Friday, July 20, 2012

"Dog Eat Dog": Sian Heder About Directing Zach's Biceps and Furry Paws

It is always fulfilling to watch an indie film come to fruition.

After several months in the making, the short film by Sian Heder and Before the Door, “Dog Eat Dog” finally premiered on June 22 and 23 at the recent Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF).

The project was generously funded by Zachary Quinto fans through Kickstarter last year.

Lindsay was one of the three fan producers of the film, and got to spend a day on location with Zach and director Sian Heder last December.

Therefore, she felt that she *had* to attend LAFF to catch the “Dog Eat Dog” premiere and see how the little film about pet adoption looked like on screen.

Before the movie was screened, however, she managed to catch hold of Sian and her lovely feminine biceps for a few questions:

Lindsay: Sian, you and Zachary have been best friends since you were classmates at Carnegie-Mellon. How did that happen?
Sian: In acting class Zach and I did our first “scene study” together. We both played 60 year olds and he was dying of cancer. Very dramatic, considering that we were only 18! We became really good friends.

After college I moved to NY as an actor, then to LA, as a screen writer. I got a grant from The Directing Workshop for Women which accepts only 8 women a year. With that money and equipment I made my first short film, “Mother” which went to Cannes and won an award. It’s based on a very strange, weird, but also heartbreaking story from when I’d been a nanny at 4-star hotels. I’m shooting a feature version in the fall.

Lindsay: You funded “Dog Eat Dog” through Kickstarter. You had a goal of $7,500 but very quickly went way beyond that – to end up with over $30,000!
Sian:  It was exciting! When I first budgeted we knew it would take $10,000 to $20,000. But with Kickstarter, if you don't make your goal, you don't get anything. So I lowered the goal to $10,000 - and then again to $7,500 even though I couldn’t make the film for that. [Note: They got the initial goal within 6 hours!]

I underestimated how exciting it is for people not in the business to be part of making a film. I was especially surprised at the executive producers– How could this be worth it to them??!! But I thought about getting to meet someone you admire and being a part of the creative process – how else could you get that experience?

Lindsay: How was it having us outsiders lurking around staring?
Sian: There was a possibility you guys would be crazy and you weren't!  I thought we might need director chairs with restraints on them*grin* But I found you to be pleasant and sweet and nice energy to have on set.

Lindsay: What was it like directing your best friend?
Sian: I was a little worried about whether the friendship would get in the way. But it didn't. Instead Zachary got to see me in action as a director. And I got to see his professionalism as an actor.

Lindsay: I’ve been told to look for a purple hippo – what’s that about? 
Sian: There was quite a story about that hippo. I used it for the main shoot at the Before the Door office and left it there. Meanwhile Sean Akers got Zach to autograph it - with a sharpie! all across its tummy! But then I needed some pick up shots. I searched all over for another – no more on the website. None at Petco. So back to BtD - we scrubbed and scrubbed that poor little hippo to get off the sharpie so we could shoot it in the scene!!

Lindsay: They say to avoid working with children or animals. Yet you had lots of dogs! What was that like?
Sian, laughing: Pound dogs and 10 actors over 80!! The noise was one thing. The effect on the crew - pleading eyes begging for a home. It is not a no-kill shelter - You'd see a dog in a cage at one point - and later in the day, not there. Agony. I had to go off and cry occasionally.

Lindsay: What was the most fun?Sian: The dog park! We had to create one – it was the Brigadoon of Dog Parks!. We called in all our friends and their dogs. They romped and played. Paula Huidobro shot it in wonderful slow motion. Delightful!

Lindsay: Any adoption stories?
Sian: I wanted the pitbull Rizzo [David Newsom, Sian's husband, rolls his eyes] but two women had already adopted her. Zach took Little Sister, but she constantly licked. Alex wanted to take one of the dogs but it already had a long list of admirers. It was like the Dog Eat Dog story.

Lindsay: Would you do another crowd funding project? Kickstarter or Indiegogo?
Sian: Sure! Zach’s fans were very supportive.  Indiegogo is different – it’s less known but had I done Indiegogo I’d ask for the whole amount needed. If we didn’t get it all, we know we’d get whatever was pledged.

I have learned my lesson about how expensive it is to fulfill the rewards. You want to give them. But rewards involve making things like T-shirts and dvd's – and that takes time. It’s hard about this project – I’m blessed to have a lot happening - I sold a pilot to USA; I’m writing on another series. Even the sound design took a long time because I was leaving work at 6 and going to meet my sound designer to work at night.

The lovely couple - Sian and David

Just then, it was getting close to screening time, so Lindsay and the rest headed into the theater to enjoy the adorable little film about heart, competition and furry paws.

A digital link was shared to Kickstarter contributors a few days later and here are what some folks thought of “Dog Eat Dog”:

Chris Dallman: "The short was smart, sweet, and totally adorable."

Lindsay: "Actor and best friends poke fun at his compulsive ruthlessness in a way that's both funny and touching."

Sara or @eserei27, another of the fan producers: "Cute, funny wonderful short film that could warm the coldest of hearts! (it warmed yours, didn't it?)" (@syzzlyn, glaring: Oh, shushhhh! Sara!)

I am sad to say that Sara was right on that last point. I'm an ardent dog lover and I could identify with the yearning to own the furry pet of your desire. The face of love and hope on Zach's face in the movie and that puppy room with all those toys and objects of affection.. Awww....

Some fans who contributed a certain amount on Kickstarter would either receive a DVD or digital download. I can't wait for my signed DVD to be shipped out!! 


Have you seen “Dog Eat Dog”?
Let Sian Heder, Zachary Quinto and the production team know how much you like it by posting your thoughts about the short film in the comments section below!


Thanks to Lindsay for the interesting article and conducting this Sian Heder interview!

Also, thanks to Sian's husband and noted actor/ producer/ photographer David Newsom for helping with audio and pictures.

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