It was finally here, at last . . . our moment to release our first film to the world and to German Shepherd viewers everywhere. I had the champagne ready, we’d been waiting 12 months for this moment and it was finally upon us! And it would all be worth it and we could put it behind us and move onto our next project. How completely wrong and naive I was.
It had been consecutive days and weeks of little sleep, chained to the home office and adrenaline kicking into overtime and particularly with Jason who was on the codeine train nursing a fractured tooth that needed to come out. But we’d finished and hit the button to launch. Was it premature? Definitely. We’d done pretty much everything wrong and for one perfectionist and one semi perfectionists it was agonising.
Right up to the night before our launch we’d made cuts to get our video file size down, compromising some quality and left out stories we loved. We didn’t implement a countdown or marketing strategy the weeks before as we’d planned. Everything we knew in hindsight, just didn’t get done and we said to one another, ‘we’ll never do it this way again.’
It was something that seemed to be in theory pretty straightforward. We had the skill, we had the desire and we had a topic that we were sold on. It doesn’t always make for a smooth transition to the film world. We were babes in the woods finding our way and it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster.
It has been 2 and ½ weeks since our launch of both our film and GSDtv and the highs and lows were not expected to be as severe as they were. No one tells you that you don’t have down time and you’re forever improving things and that time ceases to exist the way it did prior to opening your doors. We had Christmas and it was quiet then New Years came around and still there wasn’t a lot of interaction but we were strong and continued to believe in what we’d created. It was just a matter of getting it out to the masses
The most difficult part about bringing in 2019 was that there was no puppy on the horizon and possibly no relocation back to the United States to work on the project we were envisioning. It’s difficult to remain positive in such circumstances, but we are still so new and the movie business is one of the toughest. The niggling part in my brain was that we should be having these struggles in our 20’s not our 40’s. This is definitely not hipster.
One of the biggest mental challenges when you’re not an instant success and potentially won’t ever be, is to keep the creative juices flowing and remain excited about the dream. This was, after all what got us here to this point, but we have to keep going. It’s no man’s land and it’s isolating, but it’s still the adventure we want to pursue.
So 2019, please bring us what we’ve worked so hard for and let it lead to four legged bliss with a bushy tail and a touch of Americana. I am still hoping against the odds and dreaming big.
We all love our dogs and we work, play and train with them giving us a beautiful and special relationship different with that of human friendships. But what about how they influence us in business? Do we ever consider the great ideas that have been birthed because of the influence and ownership of dogs in our lives?
Dog Influencers is a documentary focusing on the unique side of business and dogs. We’ve seen it from Instagrammers to food startups and we can see how dogs have led the way. Making Black & Gold Documentary was produced because of a relationship with a German Shepherd. How many dog owners have looked at life through a different lens and are now living their dream.
This documentary will follow four people who have influenced others in the marketplace because of or with their dogs at their side.
Our experience with IPO/Schutzhund during the filming in 2018 sparked off another idea. We wanted to create Dogs of Sport featuring the German Shepherd in the world famous IPO Championships. This, of course, included herding and other elements the Shepherds have to master, but we wanted a documentary that gave more attention and time to this subject.
Dogs of Sport will follow representatives such as WGSDCA IPO National Champion 2018 Sanne Pederson who represented Australia in Denmark to show what commitments, perseverance and challenges competitors face in this sport. The documentary will feature IPO on a world stage, it’s origins, it’s the current state of the sport in Europe and Australia and will follow this journey into the 2019 Championships in Italy.
Dogs of Sport will also cover the German Shepherd competing in Agility and Flyball showing its diversity and competitive edge as an all-round athletic dog.
Road to Raw is a documentary that will set out to discover how people feed their dogs and the results of those pet food choices. Road to Raw will not only focus on a raw diet but the option available in this current day and age of technologies that have advanced our knowledge from kitchen table scraps to customised meal prep and delivery to our door.
Road to Raw will investigate the food-related diseases that have resulted from commercial feeding and how companies have strategised to modify/add to their products to offer alternatives to a more savvy buyer and pet owner. The information age has given consumers a much wider choice and the ability to educate themselves about the benefits and pitfalls of more traditional foods which has put the buyer in a much more powerful position. We seek to find out how this has influenced the feeding changes that have occurred in the last decade worldwide.
Road to Raw will look into the scientific research behind all feeding styles but with a focus on Raw and Fresh, the two new industries that have popped up in the marketplace and are getting adopted at a phenomenal rate. Road to Raw looks at the trend from social media influencers and seeks to explore how the big pet food companies will respond.
Road to Raw will be shot over a 12-18 month period and follow five dogs with diets ranging from dry, canned, fresh, raw and dogs that have switched over and track their progress. We will speak to industry experts, holistic and natural vets, owners, regulators and specialists.
Growing up with a dog was not unusual or extraordinary, Chile was another member of the family, who would take great joy in chasing the cows across the meadows in Cambridge after my mother dropped us off at school. They had a wonderful relationship, her and my mom. Then after immigrating to the US, she was the first one in our Kombi for every camping trip across California. She was a great dog, a whippet cross my father picked up and rode home with her tucked under his jumper on bicycle ride home. Her death was devastating for our family and particularly my mother. She never had a dog again.
