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The New York Dog Film Festival™ is a philanthropic celebration of the many ways that we can appreciate the remarkable bond between dogs and their people. Canine-themed films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains through documentary, animated and narrative films. With a New York City premiere every fall, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives a portion of the ticket sales.

FIRST ANNUAL PROGRAM #1 “SECOND CHANCES” (71 Minutes)

HARVEY & HARMONY (1:00) is indescribable!; THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MOLLY (7:00) First time British director Sue Carpenter’s love tribute to her black Lab Molly; 989 MILES HOME (15:00) Laurence Alexander’s student film depicting discarded dogs in South Carolina being transported by volunteers to welcoming adoptive homes in the Northeast; GAME OF BONES (10:30) Director Blaire Dobiecki (Melbourne, Australia) re-imagines the popular television series with a similar name, starring her own rescued Lab, Helen, as the heroine; CONVERSATION WITH MY DOGS (3:00) Humorist Merrill Markoe questions why her dogs follow her everywhere;  DAVID & GOLIATH (12:00) Director George Zaverdas based his period film on a true story of a Jewish resistance fighter fleeing from the Nazis, who takes refuge in a dog house where the German shepherd saves his life; LE SAUVETAGE (6:00) Peter Mcevilley’s faux-French tale of how dogs view us and bring us together – promoting adoption with the rescued performing Olate dogs. (in French with subtitles); USEFUL DOG TRICKS (4:00) Heather Brook’s Terrier Jesse embodies “multi-tasking;” A BOY AND HIS DOG (9:30) Jonna Mciver ‘s documentary features Owen – a very little boy – whose family adopts Haatchi – a very big dog – and how they make each other whole.

FIRST ANNUAL PROGRAM #2 “LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING” (65 Minutes)

HARVEY DOGS HOME (1:00) indescribably delightful; FOG OF COURAGE (7:30) John R. Dilworth (an Academy Award nominee) made this animated horror/comedy about a cowardly dog named Courage; LOOKING FOR LOVE (3:00) Australian director Blaire Dobiecki stars her rescued black Lab, Helen, in a cautionary tale about looking for love online; THE LEWIS LECTURES (7:30) Merrill Markoe’s animated depiction of what dogs actually think and do when we leave the house; DOG YEARS (4:00) Director Sam Hearn’s voice-over of a dog who questions his relationship with his frequently absent owner; VALENTINA (9:30) Spanish directors Crespo and Romera’s tale of an estranged couple and their Pug Valentina, who brings them back together (in Spanish, sub-titled); THE POODLE TRAINER (8:00) Vance Malone’s character study of a circus trainer, whose performing poodles are the center of her universe (in Russian, sub-titled); DINE IN THE DARK (:30) Jake Shannon, an Australian student, made this PSA for Guide Dogs for the Blind to create empathy for living with vision-impairment; SECOND CHANCES (20:00) Director Steven Latham’s film about female prisoners who train dogs from shelters, changing lives on both ends of the leash; PETCO ADOPTION STORY (3:00) with roller blader Bonnie Thunder.

Let’s hear from Tracie Hotchner, Founder/Director of the NY Dog Film Festival:

Q: How and when did you decide to start the Dog Film Festival?

When I saw the popularity of the Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis several years ago, I felt that dog lovers would be equally thrilled by the chance to have a shared audience experience of their passion for their pets.  

Q: What styles of film is the Dog Film Festival looking for?

The Festival is open to any type of short film that has a canine theme. Animated films, commercials and PSA’s, documentaries and narrative films made with actors – and the films can be funny, silly, serious, emotional and/or thought-provoking.

Q: Can anyone submit a film to the festival? If so, are there any fees involved?

Absolutely anyone! The festival welcomes filmmakers of all ages and abilities, whether professionals or first-time iPhone filmmakers. Films can be submitted through the standard online submission platforms, FilmFreeway and Withoutabox – all the information is right on our website with all the submission guidelines right there.

Q: What do you keep your eye out for in the films submitted to you?

