Paul Manza, a yoga instructor who played a main character in the film, admitted to shooting a pair of deer without a license and outside of hunting season for a scene in the movie where at least one of the animals was skinned, cooked and eaten on camera.
While two deer were killed with one bullet, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency that governs hunting laws, concluded there was only substantial evidence for Manza to be charged with killing one deer.
"Paul Manza has been charged by NYSDEC with misdemeanor illegal taking of a whitetail deer," wrote department spokeswoman Lori Severino. She added that the film crew had initially reached out to the DEC once they realized they had made a mistake in not securing permits and and were "very cooperative."
The fine will be between $250 and $2,000, Severino said. The department did view the film before issuing the charge.
The kill was part of a 23-day film shoot for director Ben Dickinson's debut feature about naive Brooklyn hipsters learning to survive on an upstate New York farm after an apocalyptic event. It took them several days to find a deer, he said, and they had started to think they would have to revise the script to drop the scene.
"We are idiots. We didn't know how to do this [hunting] stuff," Dickinson told DNAinfo before the film’s premiere at the festival on April 19.
The bullet fired at a herd pierced one deer and passed into a second one behind it, killing the first deer and wounding the second one, Manza and Dickson said. The crew chased the second deer into the woods and shot it again to put it out of its misery, Manza said.
The film's publicist, Jenny Lawhorn, did not immediately return a call and email for comment.
Jone Bouman from the American Humane Association Film and Television Unit, the organization that stamps qualifying movies with the trademarked credit "No Animals Were Harmed," was pleased legal action had been taken.
"We do not believe, nor does the American public, that any animal should be hurt and certainly not killed to further a story line for entertainment purposes," she said.