HUMANITY'S BEST FRIEND - The American Service Dog (Canceled)
Loyal, patient, strong, talented, and cuddly. Help us make the definitive film about service dogs, who bring out the best in humanity.
Filmmaker Billy Blake has launched this Kickstarter to help him make Humanity’s Best Friend - a new feature length documentary about the world of service dogs. The film will follow amazing dogs that are trained - arduously and with precision - to perform a wide variety of tasks, which they perform with loyalty and devotion.
The film will also follow recipients (many living with physical and other disabilities) for whom the dogs assist at a level that is life-altering and can be life-saving.
The film will present a heartfelt and emotional journey, through the union between dog and person, showing the significant changes that occur, as these new companions are introduced into their lives.
Humanity's Best Friend™ will explore and explain the processes involved that make service dogs possible. You'll be introduced to puppy-raisers, trainers, and other VIP's, notably the important organizations that oversee, coordinate, and administer these processes.
Says filmmaker Billy Blake: “The impact these dogs have on people's lives is a thing to behold. The range of tasks they can perform, and the scope of disabilities they can assist with, especially these days, is amazing. The film will of course be emotional, but I also want it to be informative. Because when you witness and learn the process underlying it all, you see something we don't see enough of these days - people sacrificing for the greater good to help those in need. Service dogs bring out the best in people, and in our society - lots of human heroes in this story, too."
Billy was inspired to make this film after a personal experience (see Filmmaker Commentary, below). On behalf of Billy, Tom, Richard, the other Richard, and all involved, thanks for visiting.
By virtue of its fiscal sponsorship through From The Heart Productions, Inc., pledges made to this campaign are tax-deductible, to the amount and extent allowable by law. See section on "fiscal sponsorship" - very bottom of page.
ABOUT THE FILM
You will meet many dogs, from puppies to those in the final stages of their training, soon to be matched to people (aka recipients or handlers). You will meet the people too. You will see dog and person before they are united, and after. Several such storylines will recur throughout the film.
You will witness demonstrations of functional life-altering tasks provided (performed) by the dogs. You will see the special emotional bonds that form between dog and person. It will also become clear to you that what you are witnessing doesn't "just happen."
You will learn that service dogs are raised, tasked, trained, paid for, monitored, matched, and adopted pursuant to the cooperation of diverse segments of society, all working together for the common, greater good.
In between shifts from one recurring story to the next, relevant questions are raised and then answered - through visuals, narration, and interviews. You meet a range of experts, as well as volunteers, veterans, and VIP's. You'll see and hear heartfelt stories from the most respected and longstanding service dog organizations, who help demonstrate and explain. And throughout it all, there are the dogs. The film will address the most prevalent questions you may have --
How are the puppies chosen? What dog breeds are most common? Who are the people that raise them? What are the disabilities they assist with?
What are the tasks they learn in order to assist?
There are literally hundreds - many of which alert (e.g. - seizures), assist, avoid, block, carry, find (locate), guide, interrupt (distract), open and close, push and pull, and retrieve. The dogs learn to position themselves, position their handler ... and so much more.
How are they matched to a person?
How is this process managed and overseen? Who are the organizations that do this? How much do Service Dogs cost, and how do people afford them? Is a Service Dog the same as an Emotional Support dog?
While this film answers all the above questions and more, and while we all love dogs and consider them a part of our family, you'll come to understand that a Service Dog is a working animal. It is individually trained to do specific work and perform specific tasks for people with specific needs. The work they are trained to perform is always directly related to the recipient's needs. Service Dog laws and policies are largely set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
HUMANITY'S BEST FRIEND STARTS WITH MAN'S BEST FRIEND
Only dogs are recognized as Service Animals (under titles II and III of the ADA). It figures, doesn't it? For over 300 years, dogs have been referenced as Man's Best Friend. They are characterized as loyal, patient, valiant, strong enough to pull a sled, and gentle enough to love a baby. It is said they live squarely in "the now", without regret, without judgment, and are capable of pure joy (with a wagging tail to prove it). And - of course - they give us unconditional love.
"Once you've had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished." - Dean Koontz
Not all dogs are capable of completing their training to become service dogs, however. The process is rigorous and specialized. When a dog fails to meet the challenge, it is not a tragedy. When they rise to the challenge and are matched with a person, it is life-saving. They truly do transcend being Man's Best Friend to become Humanity's Best Friend.
