBCUniversal’s international television businesses in London, was eager to return home. The executive and his wife, Laura, formerly an aide to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky , recently bought a home in Beverly Hills. Also, Burke wanted to find a spot where one of his trusted lieutenants could navigate the increasingly complex film business. “You always kind of knew they had bigger and better things for him,” said Tim Leiweke, the former AEG chief executive who now runs Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in Toronto and is a close friend of Shell. “He’s wicked smart and he’s quicker on the curve than anyone I have ever met.” VIDEO: New Fall TV shows Burke decided that Shell not Adam Fogelson, who until Monday was chairman of Universal Pictures had a better grasp of foreign markets and the emerging technologies that are increasingly important to the film business, according to people familiar with Burke’s thinking. Burke also saw Shell as more of a team player than Fogelson, which was exhibited by Shell’s interest in working closely with Ron Meyer, who has served as president of Universal Studios for 18 years and is now transitioning into a senior corporate role.

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The Air Hollywood class is billed as the first in a real fuselage on a sound stage with a simulator that mimics takeoff, turbulence and landing. Hollywood extras create crowds and chaos that come with terminals, luggage carts and the blare announcing arrivals, delays and departures. The idea was the brainchild of Talaat Captan, president and CEO of Air Hollywood, the world’s largest aviation-themed film studio, who noticed a dog owner having a rough go getting a pooch through airport security. “The owner was stressed out and the dog was freaking out,” Captan said. “I figured, ‘Why don’t I train those people?”‘ He hired his friend and former actress, Megan Blake, to write a program and teach the class with three other instructors and her dog Super Smiley. An animal trainer and lifestyle coach, Blake also has a psychology degree from Georgia State University. With more dogs racking up air miles these days, it makes sense to take obedience school to a new level, said Heidi Heubner, who directs volunteers, including airport therapy dogs, at Los Angeles World Airport. There are no numbers on how many pets are taking to the skies, but they have become essential parts of a growing number of families and traveling with them for work and play is becoming more common, said Kim Cunningham, a spokesman for the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association in Texas. It will vary by airline, but there’s always a fee for cabin pets — those under 20 pounds that have to stay in carriers under the seat during a flight. Workings dogs or trained service animals (most airlines also allow psychiatric and emotional support animals, too) fly free, but owners must give the airline documentation and advance notice. The animals sit at their owner’s feet during flights. The class doesn’t address cargo pets. The class is using the same studio where parts of “Bridesmaids,” “Kill Bill” and 500 other movies were made. Television scenes from “NCIS,” “Modern Family” and “The Newsroom” have also been filmed there. Last year, Air Hollywood conducted a test class with 60 puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

PHOTOS: Toronto: 21 Hot Festival Titles for Sale Not everyone is mum on the subject, however. Syrian auteur Mohamad Malas, whose Ladder to Damascus had its world premiere at TIFF on Sunday, tells THR he feels its up to the Syrian people alone to decide the fate of the country, stressing that his movie does not address such issues. Im against intervention in the situation, but I am for intervention by the Syrian people, who are the only ones to have the right to change the situation, says Malas. He adds that when it comes to Hollywoods take on the subject, all opinions are welcome but underlines that the questions over Syria are incredibly thorny. Italian distributor and producer Francesco Melzi dEril, who has Syrian film Border playing at the festival, says he understands Hollywoods reticence to weigh in. Hollywood is America and America has a big involvement in Syria, but there are no troops on the ground yet, so its too early, he says. They react fast but not that fast. Perhaps Border, directed by Alessio Cremonini, andMalas Ladder will stir opinions at the festival. Border is the story of two sisters who, after learning that a member of their family has decided to desert the Syrian Army and join the opposition Free Syrian Army, are forced to embark on a hazardous journey to Turkey. Malas film concerns 12 young Syrians who find themselves confined to an old house in Damascus as the uprising erupts around them. Malas shot his $800,000 project in Damascus in wildly dangerous circumstances, just months after the outbreak of the 2011 insurgency, under a shroud of secrecy and at great risk to his crew. The production had to be halted twice. First, when a bomb exploded in the house next door to the shoot and again when security services kidnapped the movies sound engineer for political reasons, according to Malas. The sound engineer was not released until 40 days later, so Malas was forced to replace him to finish the shoot.

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An animal trainer and lifestyle coach, Blake also has a psychology degree. With more dogs on planes these days, it makes sense to take obedience school to a new level, said Heidi Heubner, who directs volunteers, including airport therapy dogs, at Los Angeles World Airport. Dogs have become essential parts of a growing number of families, and traveling with is becoming more common, said Kim Cunningham, a spokesman for the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association in Texas. It will vary by airline, but there’s always a fee for pets in the cabin. Working dogs or trained service animals fly free, but owners must give the airline documentation and advance notice. The animals sit at their owner’s feet during flights. The class doesn’t address cargo pets. The class is using the same studio where parts of “Bridesmaids,” ”Kill Bill” and 500 other movies were made. Last year, Air Hollywood conducted a test class with 60 puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind. “Some of the handlers were more nervous than the dogs because they don’t like to fly,” said Rick Wilcox, who oversees puppy-training in Southern California. “It was amazing how realistic it was.” Captan opened his studio about six months before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S.