3 years ago I came upon a YouTube clip of a man, James Smoak, kneeling next to his car beside a Nashville highway, screaming as a police officer shot his dog with a shotgun. It was like every dog owner’s greatest horror played out before me. Clearly an anomaly, I thought. Before I could even consider the outcome, my fingers were typing “cop shoots dog” into the search engine. That began the opening of my eyes. And an internal voice saying something must be done to stop this. I wondered if a documentary could be that something.
In a suburban backyard in Fort Worth, TX I learned an interesting filmmaking lesson: It’s hard to focus a camera when your eyes are welling with tears. I had asked Cindy Boling simply, “Can you explain what happened?” From there she walked me and fellow filmmaker, Patrick Reasonover, from one end of her property to the other, not simply telling us what happened, but re-living it. If a police officer arrived at a wrong address, my address, and proceeded to shoot my dog, I suspect re-living that experience would be about the last thing I’d ever want to do. But Cindy was doing exactly that. Why? Because she also believes something must be done to stop this.
So do Cheye Calvo, Michael Paxton, Cherrie Shelton and so many others. An estimated 10,000 families a year suffer a loss like this according to the Department of Justice. Films are made from light but they can also be a light in and of themselves, shining on the issues of our time and bringing us awareness we didn’t have before. That has always been the hope for Of Dogs and Men.
We set out to make a film that is so much more than an examination of an issue, it is a celebration of why this issue is so important in the first place: our dogs. Their unique personalities, unwavering loyalty, and unconditional love make them endearing family members from the moment we bond. From dog owners to law enforcement to activists and politicians, we took a journey with them all in search of the truth at the core of these shootings. Our dogs and our peace officers both act as our protectors, but they are colliding with tragic results. My hope is that Of Dogs and Men represents something being done to stop it. I hope it opens eyes. I hope it affects change. And, I hope we all see an end to these tragedies. Our dogs deserve that.
- Michael “Oz” Ozias