Growing up in California in the early 80’s I was from the TV generation of The 6 Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. It was one of my favorite shows, the strong-willed cyborg German Shepherd ‘Maximillion’ and ‘Jaime Sommers’ was a heroic and inspiring relationship. On visits to Australia on holidays, my grandfather would take me to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, where young koalas were trained to ride on the backs of German Shepherds. This fascinated me and left an undeniable impact on how I viewed these dogs. The practice was discontinued in the 1990’s but stayed with me, adding to an already strong impression of the breed.
Years later after I relocated to Australia, I would experience that indescribable bond with my own dog and there was nothing ordinary or usual about it. It was a German Shepherd called Rocky who changed my life from feeling completely alone, always cautious and and at times frightened of living alone. After moving into my first apartment as a young mother I had my car stolen and someone had tried to break into my flat on 4th floor from the outside balcony in the middle of the night. Thankfully the window latch dropped jamming it and i was none the wiser until the morning, but it made me extremely anxious and fearful especially at night. So when we moved into our family home a few months later with a low front fence and corner access, my imagination went into overdrive. At the time I was considering a Labrador with a small child but after a quick conversation with the club secretary telling me it would lick an intruder to death,she suggested a German Shepherd. Suddenly flashes of Jaime Sommers and Max came flooding back and I was on the phone to the State’s Club moments later. I did some research and spoke to a couple of breeders and was quickly convinced my toddler would bond with him or her, wonderfully. It was better than could have imagined and I’m still sorry to this day that I took him for granted, thinking he’d always be there. After Rocky passed away, I decided to find others like me that had a similar bonds with their companions as I once had. Maybe it was to fill a void after losing Rocky or to find a somewhat vicarious existence in the love and devotion they had, but it was a project that drove me to discover what laid behind the ownership of the breed and why owners were drawn to the breed.
This is my story along with others who cherish their special companion, friend and workmate, and the lives that will never be the same without them.
I wanted to share our start in filmmaking and what we faced when we told people we were making a feature-length documentary about German Shepherds. I honestly never thought it was a bad idea, but I was terribly biased because, after all, I was the target audience. But the impending question was, were there others out there like me? And did they want to watch a film about German Shepherds and their owners? Friends and family were not backward in saying we were nuts and I think my partner in crime was thinking the same thing but he was willing to indulge the crazy hair-brained idea and cop the reactions on the chin if it meant we could make a film together.
So we pooled together our existing equipment, quit our full-time jobs and lived on a modest budget to produce a completely independent Australian film that hopefully the world or at least German Shepherd owners would love. Black and Gold Documentary was what we would call it and we started to work on a plan, which was no plan at all. We hadn’t a clue what we were doing, but we had enough passion to jump in and we’d figure it out.
We were committed to producing the best documentary celebrating an emotional connection with owners and their Shepherds and we reached out to as many people and organisations as we could afford to travel to. We contacted the state and national GSD club, rescue organisations, dog sports clubs, and big box pet franchises, but nobody seemed interested enough to get back to us. So we decided to make up some ads and left them in vets, pet stores, groomers, and dog parks. We published our first Facebook post of our movie poster which our family and friends kindly ‘liked’ and I think for the first month or two we had about 12 people.
There was an older couple and another family who agreed to let us film their puppies and follow their story from before their pups arrived home to the settling in period which was wonderful and it allowed us to get our feet wet filming dark, low moving objects. We would go back when they were a bit older for a follow-up and couldn’t wait, they were just beautiful and we loved playing with them.
Unfortunately, our phone was still very quiet. Every morning I would wake up checking my phone hoping for one message, but we were nobodies from a small town, we’d never done a film and no one had heard of us. This added to my own imposter syndrome and feelings of illegitimacy. I remember being asked what I did for a living one morning at a bridal shop in Mt Gravatt trying on wedding dresses and mumbled out what to me sounded like a big fat lie. To my surprise, the owner was a dog lover and got very excited asking me for any information. I sheepishly jotted down our Facebook page address on her business card and she’d not only checked us out but liked our stuff throughout the whole year. It was more than encouraging, but we still needed stories.
There were a few responses soon after this and things started to take an upturn but the stories turned out to be dishonest and we quickly saw the ugly side of people who presented themselves to be advocates of the breed but were far from it. It was very disheartening, but we soon realised, this was part of the filmmaking process. It was our process anyway and we needed to become savvier quickly.
Driving back from visiting one of the puppies we’d been filming, we had an idea to go and visit a training place out west in Ebeneezer. It was to a kennel I had taken my dog to when he was a puppy and it was run by a man who had been in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. We were welcomed by Mike and Meagan at Aylward Dog School and they arranged a day for us to come and talk to Shepherd owners who were training with them to see if they would be interested. The following weekend we got up and took the drive out again and spoke to several people who we thought would be perfect for the project. We then set up filming dates and times and we were soon able to continue on!
