Just in time for summer, France's Animal Protection Society (SPA) has released "Survivor," a four-minute film about abandonment and hope.
Summertime pet abandonment is a problem in much of Western Europe, where vacations run long. (It is, in fact, so common that once the sun begins to warm pavement, French public transport is slathered with ads reminding people that abandoning pets is illegal.) Sometimes, unable to find a pet sitter, people relinquish their furry friends to the streets—or worse, chain them up so the pet cannot follow them.
This results in numerous pet deaths by starvation or accident. A common statistic in France, provided by the SPA, estimates roughly 100,000 pets abandoned per year, with 60,000 occurring in the summer. Methodology for these numbers is imperfect, but the estimation is partly informed by road kill statistics of domestic animals, especially over periods when pet abandonment is expected.
"Survivor" was created by agency WNP, and generated over 2 million views in the four days following launch, becoming the most-watched video of the week on French Instagram, without media investment. Shorter versions run on TV or as pre-rolls.
One reason we like it is that it happens from the perspective of the dog, using a gritty, world-weary narrative voice that's easy to relate to, especially if you're a young man who grew up with the "hard-knock life" films of French cinema, where vulnerable men—boys, really—do unthinkable things to survive nightmare scenarios that aren't entirely their fault.
A good example of this is 2009's A Prophet, and the comparison isn't a bad one. A variety of systems and social norms trap disadvantaged kids—and the animals that rely on us but are mostly seen as products—in perilous scenarios, designed mostly to weed you out if you don't serve an explicit market value. "Survivor" doesn't shy away from this theme, and reminds us that, even once a pet is out of sight and mind, its life goes on, and we can't simply wash our hands of its destiny.
But unlike many French films, "Survivor" ends in a way that is unambiguously positive. Its protagonist, abandoned in an empty building, lives like a fearful fugitive in human habitats, where there is no safe haven for a dog without an owner. It is desperate and exhausting. But the SPA finds him in the nick of time, and he gets a shot at a better, happier last act, with a family that hopefully won't impose the same cruelty onto him.
Sadly, such families often do. "It's not some jerk who abandons pets. It's your neighbor, your cousin, Mr. or Ms. Anybody," said journalist Reha Hutin to Le Parisien last year.
This fact is something that animal welfare associations and the French state alike have struggled to reinforce: The most common evils aren't committed by cartoon villains. But in keeping with the more optimistic spirit of the video's end, we recommend you to the videos of Vet Ranch, a similar American organization whose many tales of rehabilitation and joy serve as a reminder of how donations sustain all kinds of services that matter to those who really shouldn't suffer just because they've become inconvenient.
Advertised brand: SPA (the French animal welfare association)
Advert title(s): Survivor
Film Headline: "Continue to donate so they can continue to have hope "
Copy: Violence, stress, cold, hunger: abandoned animals face a life full of challenges
Media : TV - Digital
Advertising Agency: WNP, Paris, France
Agency website: http://wnp.fr/
Agency Twitter account: @WNP_FR
Executive Creative Director: Mathieu Vinciguerra
Art Director: Benjamin Pouteau – François-Xavier Barré
Copywriter: Yannick Kryk
TV Producer: Pauline Fourcade
Account manager: Charlotte Decottignies
Produced by: Hugo Legrand-Nathan
Director: Ben Lacour
Producers: Thomas Aboulker FR & Audrey Lenchantin BE
Director of Photography: Sylvain Freyens
Camera Operator: Ben Lacour & Sylvain Freyens
Editing: Morgan Mirza
Color Grading: Kene Illegems
Music and Sound Design: Jonathan Fitas
Sound Engineer: Pieter Van Eesbeek
Assistant Director: David Janssens
Gaffer: Michael Stolz
Set Designer: Patrick Errera
Starring: Meika, Nikita Lacour, Gabin Lacour, Amélie Remacie, Gilles Remiche, Ben Lacour, Fanny Lacour, Denis Albert, Amaury Albert, Docteur Marc Swaelens, Théo Sapion, Maxime van Cutsem, Omar Khan, Lindsay Reichenbach, Sean Adejumo, Fanny Carbonnel