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Trailer

Commentary

SYNOPSIS:

 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen I've come to tell you a small tale of a man who loves dogs more than people, a woman pushed to the edge - scorned if you will, and the ties that bind them together: marriage, children... infidelity. We will begin on a sunny day at home where a love for dogs waxes and a love for each other has waned. We will end on a dark and stormy night with a... good doggie.

CAST & CREW

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT

 

KIMBERLY TOLSON

AS DEBORAH

PAUL FUSON

AS BILLY

GEORGE ROBINSON

WRITTEN BY

Good Doggie was originally going to be part of a series of four short films that we were making the year before in 2013. It was included because my dad was so enthusiastic about writing and wanted to have us make a script (Download Script and other pre-production materials here) of his. I liked the script and I felt strongly that it was a subject matter that could really make people feel uncomfortable. It made me uncomfortable. 

Fortunately/unfortunately the 2013 experience was VERY educational. We raised about $600 on indiegogo, all from family and friends. With some short scripts and some an overabundance of unearned confidence we went out to shoot all four shorts… the end results were not what I wanted.

We spent all the money and all our time getting ready for every next shoot, and not any on pre-production. We only had one day to shoot, one actor, one sweet van, and RAIN!!! It would have looked great, but we only had this one day and no rain gear for the camera. So I called my dad and told him we couldn’t shoot it. It was an uncomfortable call, but we decided on the phone to make it next year. 

This turned out to be a great idea. We were able to spend more time preparing for the shoot, learning more about how to shoot, and thinking more about the production. This is the first time I ever did a camera test.

I had heard about this thing Hitchcock did. With black and white film he would put a red filter on the end of his lens, and shoot in the day and the shades of grey would shift in a way that made it look more like night. So I slapped a red filter on my T3i, set it to monochrome ran in my shaded backyard and it looked great!!! We were ready to roll… wait, not this time. I will be ready for this.

Now we went about putting together locations, crew, and most importantly A SHOT LIST! Wow, did this ever change things. I had heard about Shotlister on Filmriot, and it blew my mind. I began using the hell out of it. It was great, it forced me to think of the production as a whole. I had learned from the year before that we need to spend time and energy on the stuff behind the scenes like: Where are we gonna put our camera stuff, lights, makeup, and most importantly our craft table. I began to think of it as a machine with lots of working parts.

So after casting some friends, getting a great bar location, and receiving several more passes of the script. We finally scheduled out the shoot. We split the days up into one full day at the bar, and a few afternoons.

Opening Scene

We decided to ask to use Katie’s mother house. It looked very “Americana” and she had let us use her house before for another short film (Babysitter). She obliged and we had a front yard to shoot the opening.

 

This was simply the best day of the shoot. No one stumbled over their lines, everyone was prepared, and the shots looked great!

My favorite moment is when I noticed how much I loved shooting the main characters hand as he balled up his fist to hit her. We could see his pours, the little hairs, and I felt like there was just something cool about showing hands. It would take me a while before I figured out why.

Title Card

I like title cards, it’s another opportunity to inject some exposition. I wanted it to look like an older title card like when they used to point a camera at a card, but I wanted to add some cool motion. I had this great idea where I would build this lazy susan, place a backdrop on the other end, put a glass in the middle, spin it and pour it in.

 

The plan was that I would shoot at 60fps, and play it in reverse. I only got about 4 takes before I ruined the backdrop… turns out it hard to pour water into a glass, from above a wide frame, while it’s spinning. Who knew… Once again, no testing.

The Bar

We got to set and began shooting outside in the morning. We started with the job, it was homemade out of round aluminum conduit, and most of all... it was awful. I made this, and I didn’t really test it with a camera on the end if it. We did several takes and got one acceptable shot.

Then while we waited for our extras to show up we grabbed the rest of the exterior bar shots. Matt kicking Paul out, Paul’s butt, the dog meeting Paul, Paul’s butt, Paul’s drunken stuper, Paul’s butt… Shut up… it was funny that we had to shoot my friends butt… Look at his butt.

Then when we went inside we opened with the establishing shot. It could have just been a pan, but we had to throw it up on my resolve PVC slider. It was quite the thing to orchestrate. We had to time Paul’s entrance, interaction with Nikki and Mallory, then Matt.

It was eventually cut the end of the shot, but Katie Nesbitt (producer/girlfriend) and I were making out in the back of the bar. We felt like there wasn’t enough people in this bar, so we had two more adults, Katie and I so we decided to play extras. We thought it would be funny to have two drunk people making out in the back. So we put our friends kid Lorelie (Babysitter) on the camera and Katie and I would set the shot, run to the back, and then we would have to make out… it was really fun at first, but then my lips were getting chapped, and I hate not being behind the camera.

Eventually we began moving through the shot list and things went swimmingly. With the acception of having to swap some some extras, and making that work it all looked & sounded great.

 

My favorite part of the day was the shooting the drinking montage. The macro shots were fun, but our little resolve dolly got the great dynamic shots of Paul drinking iced tea. Sorry Paul.

The hill

Now for this we took a day scouting locations, learning our lesson from the year before. We wanted something that looked remote, but wasn’t so inconvenient that we could still just do “short” shoots. Like i’ve ever had a shoot that would go short (I always end up going longer then expected).

Outside of a couple cases of the giggles everything went according to plan. We got the shots, I sat in direct sunlight for hours, it was great?! Kinda, this is where I should have done more testing in Day for Night. I knew not to shoot the sky, but I did not pay attention to how hard all the light was. When I tested the red filter technique in my backyard it was a cloudy day, and I was in the shade, shooting things in the shade. Now we are shooting outside, no clouds and no shade. Then even worse I realized something I had never considered before… HEADLIGHTS! But we will talk about that more later.

