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RELIANCE is a film about Matthew Zarrella, a search specialist who transforms pound dogs into Search & Rescue K9s.
SEARCHDOG is a film about Matthew Zarrella, a search specialist who transforms pound dogs into Search & Rescue K9s.
SEARCHDOG is a film about Matthew Zarrella, a search specialist who transforms pound dogs into Search & Rescue K9s.
531 backers pledged $73,498 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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RELIANCE - A Documentary Film

$73,498

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Why am I making RELIANCE? In honor of the missing. In honor of victims lost and found. RELIANCE is a testament to the human spirit and the animal spirit, that when combined - is an incomparable force. This is the force that can save lives or bring a loved one home.

"The strength of the wolf is the pack -- and the strength of the pack is the wolf! -Rudyard Kipling

Our $70,000 goal will pay for editing, completion of our original animations, original music score and final sound mix. We believe in the story of RELIANCE so strongly that we are willing to risk the all-or nothing that Kickstarter requires: if we do not raise $70,000, all the money is returned to backers and we get…nothing! Your card is NOT charged unless WE are SUCCESSFUL by January 2nd!

Studying these teams over the last three years I’ve discovered that while language and symbols are the basis for human communication, we often miss other forms of knowing because we sometimes over-emphasize the value of word-based communication, and we distrust our own instincts. Leadership isn’t derived from what one says, but from what one does and how his/her movements and actions make others feel deep inside. Watching dogs work with and learn from their handlers has taught me that true leadership has little to do with words and a lot to do with a strongly cultivated determination to succeed at one’s task despite all odds, despite complete risk of failure in the most public way. What moves us to act at another’s request? We want to please them, we want to enjoy the challenge of our difficult task and we want to enjoy the ‘reward’ of mutual celebration when we succeed – that is what the dogs have taught me.

Thank you NBC's Tom Winter, Stephanie Gosk, & the TODAY show for bringing the national spotlight to RELIANCE! Click here to see the show: http://nbcnews.to/1jOgncT

I have a successful filmmaking record: My previous documentary, Holy Water-Gate, premiered in the U.S. on Showtime and broadcast on CBC/Canada, SBS/Australia, TVE Spain, RTSI/Switzerland, DR/Denmark and ORF/Austria and then again in the U.S. on the Documentary Channel.

RELIANCE is an immersive, experiential documentary. Filming searches and trainings over the last three years has afforded me the circumspection to cultivate a creative vision for how this story should be told. RELIANCE brings the audience alongside Zarrella and his K9 teams and reveals the gripping world of missing person searches. In many cases, the use of dogs in searches may mean life or death for a missing victim, or the ability to help provide answers or closure for decades-old tragedies. In RELIANCE, you will meet these human-dog teams and get to know them intimately. 

RELIANCE Paw Beanie
RELIANCE Paw Beanie

It is “Go-Time” for Post Production and we are READY! But we cannot do it without your contribution.

Please look through our RELIANCE rewards below and SHARE our page with your friends and family. You can help bring this inspiring story to the big screen. We truly appreciate your support!

K9 Buster modeling our RELIANCE paw dog collar!
K9 Buster modeling our RELIANCE paw dog collar!
RELIANCE Paw Bumper Sticker 3x5 Clear.
RELIANCE Paw Bumper Sticker 3x5 Clear.
RELIANCE Paw T-Shirt
RELIANCE Paw T-Shirt
RELIANCE Paw T-Shirt (Back). Yes, It's GO TIME!
RELIANCE Paw T-Shirt (Back). Yes, It's GO TIME!
Limited edition 8x10 Print RELIANCE Search dog PAWTOGRAPH on Fine Art Paper
Limited edition 8x10 Print RELIANCE Search dog PAWTOGRAPH on Fine Art Paper
Original RELIANCE sculpture by artist Allison Newsome. 6" x 8.5" x 5.5" Clay.
Original RELIANCE sculpture by artist Allison Newsome. 6" x 8.5" x 5.5" Clay.

Drawing on Zarrella’s video diaries, filmmaker interviews and extensive vérité footage, which chronicles his searches and follows a class of trainees from their initial pairings to certification, RELIANCEwill provide a window into the extraordinary work done by these bands of humans and canines.

RELIANCE brings the audience alongside Zarrella and his K9 teams and reveals the gripping world of missing person searches. In many cases, the use of dogs in searches may mean life or death for a missing victim, or the ability to help provide answers or closure for decades-old tragedies. You will meet these human-dog teams and get to know them intimately. You will develop a bond with these dogs. They will surpass your expectations. These dogs, like some of the victims that they search for, were at one point “written off” or “left for dead,” but as we get to know these animals and their patient handlers, we learn that these dogs have something unique to teach us about the limits of human knowledge, and the mystery of the human-animal bond. Dogs have the capacity to help humans in ways we are only just beginning to understand.

The nature of missing persons searches is incredibly stressful – for the families, for the missing and for the first responders who are charged with the responsibility of finding the person, alive or dead. All of the first responders must conduct a search as if it is a potential crime scene.  This adds a level of stress and responsibility to each person walking that search area, whether with a dog or as a bumpline searcher or navigator.  The pressure on every searcher is incredible.