ORGANIZATIONS THAT MAKE IT WORK
Billy Blake has spoken at length with respected service dog organizations such as Canine Companions for Independence, Freedom Service Dogs of America, PAWS with a Cause, and NEADS – all of whom have expressed interest in following this film, pointing it in the right direction, and sharing information, such as images on this page and snippets in the Project Video.
“These organizations are not-for-profit,” says Blake. “They do what they do as a mission, and they are the lynchpins to all levels of societal cooperation that make this possible. No film about the world of service dogs would be complete without showcasing what they do. They secure volunteers to assist, and seek donors to help make the process viable. Some organizations engage the prison population to assist. Some use military veterans. It’s nice to see so many diverse elements of human society working together so admirably. I hope this film will compel more people to support this cooperative effort."
- CANINE COMPANIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE ® www.cci.org
FREEDOM SERVICE DOGS OF AMERICA https://freedomservicedogs.org
PAWS WITH A CAUSE ® www.pawswithacause.org
- WARRIOR CANINE CONNECTION https://warriorcanineconnection.org
Says Billy Blake: "Several years ago, I visited a friend whose teenage daughter Rachel had volunteered to be a puppy-raiser for Canine Companions for Independence. She worked with Godiva - a prospective service dog. When Godiva 'graduated' – meaning she would move elsewhere for her specialized training - I went to the ceremony. My friend was sobbing, but Rachel was smiling. She knew she was giving up the dog she had raised for a greater good. This affected me. It led me to ask a bunch of questions about how this all worked. As a filmmaker, I wondered why the underlying story of service dogs had not yet been fully captured on film, nor had the process been profiled in any breadth or detail.
I have always undertaken projects based on a personal interest. In the 1970’s I optioned the film rights to a poem I loved, and this became Pumpkinhead, a horror film which achieved cult status. I later optioned the film rights to song titles I loved, such as Rhinestone (Cowboy) with Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone, in which Stallone actually sang country music. (Admittedly, there was mixed reaction. One reviewer said he saw that film on a plane and walked out.) After doing this for decades, I stepped away from film production to focus on photography. Then a raging fire destroyed my home in Malibu. I lost most of my photographs (which I had not yet digitized), and my possessions, and only narrowly escaped with my life, that of my partner Peggy, and our dog Chance. I was truly depressed for the first time. But in 2014, I launched a campaign right here on Kickstarter for a coffee table book of my remaining photography, which succeeded, and that rejuvenated my soul.
In researching this film, I've come to marvel at and respect those that give of themselves to support this effort. I want people to see this film to learn how people cooperate to make this work - volunteers, donors, trainers - I am sorry to be repetitive, but I consider it uplifting to witness diverse elements of human society working together so admirably. I guess what I am really saying is that - with all the noise and conflict we hear every day, and there sure seems like a lot, it’s easy to forget what wonders we humans are capable of as a species. We just need a less judgmental, far cuddlier species to remind us of it sometimes.
I can’t wait to make this film.” - Billy
ABOUT THE REWARDS
CAN YOU MIX AND MATCH? Yes. If there are Rewards you'd like in a certain combination or quantity that are not offered that way, no problem. Send a message. Glad to work it out. DELIVERY DATES: The Rewards deliveries are approximate, and reflect a delivery date of a best-guess for the film's completion; we are likely to fulfill many Rewards a bit earlier. MAKING YOUR "CHOICES": All "options" involved in any Reward (t-shirt size, for example) will be made AFTER the campaign using the Kickstarter survey form.
HERE ARE DETAILS AND IMAGES of some of the Rewards:
SIGNED HARD-COVER COPIES OF THE DOGIST
We are proud and pleased to have signed hardcover copies of The Dogist available (see the $165 reward level; other items also included). The Dogist is a beautiful, funny, and inspiring book dedicated to the beloved dogs in our lives. Photographed by Elias Weiss Friedman, aka @thedogist (pictured to the right; photo by Ted Lim), every portrait in the book tells a story and explores the dog’s distinct character and spirit.
T-SHIRT ART AND ORIGINAL OIL BY DAVID KENNETT
We are proud and pleased that custom pet artist David Kennett (these are two of his oil paintings) has agreed to paint an original oil of a service dog belonging to one backer (see the one-of-a-kind $1600 reward level) AND that will be the primary image used in the design for ALL of our t-shirts ($60 reward level). David has been a sought-after pet artist for over 25 years whose work is lauded for its ability to uniquely capture a dog's expression and personality. He is based in Colorado - www.bffpetpaintings.com.
MEET THE TEAM
Billy Blake - Filmmaker and Producer
Billy is a filmmaker, fine art photographer, and proud father and grandfather. In the 1970’s he founded/published Millimeter Magazine (about film production).
