Thursday, July 19, 2007

SunDance is waiting for the tooth fairy!

Not much new to report yet.  Working on trying to focus the film into more of a story than a simple show and tell of the rescue operation. Need to get another shoot on the schedule so I can keep the momentum going on this thing. I did get this email update today on SunDance. Marianne forwarded it to me from Nancy, the Rogers' Rescue vounteer who is currently fostering Sundance(and who we interviewed at the last shoot):

SunDance did well at Alpha Vet today getting what was left of his broken front canine removed.  They also removed some excess gum tissue around the area that was sent out to biopsied to make sure its nothing serious.  Alpha vet had the same thoughts that Anderson did ... that SunDance was likely kicked in the face as he's missing all the small front teeth on the same side as the broken canine.  Something hit him hard in the face ... I can only imagine what ..
Anyway, on a positive note, he's doing well ...  slept most of this evening, and did eat his dinner right up.  He's a little whiny when he's up, but I'm sure he's not feeling his usual self ...  
Alpha gave me the tooth to keep (I never knew the canine roots where sooooo long!) ... and so we are putting it under SunDance's pillow and hoping the tooth fairy brings some goodies :)

Pretty sad stuff.  Who kicks a dog in the head? I really think SunDance is going to end up being a major character in this film.  I wish we had gone on the vet visit and gotten some footage.  I think I'm going to see if I can line up an interview with the vet who did exam.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Canine Rescue Documentary Update #3: "The Sundance Story"

We wrapped our first day of shooting yesterday afternoon and things went smoothly.  The hardest part of the day was finding the pet store in the shopping mall sprawl that is Newtown, PA.  We shot for about 3 hours at the adoption event and while we certainly still need to capture more footage and interviews to tell this story, it feels good to at least have something on tape.

I wasn't sure how things were going to go at first.  Normally I do a lot of preparation for these kinds of shoots ahead of time.  Other than Marianne, I hadn't really spoken to anyone who was involved in the rescue so I didn't have any questions prepared. It was also a bit strange because I'm not typically the guy behind the lens so I can usually focus on getting the interview and not on getting a good shot. Fortunately, Marianne was there to act as the interviewer and talk to people so Andy and I could focus on the picture and sound.  I won't say it's the best footage ever, but for shooting in a mish mash of fluorescent and daylight with dogs barking and people talking, I think we did pretty well.  The wireless mic setup was a major plus (after Andy and I figured out that we had initially put the batteries in upside down).  Navigating through the cramped store aisles would have been tricky if we had been connected by cables.

At the end of the shoot, we had about 60 minutes of tape shot.  Surprisingly we ended up doing a lot more on camera interviews that I had anticipated and less b-roll of dogs.  The event was pretty busy and other than the 3 or so dogs that they had it was really just a table setup, so not all that visually interesting. Also, with the crowd that gathered, doing a lot of b-roll would have meant a lot of release forms.  We talked to 2 or 3 people from the rescue group who were there and got some good background on why they decided to become involved.  We also got to speak to a couple of people who adopted from rescue groups or who are in the process.

Probably the best part of the shoot was getting to meet Sundance. Sundance is a rescued canine who was at the event but wasn't there for adoption.  He was there to work on being socialized to human contact.  They're not sure what his life was like before he was rescued, but obviously it wasn't great because he's really afraid of people. Not hostile in anyway, just scared.  He spent most of the day hiding in a shelf.  Sundance is probably going to be a dog that we'll try to follow through the entire foster/adoption process.  We've also got a lead on getting some footage of Sundance from the shelter he was in before he came to Rogers' Rescues. I think that could be a pretty compelling story if we can tell if from beginning to end.
And c'mon, Sundance? Any filmmaker has gotta love a name like that.

Well, that's all for now.  I'll be sure to post when the next shoot gets scheduled or if anything else exciting happens.  In the meantime, keep those title suggestions coming. You can also check out some stills from the shoot on my MySpace page.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Canine Rescue Documentary Update #2: "Project Yellow Light"

Ok, I still don't have a working title for this film yet, but I decided "Canine Rescue Documentary" sounded a bit classier than "Dog Documentary".

I spent a lot of time this week trying to get the project moving. After all the legal concerns that cropped up before the first canceled shoot, I whipped up a dandy of a proposal for the Rogers' Rescues people to review with their legal council that basically outlines the approach to the film and how we plan to distribute it. It also clarifies a bunch of stuff about copyright and ownership, releases, etc. and so on. Word from Marianne is that is was well received by the board and is just getting a final scan from their lawyers before they officially endorse the film. Hence, the film sort of has a "yellow light" status at this point.

Writing the proposal was also really helpful in the sense that it forced me to clarify some vision for the project. Here are a couple of juicy excerpts from the treatment:

The objective of the film is to raise awareness about canine rescue by telling the story of Rogers' Rescues, an all volunteer companion canine rescue organization dedicated to preventing and ending the unjustifiable execution of adoptable companion canines in U.S. shelters by providing them a chance at becoming permanent, loved family members. The film will present a positive message about concerned individuals and organizations that donate their time and resources for the betterment of other creatures and individuals. Some of the topics he film hopes to address include:
  • How animal rescue activity and awareness are gaining momentum on a local and national scale
  • The history behind how Anne Marie Rogers founded the Rogers ' Rescues organization
  • The difficulties some animal shelters face in finding homes for dogs because they are located in remote or poorly perceived locations
  • How over population and low adoption rates force shelters to euthanize healthy companion animals ready for adoption on a daily basis
  • The "all breed" aspect of the Rogers' Rescue organization
  • The "virtual rescue" aspect of the Rogers' Rescues organization
  • The day-to-day operation of Rogers' Rescues including the dog transport, foster volunteer, and adopter approval process (possibly through the form of actual case studies or foster/adoption stories)
  • The historical and ongoing success of Rogers' Rescues including the number of canines rescued to-date and the approaching milestone of the 1000th adoption

The proposal contains a bunch of other info, but that's a pretty good summary of what we're hoping to cover.

