A French scientist invents a serum which changes him into a dog. Transformed and running through the streets of Paris, he experiences the most exciting and satisfying night of his life. By morning, he is human again. But government agents seek control of the serum, and the scientist's future looks bleak. Will he ever again run with the pack?
7 questions with La vie d'un chien (The Life of a Dog) director, John Harden at the half-way mark.
Saturday, July 22nd, 2017
1Hi John! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that inspired you to make this film? Inspiration #1: I dreamed people were turning into dogs. I'm not joking, in this case it's absolutely true: it came to me in a dream. It was a very short dream: some people met in an alley, took a serum and came running out transformed into dogs. That's the dream in total, and that exact scene is in the film.
2I love how you chose to tell this story in a series of still photos instead of regular motion film. What made you decide to go that route? That brings me to inspiration #2: Chris Marker’s 1962 film “La Jetée.” As I thought about my dream, and how I could turn the idea into a film, my mind went to that classic experimental short film. My junior college's film department owned a copy, and I saw it many times during the embarrassingly long process of getting my Associate's degree. "La Jetée" tells a fantastical science-fiction story almost entirely with still photographs... accompanied, in the version I saw, with a French voice-over and English subtitles. I realized I could tell a very complicated story with almost no budget if I worked in that style. Pretty much all I needed were some dogs, a still camera and Photoshop. As homage to the film that inspired me, I made my protagonist a French scientist, and set the story in Paris.
3The idea of a secret potion that can turn you into a dog seems unrealistic. But the way you present this idea, and the way your film is told, completely sells the idea. What was your thought process on how to make this idea work for your film and were you nervous that the film wouldn't fit the tone you were looking for? It's a ridiculous notion, but it's the idea the whole story hinges on. I think there's a long tradition in fiction of scientists testing things on themselves - THE FLY and THE INVISIBLE MAN immediately spring to mind, but I'm sure there are many others, just as preposterous... so I didn't worry about it. I just breezed right through it in my film: he makes the serum, he drinks the serum. Oh, and it's established that he's a little lonely, which maybe justifies it!
4At the heart of this story it's about people who would love to shed their animal skins and run free and wild like dogs. Why does this topic interest you and why do you think more and more people wish they could do a similar thing? I'll tell you, people really respond to that emotional core, and I think it's a big part of why the film succeeds. Everyone feels constrained in some way I think, and yearns for freedom. I wasn't sitting down intending to write that story but it was all there, contained in the nugget of that original dream.
5If you could turn into a dog, what type of dog would you be? I would be my dog Louis, because that guy has got it made. Also miniature poodles are smart and they live a long time.
6What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? One title?? You want one title?? Seriously, it would have to be a LIST of films, and the longer I live, the longer that list gets. And then there's the list of TV shows, and books, and life experiences of course. Everything is inspiration. But thinking back to childhood, probably cartoons like "Speed Racer" and shows like the original "Star Trek" first got me picking up crayons and drawing... I was telling stories via sequential art, AKA comic books, first. Then I picked up a movie camera, around 8th grade. And made a sci-fi short!
7What's next? I'm writing screenplays, for feature-length projects and shorts. Always looking around for the next idea that insists on being made. I'd like to encourage people to visit my website to see my other films, too: www.johnfilms.com .
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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