Jake and Jasper - Reality Bites, Ferrets Don't

A Vancouver filmmaker is aiming to improve the image of these maligned mustelids.

By , Columnist

Alison Parker.

I bet you've got some preconceived notions about ferrets. If you've ever seen them in your local pet store, the chances are that the store staff has warned you not to put your fingers in the cage because a ferret can give you a nasty nip. Or maybe you're familiar with the British sitcom Last of the Summer Wine and you think ferrets would be quite at home living in your trousers.

Whatever your ideas are, it's a fair bet they're not complimentary. Ferrets have a reputation for being, among other things, slippery, spiteful, bad-mannered and unfriendly. Part of that may have rubbed off from the negative connotations associated with their cousins, the weasels. Their very name implies something sly and treacherous. Doubtless it doesn't help that it was weasels, stoats and ferrets that took over Toad Hall.

Based on such perceptions of ferrets, you might be surprised to see them in a pet shop at all, lounging away in a hammock or curled around each other like furry serpents. Actually, they are a surprisingly popular alternative to cats and dogs, too much so for some jurisdictions. Several countries and at least one U.S. state (California) restrict the ownership of ferrets. Wildlife conservation organizations in these places are concerned about the effect on native species of feral ferrets scurrying around the countryside. This puts the unfortunate ferret right up there with such disreputable fauna as foxes, skunks, chimps and alligators, which might also be legally prevented from curling up on your lap.

Sounds like ferrets need a new agent to improve their public image.

Alison Parker is hoping to be that person. The Vancouver-based filmmaker thinks the little mustelids need some good PR. She is hoping to deliver it with a short film she's working on called Jake and Jasper: A Ferret Tale. Parker is a ferret owner herself and describes the animals as "loving, smart and playful."

"A few months ago I had the idea to produce a film about a boy and a ferret, where the ferret would somehow have a positive impact on the boy's life," she told me in an email. "Then I got together with screenwriter David B. Beleznay who I had previously worked with on a film called Brain Juice, and Jake & Jasper was born. It's a truly heartwarming story, full of drama, love, laughter, and lots and lots of animals."

The boy in Parker and Beleznay's script, Jake, has recently lost his mother. As a result of her death his family is crumbling around him. Jake becomes antisocial and withdrawn until he inherits Jasper, his 18-year-old sister Jesse's ferret.

"The two develop a special bond that seems to bring Jake out of his shell," Parker said. "Jake's father does not approve of his son's new friend, however, and when he threatens to take the pet away, Jake runs away to a nearby forest, where he and Jasper not only lose each other, they nearly lose their lives."

Parker wants to begin shooting her film in Vancouver in August and is trying to raise $10,000 through indiegogo before going ahead. At the time of writing she has already been pledged nearly $7,000 and received in-kind support from the band Crash Test Dummies. The group has given her permission to use the track "Songbird" from their 2010 album Oooh La La!

Cast members are also lined up. Connor Stanhope will play Jake. Stanhope has appeared several times in The CW's Smallville as a young Lex Luthor and has also been in Supernatural. Jesse, meanwhile, will be portrayed by Laci Mailey. Mailey had a role in the TV comedy pilot Captain Starship, featuring Paul McGillion from Stargate Atlantis and a host of other Canadian television stars. Then, of course, there's Jasper. That role has gone to a ferret called Falcor.

Never work with children and animals they say. Parker isn't listening because she plans on using at least one of the former and several of the latter. But then she is committed to furthering the cause of ferrets. Given the support she has already received for her pet project, it's clear that ferrets have other friends, too.

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Michael Simpson is a freelance writer, editor, presenter, researcher, instructor, gadget freak and sci-tech consultant based in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. Formerly from the UK, he’s converted from tea to coffee and written and presented on film, TV, science, nature, technology,…

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