The best news is that even with our unofficial yellow light status, we've got our first shoot scheduled for this Sunday in Newtown, PA. We're going to be on location at a PetValu store to film an adoption event. I'm hoping to get some nice b-roll of canines in need of adoption and interview some folks with Rogers' Rescues as well as people coming into adopt. Crew and gear is all set to go. We're going to be shooting with my Sony PDX10 DVCAM which is nice because it's super small and doesn't attract a lot of attention, but it also takes a sweet picture. I was also fortunate to get the gang over at Riverview Studios to loan me a wireless mic setup at no charge. And to top it off, my Sticky Wisdom co-director Andy Howe has volunteered to help out as my soundguy. Having an extra hand and a wireless boom mic is going to make shooting much simpler.

So there it is. Real progress has been made and after this weekend we will hopefully have some usable footage in the can. I'll try to post another update shortly after the shoot.

Now that I think of it, if anyone out there has a great idea for a title for this film, I'd love to hear it. Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Dog Documentary Update #1: "I see lawyers."

Well, this new documentary has not gotten off to the most auspicious start. In fact, the dog transport shoot that was supposed to happen this Saturday in PA has been scrubbed. Seems there are too many legal hurdles to clear in too short of a time to secure the location release we would need to actually use the footage. The guerilla filmmaker in me says, "Screw it. Let's go and shoot anyway and we will find a way to get it cleared later." But the producer in me knows that we can't afford to tick off the rescue organization because we need their full cooperation to make this film.

Getting the location release was just one of many legal obstacles and uncertainties that started popping up once the rescue group got over their initial excitement about the project. Apparently many dog rescue groups operate in some kind of legal grey area and they're cautious about exposing too much of their operation to the public. Not to worry though, they are still supportive of the film and 100% want to do it, but understandably being a business (even a non-profit), they've got to cover their behinds. Looking at the bright side, this means the project is being taken seriously and it also forces us to be a little more organized from the get go. So, I'll probably spend the rest of this week and next working on a proposal/treatment, budget, legal review of all releases, schedules, etc. The kind of numb-your-brain stuff I deal with all the time, but was hoping to skirt on this project.

But the important question is, "How am I am going to make up for losing this shoot?" Problem already solved. We've got another, smaller dog transport that we can tape later in the year that we know we can get the location release for. There is now also a possibility that Marianne and I will get to do a ride-along on a transport, which will be super cool (though I'm told it is very smelly).

So there it is. Dog Doc update #1. Still got the adoption event on the 15th on the shooting schedule so I've got a lot to do between now and then. Maybe after next week this project will have a title.

Now that I think of it, if anyone out there has a great idea for a title for this film, I'd love to hear it. Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Until there are none...rescue one.

Greeting blog readers,

It's an exciting Monday. As I learned from reading Dale Newton's fabulous book Digital Filmmaking 101 the first step to producing a movie is to start telling everyone that you're going to make a movie. That way, when people start asking, "Whatever happened to that movie thing you were going to do?" the shame and embarrassment of not completing your project will motivate you to keep working on it.

So, as I promised back on June 10, I'm going to be making a new movie this summer and I'm starting today. There, I said it.

What's it's about? Well, doing all this work for NJN lately has got me itching to do some doc work of my own, so the film is going to be a documentary about dog rescue. I'm teaming up with my colleague and friend, the super-talented Marianne Ahern who is actively involved with an organization called Roger's Rescues to make it happen. The group is rapidly approaching a big milestone, the adoption of their 1000th dog, so this is likely going to be the angle for the film. Other than that, we don't have a crystal clear vision for the film, but some of the distribution ideas we've kicked around are making a piece to submit to Current TV, using it as a promotional film for the rescue organization, or making a longer film for submission to doc fests. In true doc fashion, we're just going to start shooting a bunch of stuff and see what we can make out of it.

Marianne and I are having our first pre-production meeting this afternoon and we're going start shooting on Saturday when we travel down to Kutztown, PA to film a dog transport. This is where a HUGE box van full of dogs from a shelter in Bowling Green, Kentucky arrive and a bunch of different rescue groups from NJ and PA meet the van to pick up the dogs they have previously agreed to foster. My understanding is that this event is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, so I'm hoping to get some good stuff. Then the following week, we're going to try and shoot some footage at an adoption event in Newtown, PA. I think we're going to try and follow one dog (or several) through the entire rescue-foster-adoption process which could take some time (weeks to months).

Anyway, I'm really excited to be working on a new self-funded project. I don't think I've been this psyched about a project since the first NYC Midnight Madness contest. I'll be keeping a production diary of the film here on my blog so you can follow the progress of this new endeavor and I'll definitely be posting some clips(if not all) of the film as soon as it starts to come together.