Short films don’t often get the love they so deserve and Make Like a Dog is a prime example of one such piece that is not to be missed. The first in a series of five shorts on marriage, it introduces a couple struggling with their inability to have children and then takes that conversation to a very unusual yet satisfying place.
While Make Like a Dog has been completed, director Marshall Allman is nearing the end of his crowdfunding phase for the next installment of the project. Visit the Kickstarter link here to ensure the rest of this series gets made!
I had the opportunity to speak with both Marshall and actress Jamie Anne Allman about the project. Their answers make it pretty clear that this is something we all need to see more of.
Where did the idea for Make Like a Dog come from?
Marshall: Well Jamie Anne Allman really. I was looking for a way to showcase her range as an actress and when I asked her if there was something she had been in that was both comedic and dramatic – she mentioned this One Act she had put on for an acting class years ago. So I read it, and the rest was history. Well, I read it, chopped it down from 30 pages to 10, spent more than a few years developing it and THEN the rest was history. (laughs)
What were the challenges in adapting a play into a short film?
Marshall: Since it was originally a one-act play that was 30 pages long in screenplay format I knew it had to be shorter and after a while, it was clear that it was going to need to be changed from its original writing. Without changing a word and just making cuts I got it down to 19 pages, but we always felt short films should be in the 10-minute range, so we knew we had to take some dramatic license and alter it to make it shorter. That was tough for me because I loved the play and wanted to honor Jerome but in the end, a play is meant to be experienced in a different way than film and adjustments have to be made to utilize the full potential of film.
What was the reason for setting it in the past versus present day?
Marshall: Two reasons – it was written in the past, and you would be hard pressed to believe that this situation would really happen today. So it just made perfect sense to treat it as a period piece. Plus I am obsessed with anything mid-century modern.
How do you feel the film would have changed if it had been set in the present?
Marshall: Had this been set in modern times I really don’t think any of it would be the same. That’s part of the reason for Marriage In Short (a 5 part series on the comedy of matrimony – each part featuring the same actors playing different couples in different decades dealing with different socio-political issues within a marriage – Make Like a Dog being part 1 of this) was I wanted to look at how marriage has changed and how it has stayed the same.
What plans do you have for the future of this series?
Marshall: We are doing a Kickstarter right now to fund Part 2: A Tribulation! about a couple who are doomsday preppers and while they completely agree that the world is ending they don’t agree on how or why. But there are also plots for the rest of the parts all set in different time periods: 1992, 1905, and 1932.
The look and feel of the film are very specific – how did you decide on the music and the design of the house?
Marshall: Well for the look of the film we needed it to be real yet fantastical. A place that could transport you to where you believe a farce like this could really occur. The house took a year to find but when we saw it finally we just knew – it was perfect. It’s an amazing place you can go visit in Texas. It’s called the Wilson House – all we had to do was dress it up a bit (ok it was quite a bit of work by our production designer Robbie Dalley) to make it looked lived in and fully period.
The music was pretty simple since we had to create our own version of Lassie, so a friend of mine, Kenny Wood, created a score that was similar enough to spoof the series but also complex enough to handle the emotional undercurrent of the story. Then, of course, we found the original recording of Elvira by Dallas Frazier and with our lead character being named Elvira it sort of felt like Kismet.
How did you become involved in the project?
Jamie: (laughs) I slept with the director. Duh. (He is my husband.) Seriously I was fortunate enough to have a husband who saw how hard it can be for women to get great parts within the industry and he took action to develop this for me.
Some might see a man forcing a woman to act like a dog as sexism, but here it’s done in such a farcical way – what did you do to keep the scene light without being overly degrading?
Jamie: That was part of the beauty of this film for me was that it did not deny the sexism and patterns of the time period, but it also flipped them on their heads – so for me it was about the fact that Elvira truly didn’t want to go along with Stanley’s crazy and sexist ideas, but reluctantly she went along and tried in order to save their marriage and of course it doesn’t work but hey… she was willing. Also, I knew that if I could make it physically funny, then we could get away with the temporary un-comfortability of the situation.
What other struggles do you see this couple facing in their marriage?
Jamie: The main one to me is caring what others think more than doing what is right. Then, of course, they have other issues of not being able to identify their feelings and discuss them on a deep level in a respectful manner. I mean – that’s what I love that is that this is a couple with real issues, but you see them working them in funny yet real ways.
How did you prepare to play a woman facing a crisis of this sort?
Jamie: Well, for one thing, I couldn’t have been farther from Elvira in real life – I had just had a baby three months prior to shooting. So I was breastfeeding in between takes of every scene. Which is difficult in itself but then try to do it on the clock while wearing a period costume and underwear! (laughs) So just that was challenging enough, but the rest for me is all about compassion and imagination. I spend time thinking – “well I’ve never been through this specifically but what have I been through that felt similar…?” Then I just build up the reality of this woman’s life for myself until I can truly walk in her shoes.
How would the role have differed for you, had the story been set in present day?
Jamie: Hard to tell but we might get more sense of it if we get the funding on Kickstarter to make the next one – it’s set in the near future!
Watch the short below:
Donate to the Make Like a Dog Kickstarter here.