Tips for Creating Your Own Dog Documentaries

Dennis Przywara’s two favorite things are dogs and documentaries.

“There’s never been a dog I didn’t like,” Przywara, a filmmaker and editor who lives in Los Angeles, says. “Seriously, I could live in the land of dogs if it existed!”

Przywara was inspired to make dog documentaries after talking it up with fellow animal lovers at a local dog park. Przywara enlisted the help of his two dogs, Lucky and Odie, to serve as “actors” to test out his new camera gear. His short films capture the lives of a beloved pup, the special bond they share with their owners, and the significance they play in the lives of those around them.

“My wife and I don’t have children, so our dogs were the children we never had,” explains Przywara. “Those dogs have been there for us during some of the hardest times in our lives. We look at the videos like a couple who’s been recording their child’s first steps, the first time they speak, their first prom. It’s not only the story of their lives, but also as a family.”

Przywara shares a few pro tips on how to make your own dog documentary:

Have patience.

No matter how old they are, they’re still just pups at heart. That said, they don’t always understand they’re stars in front of the camera. Let them be themselves, because after all, that’s why you love them in the first place!

Include yourself in the story.

Remember, the story is just as much about you as it is about them. So be sure to interview yourself as well. How did you meet your furry friend? Why did you want a dog in the first place? What made the bond happen that you had to have this dog as your own? Interview your pet’s friends, the neighbor that says “hi” to them, your partner, your kids—they’ll all have something interesting to say.

Get out of the house.

Take your dog to the park, a friend’s house, or where you normally hang out, and have fun with them. It will give your doggie more space to grow…and you never know what great stuff will happen!

Adjust the lighting to suit the color of your dog’s fur.

Different types of coats will reflect light in different lighting situations. A thin-haired yellow lab will need different lighting than a thin-haired black lab. It’s just like adjusting the lighting of a person according their skin tone. Every dog is different. Sometimes it’s best to do a simple test shot and check to see if lighting suits the needs of the presentation.

Check the microphone.

Make sure your human subject is properly mic’d in a way that it won’t interfere if the dog jumps or wants to play with its owner during the interview. If the mic is on the owner, make sure it’s secure and won’t move during the interview. Bad sound is sometimes really hard to fix, so you’ll want to pay close attention to the positioning of the mic.

Have fun.

Don’t worry about winning the next Oscar for fancy camera work. Just tell a fun, touching, and personal story about you and your best friend! You’ll do great, and your dog will love the free treats you give him for being a star.

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