Career woman and mayoral candidate Caroline Sheppard (Amanda Langille) is determined to find her family's stolen dog, Dinah. Given a lead by an animal welfare activist, Caroline risks her safety and reputation and alienates her family as she searches for Dinah in the underground hell of puppy breeding mills and research laboratories. But when she confronts a brutal dog-fighting ring her courage inspires her family to reunite and help her rescue their pet. 

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Interview with Rowland Jefferies

Published on August 17, 2012 by in Blog

Meet Rowland Jefferies Cutler,

production designer and art director for Saving Dinah

Saving Dinah Productions was fortunate to have the talented Toronto production designer/art director, Rowland Jefferies Cutler, generously volunteering his time and expertise on the sets of Saving Dinah.  Not only does Rowland design for film and television, he also is a sought after interior decorator for many notable and prestigious clients; his specialty is ecologically-sustainable interior design.  

Animal Alliance and Saving Dinah Productions have much to thank Rowland and his partner Zana Ancerl for having provided us with professional furniture, props and police cars hot off the sets of some of Toronto’s hottest TV shows.  Zana is a buyer with several popular TV programs shot in Toronto.  Without Rowland and Zana, the footage of Saving Dinah would not look as good as it does.  And it does look good.

Lucky for me, Rowland graciously agreed to let me interview him about his professional work as well as his love for animals.

 

Karen: Rowland, you have a relationship with Animal Alliance of Canada.  Could you tell me something about that?

Rowland: My partner Zana and I have donated and been on the Animal Alliance of Canada mailing list for years, which led to our meeting Liz and thru Liz,  Stephen Best and Barbara Kyle.

(Liz, of course, is Liz White, the executive director of Animal Alliance and the executive producer of Saving Dinah.  Stephen Best and Barbara Kyle make up the writing team behind the script, Saving Dinah, and Stephen, who is the founder of Environmental Voters and the force behind the Animal Alliance Environment Voters federal political party, also directed the production.)

Karen: What is it that you do for a living?

Rowland: I am a Toronto-based, freelance designer with a background in film production as Set Decorator, Art Director and Production Designer, and Interior Design.  Visit:  www.sustainable-living.ca

Karen: Liz mentioned that you had some connection to the film, Easy Rider, and were also in a rock band.  I’d love to hear about this.

Rowland: I managed a musical group The Holy Modal Rounders and negotiated for several of their songs to be incorporated in the film. Group affiliations The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and the Jon Lee Group.

Karen: Why did you offer to volunteer for the set design on Saving Dinah and what made you personally interested in the project of Saving Dinah?

Rowland: Both the writing and the subject offered something of quality to work with.  As Production Designer and Artistic Director, my job is to visually interpret the story and add a sense of allure, drama and glamour to the sets and character of the actors.

Karen: You have created incredible sets for Saving Dinah.  Do you have any favourites and if so, why?

Rowland: No. They all sell the story equally.

Karen: Has there been one memorable day on the Saving Dinah set that you could tell about? It could be a
great day or a tough day that stands out in your memory.

Rowland: Each day was an incredible success in visual and composition dynamics. Stephen, ( who was brilliant with the cast in pulling stellar performances from them) at the end of the day came away with great footage. Some days were more challenging because of the record breaking temperatures.

Karen: Do you live with companion dog? If so, what breed?

Rowland: This is one of the few times we haven’t had a dog. Our last dog , ‘Singi’ , was a Basenji .

Karen: Has there been an experience with a dog that has changed your life? If so, how?

Rowland: Companion animals enrich life. Their unconditional love heals.   They keep you in touch with your soul.

Karen: Did you know anything about the issues that companion animals face before Saving Dinah? If so, what? And how did you learn of them?

Rowland: Yes, for many years, through Animal Alliance and other animal cause organizations. Dinah is important because the plot sheds light on animal cruelty and the human condition and ‘arrangements’  that allow it.  A zeitgeist for issues that need to be addressed.  It has ‘cult’ potential.

Karen: How has working on the Saving Dinah project changed you?

Rowland: I’ve lost weight ! Hah !

Karen: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? Your family? The work or hobbies you have outside of theatre? Anything?

Rowland: Thru my partner, Zana’s connections, the Dinah production was able to have expensive scenes with police uniform$, police car$, a police $tation, a complete ho$pital room, co$tumes, fabric$, pillow$ etc.,which our budget could not afford.  Zana Claus made it possible!  

Karen: Where do you go from here?  Will you be working on another set or designing a home?

Rowland: We are breaking ground on an Alternative energy  house design of mine ECOHAUS 1300 (using solar and passive solar  materials, heat storing concrete floors) and other off grid solutions.  Visit:  www.sustainable-designbuild.ca

Karen: Wow!  That’s all I can think to say!  Rowland, you can design for me any time.  Can you design around dust bunnies of dog and cat fur?  But I do want to add that Rowland is one of the most gracious and humble professionals I have met in the film industry and we could not have been more fortunate to have him and his partner Zana contributing their talents and genious to our production. When we screen Saving Dinah, you can be sure that Rowland and Zana’s stamp will be on every scene.

 

 
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Interview with Barbara Kyle

Published on August 8, 2012 by in Blog

Interview with Barbara Kyle

Karen:  What prompted you to write the script Saving Dinah?