Once we’d interviewed trainers and Shepherd owners from Aylward’s we published a couple of snippets in the style we were developing for the film. Within a week we began to see the interest pour in and the emotion resonates with German Shepherd owners from all over the world.
One person led to another who recommended someone else and soon we had more people than we thought we ever would. Our Facebook Page and website were also busy and we received requests to come and film people with their personal stories of rescue and heroism with their German Shepherds. It was more than we could have hoped for and it was looking like this could be a series and not just one documentary. But we had a modest budget and realised it was all we could do to just finish the film.
From early on and even before we started filming we’d always planned on crowdfunding. We’d looked at films that were successful in receiving considerable funding and were hopeful that we could do the same thing. I’d honestly put all of the eggs in this particular basket because we had a few things on our wish list. We wanted to include recreated scenes from some of the stories and license commercial footage of the GSD from other sources. But these were very expensive costs that we couldn’t absorb and after a bit more research and as we’d already suspected; crowdfunding was no longer a viable platform for independent filmmakers to attract genuine contributors. In the end, you weren’t getting much from contributions at all and you were doing all of the work. It was then agreed, we’d do everything off our own bat, stretch the budget further, push our wedding forward and cut out what we couldn’t afford to do.
After about 9 months into the project we attended a film festival workshop in Brisbane and heard from people in the entertainment industry from TV networks, independent filmmakers and streaming channels who shared their experiences and expertise, but one thing was perfectly obvious, we didn’t qualify for any state or national funding. I’d already found this out after sending out about a dozen emails seeking assistance from local industry bodies. We were not seasoned filmmakers and didn’t even have a solid plan to distribute our movie. We did talk about screenings throughout Australia and the rest of the world but knew it needed a budget that was out of our price range. However, it would be one of the most beneficial weekends and the greatest epiphany we had that whole year; we had a niche product with a niche audience and we could potentially make more movies on the German Shepherds on our own!
We had been thinking too small, initially, we planned to make one or two documentaries, possibly submit to several film festivals and see what happened. But we couldn’t screen the film anywhere beforehand. We also sought sponsorship to see if we could secure interest and funding to help us get our film distributed, but that didn’t eventuate either. The lightbulbs came on almost simultaneously, walking around Brisbane that afternoon in the rain and we knew what we wanted to do. We could sponsor our own film!
That same evening we sat down together overly excited and after a few hours, GSDTV was born, conceptually anyway. It would be the first German Shepherd exclusive online streaming channel available to everyone! Jason got to building it within a week and presto! We were ready to go! Except we didn’t have a movie let alone a selection of shows. We were way behind schedule as it was and this put us back even further, but we knew it was the answer for us going forward.
Now over budget, were we biting off more than we could chew? Probably. I sat down over the next week to plan out a schedule for potential shows we could shoot while Jason edited into odd hours every day. We already had a second project in the wings that would commence in early 2019 which we couldn’t wait to start, but I knew there was more. I went back and reread the emails from owners who poured out their hearts about their dogs and wanted so much to be involved in the project that I wanted to make that happen. I wanted this to include shows for the community and about the community of GSD owners and there was so much more to share!
Ideas came pouring out but I knew we’d need a pretty big budget. If our streaming model worked, we may have enough to produce what we’d be proud to share and this would be the job of a lifetime. Maybe one day we’d be able to get a dog of our own as well.
We had been going for 10 strong months and we were still, I hate to admit it, filming even though we had 3 days left to render the entire documentary. We were out at Lake Moogerah, one of our favorite local lakes but we’d never droned there but always had it on our shot list and now for a particular scene for Black and Gold Documentary.
It was not the prettiest day at the main part of the lake and there were only a handful of people but it was hot and muggy, both of us worn out and not in the mood for filming let alone droning. We threw it up and it was acting weird but still managed to swoop around a couple of black swans that seemed unbothered by our presence. There was a sunlit ripple to the mountain range I thought would come out well but we needed some driving shots with our car in it and I knew just the place only half a km away on the other side of the lake.
We made our way over the cow grids and soon we were on the sweeping road that took us beside the lake from a lower advantage. So we pulled over, set up our coordinates and Jason started her up once again. I drove by the spots we chose and it looked magnificent. The sun was the perfect height over the water and it was casting a gorgeous orange and yellow glow. I pulled over and drove the route again for a few more covering shots. On my last run, I revved up to a reasonable speed and saw the black propellers just in sight as I came around the corner and thought to myself, ‘this is going to look stunning!’ As I pass the drone I hear a ‘clink’ noise like a bicycle chain hitting metal.
On returning to retrieve Jason and our drone I’d learned that the noise was our drone smashing into the one pole that was between the hills and the road and my car! The camera had popped out and we’d lost three blades but to our amazement, not only did we have the footage captured, the drone still worked. All we needed now were replacement blades and a stiff drink. We knew how lucky we were. I can’t tell you how many crashes we watched on youtube after first getting our drone and our hearts were in our throats most times we put it up. But it’s served us well this year, even up to the very last day of filming.