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After one too many rage-filled outbursts, a magical talking dog named Basketball must talk his owner, Frank, out of having him put down.

Daniel Jeffery

Writer and Director

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Daniel is a comedy and documentary short films creator, covering subjects like adult circumcision, nerd friendship, and the real-life underground sport of Hedge Jumping. He works professionally in Vancouver as an editor, actor, and filmmaker for Lush North America. His editing work has screened at TIFF, VIFF, Hot Docs, DOXA, CBC, Crazy 8s, Telus Storyhive, IGN, Vimeo Staff Picks, and has received two Leo Award nominations.

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A New Leash On Life

Made to surprise and delight audiences, A New Leash On Life explores pet euthanasia through the talking dog genre, and proudly reunites Canadian TV icons Fred Ewanuick and Nancy Robertson for the first time since Corner Gas. It also introduces Riverton - perhaps the most beautiful (and energetic) golden lab to grace a film set. 

A small staple of the comedy world is the talking animal film. You could say that it's kind of a sub-genre within itself even though the talking animal film can comprise some different stories and genres. Much of the 2000s saw a market saturated with movies involving a cast of talking animals or those playing supportive roles with human characters. Nowadays it is not so common, mostly in the live-action medium. Of course, that's not to say that the talking animal film is 'dying out', but its prominence in new releases has been on a downward slope in recent times. There simply aren't as many talking animal movies out there in comparison to 7-8 years ago. However, some filmmakers cannot look at trends to figure out the way the story needs to be told, like in 'A New Leash On Life'. 

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Details

Genre: Dark Comedy
Country of filming: 
Aspect ratio: 2:35
Shotting format: Digital
Budget: $9,000 
Run time: 11:30

For this specific topic, it seems like this approach was the most appropriate. As Daniel says- "The idea first came to my friend Mackenzie Warner and I as a joke: What if a talking dog movie was made to tackle the harrowing topic of pet euthanasia? This made us laugh, but I didn't consider it as grounds for an actual film until Mack one day surprised me with a written screenplay for the idea and it seemed to have legs."The business of trying to make people laugh is indeed no joke. Whether the medium is a theatrical film, television sitcom or TV commercial, directors who are dedicated to the fickle art of eliciting laughter from the masses are perhaps doomed to the closest scrutiny — and no doubt the highest failure rate — of any genre. Daniel's film does not meet all classic comedy characteristics, as he says- "Even though the script was innately comedic in its premise and beats, we decided it would be more interesting to frame the story in a straight-faced way - embracing the actual stakes of the story through grounded performances and dramatic aesthetic. The long con of this was to shape and extract irreverent jokes in the edit - making for the polarity of tones that would hopefully keep the audience second-guessing the ending. Having predominantly directed comedic documentaries or lofi sketches before, the commitment to a dramatic filming style was a departure for myself, but it was an enticing comedy experiment that I was eager to see through!"

Working with dogs can become a nightmare for any filmmaker. They wander out of frame, don't hit their marks or get tired and lose their concentration. However, Riverton "was in-person (in animal?) just how he is on camera-exuberant, happy, but also capable of great attentiveness.", Daniel says. "Thanks to the wonderful relationship he had with his trainers, he was able to access all of these states almost on cue, even amidst the highly distractible world of a film set. But this sadly meant the cast and crew had to refrain from petting or playing with Riverton lest he forgets his 'raison d'être'. (No one said talking dog movies were fun!) The instant we wrapped the film though, everyone was able to congratulate Riverton on how good of a boy he was, and I personally wrestled with him on the lawn for five-minutes before he was whisked away in his doggie trailer - to break hearts and elate children in another movie franchise."

For now, Daniel just hopes to share the film with as many people as possible through festivals and eventual online distribution. Well, the film indeed is doing an excellent job in that regard with no surprise. It was selected for the Vancouver International Film Festival, DC Shorts Film Festival, Edmonton International Film Festival, Local Sightings, Pacific Northwest Film Festival and Portland Comedy Film Festival. As he says: "We hope that it resonates with animal lovers everywhere, and offers a bit of catharsis and levity to the inevitable tragic relationship that comes with being a pet owner. (R.I.P. Stella, Stanley, Edmund, Ilsa, Pekoe, Earl Gray.... the list goes on.)"

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