In the late 1970's, Billy optioned the film rights to a poem. This became Pumpkinhead, a horror film that became a cult classic, and is shown every Halloween. He also produced Rhinestone with Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone; Hunters Moon starring Burt Reynolds; WiseGirls (for Lions Gate), starring Mira Sorvino and Mariah Carey, and others. In 2008, a fire destroyed his home. He and Peggy escaped with their dog Chance. Billy lost most of his photographs and many possessions. He enlisted the help of a friend to operate a Kickstarter campaign for a coffee table book of his remaining photography entitled Images From The Ashes. He credits that campaign and its success for a spiritual rejuvenation.
Billy has always loved dogs. Chance is now 10. He looks forward to producing Humanity’s Best Friend and telling the story of the Service Dog world in a more complete way than has ever been told to date.
Tom Avitabile - Co-Producer/Writer
Tom is an Emmy-nominated writer, Best-Selling author, director, and producer. He is also a Senior V.P. and Creative Director at a New York City advertising firm, and will be invaluable to this film. Billy and Tom have been friends for decades. Tom loves dogs.
Richard Weinman - Co-Producer/Consultant
Richard Weinman is a writer and producer. He produced Pumpkinhead with Billy, for which he co-wrote the story (with the legendary Stan Winston). He also worked on the films Narc, Mirror Mirror, and directed Hunter's Moon, among others. Richard has diverse experience in all aspects of production. He and Billy have been friends for decades. Richard loves dogs.
Richard M. Spitalny - Executive Producer
Richard Spitalny co-produced Rhinestone with Billy. He also produced the psychological thriller Blood Bride. Richard has produced numerous best-selling and award-winning video games including the Boulder Dash and SPY vs. SPY series. He is experienced in pre-production, production, licensing and ancillary rights. He and Billy have been friends for decades. He loves dogs and is pictured with his daughter's 3 yr old Labradoodle - Schnitz.
TIMELINE, BUDGET, & USE OF PROCEEDS
TIMELINE: Based on a successful Kickstarter that concludes and settles in November. we intend to continue shooting before the holidays and through the early Spring. Editing will begin in April. After producing a first rough cut, we will accelerate post-production efforts. We have estimated delivery of the film by September of 2019, but of course there are variables upon which that estimate depends. Many of the Rewards will be fulfilled earlier. BUDGET: Pre-Kickstarter funds were imparted by the principals and a portion of the TOTAL budget to make this film was conditionally raised based upon this Kickstarter. If this Kickstarter is successful, funds from it combined with funds conditional to its success, will fnance all that is needed in balance. USE OF PROCEEDS: The pie chart below reflects the Use of Proceeds from funds raised through the target amount of this Kickstarter only. If the target is exceeded, we will announce a stretch goal which might include additional interviews, celebrity narrator and commentator, clearance of music and/or archival clips.
We came to Kickstarter because we wanted this film to have an INDEPENDENT focus, be TRUTHFUL to its subject matter, and speak to a like-minded COMMUNITY.
INDEPENDENCE - Because this film covers people and functions both in the forefront and also behind the scenes, it is necessary to tell this story independently - without serving any outside master. TRUTH - This is a passion project, borne of personal experience and vision. We want to stay true to that vision. COMMUNITY - We seek a community that not only loves dogs, but loves how dogs interact with people. You will love the process of learning and feeling when watching this film. What better place than Kickstarter, where like-minded communities are created and fostered every day.
If you've got questions, please ask. Billy and his team are pleased to respond. At the top of the page on the left there is a small round image of Billy - click that, then click CONTACT ME to send a message.
PHOTO CREDITS AND SPECIAL THANKS
Risks and challenges
Making a full length feature film, documentary or otherwise, is a challenge for anyone, even for a major studio. It is a substantial endeavor, with many moving parts. Independent film producers have to especially be able to roll with the punches.
This campaign minimizes risk because we have a smart budget and scope of work, we are not starting from absolute scratch, and it's not Billy's first rodeo - so to speak. To date, we've done what we had to do - financing it from limited personal funds, etc.
The funds from KS will now allow us to complete final production, and that combined with other financing that is pre-arranged will allow us to add the post-production elements that can really make a film like this special.
In addition to the budget and scope of work, our time frames are reasonable. And it helps that the film is borne of great passion, with many cooperating players.
We therefore say with total confidence - when the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, this film will be made, it will be screened at festivals, and all rewards will be delivered fully, and on a timely basis.
Thanks for your support.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (47 days)