I embrace any film that surprises me with a new realization or feeling about canines and our relationships with them. The Festival needs to be an unforgettable experience for the audience: they are all dog lovers, walking into the theater having put their trust and faith in me to “take them some place” in their love of dogs that they haven’t been before. My mission is to edit together a banquet of films from every genre – documentary, animation, narrative, and a few videos – and take my fellow dog-enthusiasts on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster ride. I have my editor put together a series of short films to create an intellectually and emotionally powerful experience that leaves people saying “Wow.” That’s what I look for in each film: the “wow” factor.

Q: What do you look forward to in taking the Festival on the road?

I can’t wait to amaze people in every city I go to. I am grateful and even a little awed that people who don’t even know who I am are buying tickets – that they are intrigued enough by the name of the Dog Film Festival that they want to come, yet they cannot really know what it is going to be. The concept sprang into my mind fully formed, but it’s not intuitive to anyone else, which means they are coming with open minds and hearts, ready for anything. I’m looking forward to dazzling these trusting dog lovers and to justifying their leap of faith! I appreciate that people are taking something of a risk when they buy tickets and then show up, not really knowing what to expect. I get a smile on my face anticipating the shared feeling of surprise and joy that my audience is going to experience. I’m looking forward to savoring that the Dog Film Festival will remain my secret until the lights go down and the first film rolls. Then I’ll feel like Santa Claus, hiding behind the tree, watching people open presents on Christmas morning.

Q: So far, what has been the most rewarding experience with the Dog Film Festival?

The most incredible thing was to have the first year in 2015 be embraced by New Yorkers – a pretty tough crowd to please – especially with the enormous number of options of where people can spend their time. The smiles on all those faces, and the gracious appreciation by the audience for the whole undertaking, made it so worthwhile. Then I found it was a universal response as I traveled with the Festival to 10 cities across the country in 2016 and discovered that many in the audience had an almost spiritual experience when sharing the love of dogs with other like-minded people.

Q: You have an animal welfare group beneficiary at every Festival destination. Why is that?

The work being done by shelters has turned many cities from places where most dogs (and cats) in shelters never came out alive, to 95% of those pets now being placed in new homes. It’s an incredible achievement and one I salute. I also believe dogs wind up discarded or as “pass me downs” and eventually in shelters because people were not thoughtful about when or how that dog came into their home. I try to help educate people to make better decisions about how and when to add a dog to their family – and to think of “adopting rather than shopping.”

Q: What do you think it is about dogs that humans connect with so much?

In a very basic way it seems logical (and research is increasingly proving it to be true) that we people gravitate to this other canine species because they are loving, tolerant, devoted and forgiving. The deep bond and attraction between dogs and people is that dogs “get” us – they respond to our moods, to our emotional ups and downs, we feel as though they understand us and they care. We don’t consistently get that from other humans. Dogs can read our emotions – they can discern our most subtle physical and emotional signals and changes. I think there is something most people crave in a very fundamental way – to be “seen” or “known” – and that is something we experience with dogs and for many of us we never fully achieve with any other person.

Q: You also run the Radio Pet Lady Network. Can you explain a little bit about this network and what its goals are?

The Radio Pet Lady Network is a series of 10 pet talk radio podcasts that I create with top pet experts and veterinarians. My flagship show, DOG TALK (and Kitties, Too!) is actually my only solo show and has been live on NPR station Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons and Robinhood Radio in Connecticut for nearly 10 years and over 500 consecutive shows. My shows are all informative, with the intention of inspiring and educating pet owners with current information and the chance to give careful consideration to the possible choices about the many aspects of having a pet share their lives.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter into radio and/or film?

All forms of media are in such flux these days that advice is dangerous to give. “Radio” is no longer a button and dial in your car, and certainly not a box in your house! Everything is podcast and on-demand and binge-listening downloads. I had a live radio show on WOR AM in NYC – one of the most important radio stations in the country – and people said terrestrial (ground-based) radio was a dying form of media, and satellite was the future. Look what happened to Sirius and XM, which had to merge to survive! For 7 ½ years I had a really popular live call-in show, Cat Chat on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM – but then her whole channel got canceled! (Cat Chat is back on my own network and going strong!) Film has become something you can do with a hand held “phone” so what has happened to the movie industry? It’s all comic books and sequels – thank goodness for niche film festivals that keep independent expression on film alive!