In PICK OF THE LITTER, Phil, Primrose, Potomac, Patriot, and Poppet are all in the running for a vitally important, life-changing job, but they’ll have to make it through intense training first. These five adorable puppies from the same litter are candidates to become guide dogs for the blind. Dana Nachman and Don Hardy follow them from birth through training to see which dogs have what it takes to be paired with one of the 500 applicants seeking their assistance, including Janet, waiting for her fourth dog, and Ron, waiting for his first.
We spoke with Director/Producer/Editor/Cinematographer Don Hardy about all things puppies - read more with Don, and then bring your family to see PICK OF THE LITTER on Wed, June 20 at 1pm and/or Thurs, June 21 at 10am!
NFF: How did you find/come to this story and meet the puppies?
DON: My filmmaking partner Dana Nachman and I had known about organization Guide Dogs for the Blind for many years. We'd done a few stories on them during our time at the NBC affiliate in San Francisco in the early 2000s and always thought they would make for a good documentary. Years later, after we'd left television and made a few documentaries, the idea of doing something on guide dogs resurfaced and we thought it would be great to focus the film on a single litter of puppies. The nice folks from Guide Dogs for the Blind liked the concept and trusted us to as filmmakers so then we waited for the right moment to begin filming. Our litter was born on June 2nd, 2015. Poppet, Patriot, Primrose, Potomac and Phil.
NFF: Did you become attached to these dogs (and trainers/owners) during filming, or were you able to remain objective?
DON: Definitely. We knew the dogs very well and they knew us. It's always a challenge to remain objective with your characters (human or canine) in documentaries, but I think we did a good job of following the stories as they unfolded and those twists and turns are seen in the film. It's a real roller-coaster ride.
NFF: Are you still in touch with all of the owners (and dogs)?
DON: Yep. We're still in touch with everybody and many of the dogs and people featured in the film have come out to screenings help us share the story with audiences. Lots of other guide dogs in training have come out to see the film as well. It's great fun to see a theater full of dogs enjoying PICK OF THE LITTER.
NFF: Did filming/working with animals present any particular challenges you weren't anticipating?
DON: Yeah...a ton of them. The biggest challenge was keeping up with the dogs during the final weeks of training. They move quickly down the street and we had to develop a camera-rig that would allow us to move side-by-side with them and not impede their training process.
NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?
DON: I've always heard great things about the Nantucket Film Festival and this is the first time I've had a film I directed selected to be part of the lineup.
I hope audiences learn a bit more about these amazing dogs and the intense training they go through in order to take on the job of working with a person who is blind. Also, these days we are bombarded with negativity and it can feel hopeless at times. If audiences can sit back and enjoy this story of kindness and, in some small way, have their faith in the goodness of people restored for at least a couple hours I'll be happy.