Barbara:  The visionaries on this project were film producer Stephen Best and the board of Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC), and they brought me on board. Stephen, who is my husband, and Liz White, executive director of AAC, wanted to make a feature film dramatizing what happens to thousands of lost and abandoned pets every year. Saving Dinah is about a family whose dog, Dinah, is stolen, and their search for her takes them into the awful world of puppy mills, research labs, and dog fighting rings. The search rubs raw the family’s tensions, but working together to save their loved pet they are drawn more closely together than they ever were before.

It’s a story that affects people profoundly. Because I have such deep respect for the work of AAC it was a joy to collaborate with Stephen on the screenplay to further the superb animal protection work that AAC does.

 

Karen: What were some of the challenges for you in writing the Saving Dinah script?

Barbara:  It was tough to write the scenes about animal suffering. The pain and thirst and fear of the dogs used in puppy mills, where the females are kept constantly pregnant to produce “product.” The agony of dogs, cats, monkeys and other creatures who get blinded, amputated, poisoned and worse in the name of medical and cosmetic research. The unspeakable horror of dog fighting rings in which small dogs are chained up as “bait” to train the pit bulls to kill. You have to have a strong stomach to read about – and, worse, to watch video of – those dog fights.

Of course, none of this abuse is seen in the movie. No way! So the challenge for the writer is to suggest it rather than to depict it. It’s actually just as gut-wrenching – perhaps more so – to see a character reacting to seeing such horrors than it is to show the horror itself.

 

Karen:  You and Stephen Best wrote the screenplay together. What’s it like working with your husband?

Barbara:  It’s great.  And, actually, nothing new for us. Stephen’s my go-to guy with every novel I write – nine, so far – to bounce ideas off. He’s got that keen cinematic eye, and I rely on him to “see” issues of story and character that I might have missed. We have a shorthand by now when we discuss scenes and characters.

When it came to writing the screenplay for Saving Dinah I brought my experience as a novelist and he brought his “film” eye, and the result is a story that moves people deeply. For both of us, creating the story of Caroline and Dinah has definitely been a labour of love.

 

Karen:  Who do you think the film will resonate with, and why?

Barbara:  Everyone who cares about protecting animals from abuse. Since that includes just about every person who has a heart, we have high hopes of a large audience!

But this film is about more than striking a chord of sympathy in good-hearted people. It’s about inspiring them to take action to protect animals by supporting the work of groups like Animal Alliance of Canada. Everyone has a similar group in their own community struggling to help animals, and each of those groups needs the support of the caring, motivated people who are moved by this movie.

 

Karen:  Is there a scene in the script that is your favourite and if so why?

Barbara:  Definitely. That would be Caroline’s speech to her city council after she has been to hell and back in her search for her dog and is finally, happily, reunited with Dinah. The scene comes at the end of the film, and Caroline has learned a lot about the “radicals” who dedicate themselves to protecting animals. She says: “It was the extremists and so-called ‘wackos’ who first fought slavery. It was they who championed the rights of women, marched for civil rights, promoted universal health care, called for environmental protection, and now defend animals.”

She makes the point that throughout history such compassionate extremists have been vilified, only to be proven right in the end. I hope every person who has stood up for the powerless – animal or human – in the face of society’s opposition will see themselves in that valiant group of compassionate extremists and will take heart to carry on the fight.

 

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Barbara Kyle Bio

 

Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Tudor-era “Thornleigh” novels The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady, all published internationally, and of the contemporary thrillers Entrapped and The Experiment. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S. www.barbarakyle.com

 

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From Dream to Reality

Published on July 31, 2012 by in Blog

From Dream to Reality

What started as a dream is ending in a film.  Or at least is on it’s way to becoming a film.

Director Stephen Best, the cast and crew have finished shooting.  Now we have to go through the shots, choose the best takes and build the film one scene at a time.  Some filmmakers say the shoot is the easy part.  The real work begins in the edit. With each shot building each scene, we are one step closer to a finished film.

The Saving Dinah film shoot was a real community effort.  Animal Alliance brought its skills, talent and creativity, such as the wonderful script by Barbara Kyle and the amazing direction from Stephen Best, the executive production by Liz White, and the ongoing support from its  Board of Directors who green lighted the making of the film. Some of our members helped with financing and production (you’ll see on the credits)…which allowed AAC to get the film off the ground.

Another part of our community was the Whitby Courthouse Theatre, thanks to the vision of its President, Linda Lyons and Vice President, Reese Brunelle, and the actors and crew — most of them residents of Whitby and Oshawa, but some coming from the Big Tomato (Toronto).

And, lastly, we had our animal community, all Project Jessie rescues, without whom we would not have been able to make this film.  Thank you all, for your tail wagging, your patience and your slurpy licks.  You kept us all saying “Oooh, isn’t she cute”, “Oooh isn’t he beautiful”, “Oh, I want to adopt him”, “Oh, I wish I could adopt her”.    All of our furry friends have forever homes, thanks to the tireless work of our Project Jessie coordinator, Shelly Hawley Yan and her right hand woman, Andrea Harrison.

Without each contribution there would be no film.  It is a true community effort and thanks to all for making the Saving Dinah dream a reality for us all.

 
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