Pair behind scenes of Lawless

December 06, 2017

Hard at work: Sarah and Cody Rawson-Harris busy training there horses out on their farm in Murchison.

Lawless — The Real Bushrangers premiered on Foxtel’s History Channel last month, achieving critical acclaim and phenomenal ratings.

And the television show would not have been possible if it was not for Murchison couple Sarah and Cody Rawson-Harris.

The pair owns Film Livestock Australia, an animal training business specialising in film, television and advertising.

It was their horses and stunt doubles that featured in the television show and helped make it such a huge success.

The first episode was the top-rating show across all pay TV stations in Australia in its 8.30pm timeslot.

It was the fourth-most watched Australian show in the history of the channel and attracted the largest audience for the channel since January 2015.

The television show was filmed in Beveridge, Victoria, and included more than a dozen horses, some of which were ridden by actors who had never ridden before.

‘‘Animals are great because they don’t really care ... it brings everyone to this mutual respect level on set,’’ Mr Rawson-Harris said.

‘‘During filming, we’re liaising closely with the directors and actors ... we’re more hands-on pre-shooting, but during filming we rely more on our wranglers.’’

Having worked closely with the likes of Nicolas Cage, Justin Theroux and Pierce Brosnan, the Murchison pair is able to build special relationships with famous stars.

‘‘A production company will call us up, send us a script and then it is our job to break it down to see what they need,’’ Mrs Rawson-Harris said.

‘‘Horses have been bred for thousands of years to be suspicious animals ... (and) it is our job to prepare them to be around smoke, machines, gunfire,’’ Mr Rawson-Harris said.

But it is not just horses that are trained in Murchison — dogs, donkeys, mules, goats, cats and sheep can all be seen.

‘‘Besides a couple of barn cats, everyone on this farm has been used for something, somewhere,’’ Mrs Rawson-Harris said.

‘‘We don’t rely on an actor to make the animal look good or to be cutesy with them ... the animal should be trained well enough to look good despite who they’re working with.’’

Mr Rawson-Harris is a second-generation animal trainer; his parents have been in the industry for a number of years.

‘‘Mum and Dad were pioneers, they stepped it up another level in regards to professionalism,’’ he said.

‘‘They had horses in Phar Lap, Man from Snowy River and Five Mile Creek.’’

The way Mr and Mrs Rawson-Harris talk about animals, it is clear they are extremely passionate about the industry they work in.

‘‘If an animal is happy then they will do what we want them to do ... but over the years we’ve got better and better at training them,’’ Mr Rawson-Harris said.

‘‘You establish behaviours with positive reinforcement,’’ Mrs Rawson-Harris said.

‘‘But once they understand the behaviour it’s about weaning them off that treat ... it just takes time and repetition.’’

With a 100 per cent industry safety record, this Murchison couple is set to be involved with some big films in the future — but is forced to remain tight-lipped for the sake of film producers.

‘‘I can’t forget to mention my daughter Dakota, 10, who has grown up on set and will soon be the best trainer of us all,’’ Mrs Rawson-Harrison said.

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