The day we shot Kimberly went swimmingly for me, not so much for Kimberly though. It was a hot day, and she was wearing a hoodie. Sorry Kimbo. :(

The only shots that didn’t, absolutely, work were where we got our actor dog (Abbie) just didn’t want to attack Paul. So I shot a couple close shots and figured I would add some noises and we could just make it work. Once again no testing.

The car wreck

This was a fun day of shooting. We spent the half a day getting the shot of the cars POV going over the edge.

 

So my son and I went to goodwill bought the cheapest skateboard we could find, slapped a ¼” bolt and a rope on either the end of it, mounted a gopro, and kicked it off the edge of a cliff. We had to go back

to the drawing board a couple times, and had to build a good ramp, but basically we just kicked stuff over the edge, and reviewed footage on a laptop.

 

We had a  good time.

Reshoots

Well one of the things I learned the year prior is that reshoots are essential. When I got the the cut of the short “ITS YOURS FOREVER” I realized in post that there were just chunks missing. So I tried to temper everyone's expectations and told them to expect that we were going to have to reshoot after I had done some cutting.

So we ended up getting some more shots of Paul being attacked by Abie in the car, Paul driving the car. Simple stuff, but shots that were either never considered, or accidentally skipped when were trying to get the shots in a short amount of time.

Post Production

This is where the rubber really hit the road. There are several scenes that just worked in assembly. The opening & Bar scene felt like it just snapped together like a puzzle. All the parts just fit. It was so fun throwing these together. And I loved that I shot black and white. It made color correction easy.

But then Day for Night started. At this time I was sending every shot to Motion for at least some masking to make some parts of the image darker then others. It did not work great, but I wasn’t ABSOLUTELY ashamed of them.

Then we got to the headlights. Fixing things in post is not as terrible as some people say it is. From item removal all the way to CG dinosaurs VFX are awesome… for people with the right tools, and that know what they’re doing. I am not that guy.

I could not get a 3D track to save my life on any of the headlight shots. I had to animate 3D elements in 2D space with absolutely no idea how to. I watched a bunch of tutorials, and read a couple books on Motion 5, but it didn’t help much. These were just not the right tools, or the right artist for this job.

Once again, I can’t stress how much I would have done more comprehensive testing. The best lessons are always learned the hard way.

Release

Zombie Walks were the way for me to organize events to raise money for charity, and most of all put butts in the seats to watch my shorts. This year we raised a couple thousand for the Lewiston Civic Theater, and got a room full of a couple hundred bloody zombies (so hard to clean up) to watch Good Doggie, and Night of the Living Dead. The zombie Walks were always a good time.

Zombie Walks were the way for me to organize events to raise money for charity, and most of all put butts in the seats to watch my shorts. This year we raised a couple thousand for the Lewiston Civic Theater, and got a room full of a couple hundred bloody zombies (so hard to clean up) to watch Good Doggie, and Night of the Living Dead. The zombie Walks were always a good time.

Good Doggie was the first short I had ever decided to submit to a film festival. It just so happened that this was the first year of the Idaho Horror Film Festival. Perfect, there was a category (ha ha, gory) specifically for IDAHO. HORROR. FILMMAKERS. Called SPUD AND GUTS. It felt like destiny (or something that sounds less pretentious and douchey). It was a wonderful coincidence that I will BE forever grateful for.

It was awesome. Katie my father and I all went. It was a beautiful theater. The staff was so nice, and it was cool to meet other filmmakers. There was this one guy Lari Teras who made Blood RIders: The Devil Rides With us. He was nice, calm, & overwhelmed by bars with loud music so I didn’t feel so alone.

Most of all I got to watch people watch my short. For years I had been organizing events to get a room full of people together to watch my shorts and now I found a way to get people to watch my shorts, and gauge their responses. At a fraction of the cost, and the feedback won’t be by an audience of over 50% friends and family.

 

I loved it. There was some awkward stuff (I never feel comfortable around booze), but it was overall a wonderful experience. And now every festival has become a wonderful little vacation for Katie and I.

Then we did a screening on my birthday in February. So we organized a event, showed some of our older shorts and had a little party. We decided to do a Q & A too:

overall

I am not super proud of this short, but it was the first time I really tried to make something with thought spent before the shoot. I wasn’t just trying to hobble something together.

 

For a long time I did this thing where I would just slap together something, and if there was a technical problem, I would just laugh it off and call it ironic. This is the first short that I didn’t want to allow those sorts of things to get in the way of trying to make people feel stuff. In this I wanted people to feel uncomfortable and surprised, and we did. Some people walked out in our screening due to the images of domestic violence.

I’m still not sure how to feel about that. On one hand I am bummed that I made a couple people uncomfortable enough to want to escape, on the other hand I think that it’s probably a good idea that they left before Duane Jones slapped the shit out of Judith O'Dea.

I have made a bunch of shorts before this, but this is the first thing I have made that I would call a short film. Now I know that the word “FILM” has a bunch of feelings and opinions people attached to it. NO, I did not shoot this on film. NO, I did not have a VISION (another buzz word I hate) for the PIECE (I hate that one too).

 

This is my first short film because I was trying to make people feel something, and I was trying to make them forget. I wanted to make people feel something enough to forget the everyday suck and get lost in little flick. I wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but I was trying make something without a smidge of irony. That was a step for me.  

 

So did I hit the mark of making something good, definitely not. There are a lot of technical and storytelling problems. Did I help engineer and experience for people? Probably not… unless you ask the people that walked out. They definitely experienced something. Now I just gotta figure out how to make everybody feel that strongly.

My Lessons