— CONTAINS SPOILERS — Be warned! Only read on if you have already seen the film
How can one blissful afternoon get so off-track? Well, one border collie called Scout could have something to do with it!
This short film, shot in Victoria, showcases the best parts about the relationship between dogs and their human as well as the “fun” that abounds when you have a dog who likes to be involved in everything!
Filmmaker Lachlan Ryan has a slew of filmmaking credits to his name. He was the associate producer of Australian family comedy Oddball so working with animals is nothing new for Ryan. But it was a real-life story, one that was very close to home, that prompted Lachlan to write, produce and direct the heart-warming and hilarious film Dog Date Afternoon which is delighting audiences around Australia and New Zealand in the 2020 Top Dog Film Festival.
“When my brother started a relationship with his now wife, her over-protective pooch sabotaged him at every turn. The dog simply loved his owner and didn’t want to lose her. But as my brother persisted, the dog came to realise he wasn’t losing anyone… he was gaining another life-long friend. There was something captivating and universal about their dog’s journey, which had echoes of Woody’s character arc in TOY STORY” explains Ryan.
He decided to turn it into a fun, family-friendly short, which instantly filled him with trepidation. Having worked on the dog movie, ODDBALL, he was all-too-familiar with the unpredictability of animals on set.
So he enlisted the help of his childhood friend, Cassie Cole, who had single-handedly coached her border collie to be a national agility champion. Cassie had always dreamed of animal training for film, especially with her dog Scout, and was excited for the opportunity. But there was a catch… he wanted her to star in the film alongside Scout.
Ryan comments, “My goal above all else was to craft a memorable, nuanced dog performance. From experience that’s tricky if the dog is being manipulated by an owner/trainer off-camera. I wanted the on-screen relationship to sizzle. So I made a conscious effort to keep everything as authentic as possible. Cassie would play Scout’s owner and the film would take place in their actual house.”
Stylistically, Ryan’s biggest inspiration came from Pixar animated short films. “Not only can they humanise anything (lamps included), they are modern day silent films; relying on visuals and music to convey meaning. Since the main character of my short is a dog who doesn’t speak, I felt encouraged to take Pixar’s approach — albeit with a live-action twist,” he explains.
To achieve this goal Ryan shot-listed the film in great detail, ensuring each story beat could be understood visually. For this approach the dialogue is non-essential, so he copied CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM’s process and empowered the actors to ad-lib their lines. This helped them find their natural chemistry and made the process more straightforward for 1st time actor, Cassie.
“What I’m most proud of is that amidst the crazy, technically challenging shoot, I never lost sight of the real star, Scout, and for that reason his performance truly shines” says Ryan. And we couldn’t agree more. Scout you are an incredible talent and we hope to see more of you at the Top Dog Film Festival.