RELIANCE will capture this part of the story about missing persons searches; emotions that underlie the searches are intense and the stakes are incredibly high, especially when you have a missing child.  Even more, to the dog, a search is a game and the handler must stay upbeat for their dog partner to keep him going. K9 Search & Rescue is a physically exhausting and mentally disciplined endeavor. Calm is crucial for success. What becomes important on the searches for the handlers is finding a way to maintain that upbeat attitude, and the dogs  help with that upbeat energy. K9 handlers are positive, high energy people, and so are their dogs, so their energy feeds off one another and is really amazing to see in the midst of very stressful conditions. 

Ultimately, our goal is to have U.S. and international release of RELIANCE, which will include national and international community screenings, festivals and broadcasts. If we raise more than our goal, we can bring the film to community screenings to our 16,000  dedicated Facebook and Twitter fans across the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Europe!

Let's GO!

Searching millfire remnants for possible missing persons
Searching millfire remnants for possible missing persons
Legendary K-9 Search Specialist Andy Rebmann, 1990.
Legendary K-9 Search Specialist Andy Rebmann, 1990.
Eye contact from Max to Matt indicating he's "in scent"
Eye contact from Max to Matt indicating he's "in scent"
Filming Scott Carleston & K9 Bear on a watersearch
Filming Scott Carleston & K9 Bear on a watersearch
K9 Disaster Training
K9 Disaster Training
Bark-barrrel training. Yes, pitbull terriers make talented search & rescue dogs!
Bark-barrrel training. Yes, pitbull terriers make talented search & rescue dogs!
Matt & K9 Panzer Searching for MIA's in Vietnam, 2003
Matt & K9 Panzer Searching for MIA's in Vietnam, 2003
A still from a RELIANCE animation by Daniel Sousa
A still from a RELIANCE animation by Daniel Sousa

Risks and challenges

Filmmaking is a long-term commitment. Some of the greatest challenges for this project are behind us: obtaining access and official permissions to film with search teams, developing collaborations with animator Daniel Sousa, Composer and Musician Timothy Maurice, shooting 100+ days. Our most pressing challenge is to secure an editor, of the caliber of our Consulting Editor, Mary Lampson, who shares her sensibilities and and sensitivities, and who can take on a project that has the inherent challenges of verite filmmaking. Unless we are fully funded, we cannot secure a schedule with an editor. We have a well organized project & vision going into post production, a clear understanding of the limits and strengths of the project.

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  1. Select this reward

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    A Big WOOF of THANKS – Your name on our website's Wall of Thanks.

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    It's GO TIME! RELIANCE Bumper Sticker.

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    (10) Beautiful & unique RELIANCE Documentary Film Screen Savers.

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    Your name in a big WOOF of thanks on the RELIANCE Web site's "Wall of Thanks" & RELIANCE e-Badge for your Facebook or Twitter page & 10 beautiful RELIANCE Screen Savers.

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    "It's GO TIME" for your head! RELIANCE PAW Beanie Hat.

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    “It’s Go-Time!” RELIANCE T-Shirt.

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    For your best friend! RELIANCE Dog Collar.

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    “It’s Go-Time!” RELIANCE T-Shirt & RELIANCE PAW Bumper Sticker.

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    Limited Edition RELIANCE Search & Rescue dog Paw Print on Fine Art Paper (8 x 10) & a RELIANCE Paw Bumper Sticker.

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    Digital Download of RELIANCE Documentary & RELIANCE e-Badge!

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    RELIANCE Documentary DVD + RELIANCE Bumper Sticker.

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    SuperDog Package!
    RELIANCE Bumper Sticker, Beanie Hat, Dog Collar, AND a RELIANCE Collapsible Dog Bowl. Your dog will love you for it!

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    Super Fan Package! RELIANCE Paw Beanie Hat
    "It's GO-TIME" T-Shirt, 2 RELIANCE Bumper Stickers!

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    YOUR NAME on the big screen! Your name in the rolling credits & digital download of RELIANCE!

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    Digital Delux! YOUR NAME in the rolling credits, a digital download of RELIANCE, your name in a big WOOF of thanks on the RELIANCE Web site's "Wall of Thanks" & RELIANCE e-Badge for your Facebook or Twitter page & 10 beautiful RELIANCE Screen Savers.

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    IN HONOR OF THOSE THAT SERVE: We’ll post your dedication and a photo of the K-9 Police Officer, or SAR Dog Handler in your life on our website: IN HONOR OF THOSE THAT SERVE special gallery.

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    YOUR NAME on the big screen, and you get the DVD to prove it! Your name in the rolling credits + DVD.

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    Your name on the big screen, and you get the DVD to PROVE it! Your name in the rolling credits + DVD.

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    You're in the rolling credits Digital SuperFan!
    YOUR NAME on the big screen! Your name in the rolling credits & digital download of RELIANCE! PLUS Super Fan Package! RELIANCE Paw Beanie Hat "It's GO-TIME" T-Shirt, 2 RELIANCE Bumper Stickers!

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    You're in the rolling credits DVD SuperFan! YOUR NAME on the big screen! Your name in the rolling credits & DVD of RELIANCE! PLUS Super Fan Package! RELIANCE Paw Beanie Hat "It's GO-TIME" T-Shirt, 2 RELIANCE Bumper Stickers!

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    Rolling Credits Super Dog!
    YOUR NAME in the rolling credits of the film, a digital download of RELIANCE + a DVD of RELIANCE & the Super Dog Package!

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    “RELIANCE Fan Gallery”! Your name in the rolling credits PLUS send us an appropriate digital photo of you and/or your dog to be displayed on the RELIANCE website’s “Fan Gallery”. Plus a digital download of RELIANCE.

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    Combo Package A, includes YOUR NAME in the rolling credits, SuperDog Package & SuperFan Package, Digital Download, DVD & E-badge

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    "IN MEMORIAL". On-Screen display of your dog's name, captioned by his/her birth & death date, along with the name of his/her geographic location (state, country).

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    Combo Package B! "IN MEMORIAL" on-Screen display of your dog's name, captioned by his/her birth & death date, along with the name of his/her geographic location (state, country), PLUS the SuperDog & SuperFan Packages, a DVD and the Digital Download of RELIANCE.

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    SPECIAL THANKS SCREEN CREDIT before the rolling credits, plus a Digital Download of RELIANCE plus a DVD, The SuperDog Package, e-Badge, Screensavers, Big Woof of Thanks on our Wall of Thanks plus a RELIANCE T-Shirt.

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    Combo Package C! "IN MEMORIAL" on-Screen display of your dog's name, captioned by his/her birth & death date, along with the name of his/her geographic location (state, country). PLUS the SuperDog & SuperFan Packages, a DVD, the Digital Download of RELIANCE, 10 beautiful screen savers from RELIANCE and a RELIANCE e-badge!

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    Combo Package D
    Combo Package C PLUS your name in the rolling credits!

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    Combo Package E
    All of Combo Package C PLUS “RELIANCE Fan Gallery”! Your name in the rolling credits PLUS send us an appropriate digital photo of you and/or your dog to be displayed on the RELIANCE website’s “Fan Gallery”. Plus a digital download of RELIANCE.

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    Combo Package F
    In Memorial PLUS Special Thanks Credit! "IN MEMORIAL". On-Screen display of your dog's name, captioned by his/her birth & death date, along with the name of his/her geographic location (state, country). SPECIAL THANKS SCREEN CREDIT before the rolling credits, plus a Digital Download of RELIANCE plus a DVD, The SuperDog Package, e-Badge, Screensavers, Big Woof of Thanks on our Wall of Thanks plus a RELIANCE T-Shirt.

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    VERY SPECIAL THANKS SCREEN CREDIT after top production credits, before the Special Thanks Credits. Plus a Digital Download of RELIANCE, a DVD, The SuperDog Package, e-Badge, Screensavers, Big Woof of Thanks on our Wall of Thanks plus a RELIANCE T-Shirt. Pending approval and acceptance of the filmmaker.

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    In Memorial & Special Thanks Screen Credits! "IN MEMORIAL". On-Screen display of your dog's name, captioned by his/her birth & death date, along with the name of his/her geographic location (state, country). SPECIAL THANKS SCREEN CREDIT before the rolling credits, plus a Digital Download of RELIANCE plus a DVD, The SuperDog Package, e-Badge, Screensavers, Big Woof of Thanks on our Wall of Thanks plus a RELIANCE T-Shirt.

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    In Memorial & VERY Special Thanks Screen Credits! "IN MEMORIAL". On-Screen display of your dog's name, captioned by his/her birth & death date, along with the name of his/her geographic location (state, country). SPECIAL THANKS SCREEN CREDIT before the rolling credits, plus a Digital Download of RELIANCE plus a DVD, The SuperDog Package, e-Badge, Screensavers, Big Woof of Thanks on our Wall of Thanks plus a RELIANCE T-Shirt.

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    YOU'RE A MOVIE PRODUCER! Associate Producer Credit appears in the production credits before Very Special Thanks Credit. Plus a Digital Download of RELIANCE and a DVD, The SuperDog Package, e-Badge, Screensavers, Big Woof of Thanks on our Wall of Thanks plus a RELIANCE T-Shirt. Pending approval and acceptance of the filmmaker.

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    "Supporter of the Arts" Screen Credit, plus a RELIANCE original sculpture in clay by artist Allison Newsome, plus a Digital Download of RELIANCE.

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    RELIANCE Sponsor. Your name or company's name in an "In Association with" credit at the open of the film. Also, your name or company's name or logo prominently displayed as Sponsor on the film's website. All Digital rewards plus 4x all tangible rewards, except the sculpture. Pending approval and acceptance of the filmmaker.

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    RELIANCE Major Sponsor. "In Association with our Major Sponsor" credit. Your name or your company's name at as the sole credit for 5 seconds at the open of the film. Also, your name or company's name or logo prominently displayed as Major Sponsor on the film's website. All Digital rewards plus 4x all tangible rewards, except the sculpture. Pending approval and acceptance of the filmmaker.

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Funding period

- (35 days)