As most of you know, Shawn Welling was a recipient of over 50 accredited IMDB Film Festival awards and is the creator of award-winning titles, including his viral dog film sensation "If I Could Talk."
I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to discuss his ideology behind the film, the online response, and future projects branched from the short film's success.
Lauren: So where did you get the idea for your short film "If I Could Talk"?
Shawn: This film is actually based on a comic book strip that I found online (a big thank you to Wayne Slaten for sharing). I contacted the comic strip writer, Mark Glavin, and I asked him if I could make a film from it. He creates a comic book series called "Übertool Comics."
I acquired the rights and then added my own blocks of text and story-telling to expand the 7-block comic to a 12-15 block.
Lauren: So the comic was the basis of the story then. What did you add to the comic that made it unique or different?
Shawn: This story was based off of my first Golden Retriever who ended up getting cancer when I was about 12 years old. He was my very first dog. I used the same story line and feelings from that to add onto the story that Mark Glavin had done in his cartoon strip, but included my own personal journey.
Lauren: Very cool. How did your success with "If I Could Talk" escalate after that, and when did you go viral?
Shawn: I began to film it, cultivate it, work on it, and even had a friend, Reule, to create the piano score for it. We shot for a budget of about $1,000 total, and we put it together and posted it online. I was super excited when I saw how fast it could acquire 10,000 hits. To me, that was a big deal for a non-dance film, because most of my YouTube videos have dance films with popular dancers on them. I then entered it into some film festivals, and it won "Best of Festival" at Gulf Coast Film Festival, the "Crystal Award" in the WorldFest Film Festival, "Audience's Choice" in the Charleston Film Festival, and "Official Selection" in UK's Film Festival.
It was posted on YouTube March 27, 2015, but the Facebook recognition was pretty recent, about 3 weeks ago. It was getting about 1,000 views on YouTube regularly, but when it was posted on Facebook (posted May 31, 2016) by Dogs Tab and then HypeDojo on July 5th, it reached a million views per day. Then it really got crazy... 30,000 comments, approximately 450K shares, cumulative 23 million views on Facebook and 43,000 views on YouTube daily.
Lauren: Does this open up a new window for you in the online film industry?
Shawn: I have a contract with YouTube, so my online presence before this came about was about 20 million views. They were primarily dance films, but every project I film goes online. It's great because the film that went viral didn't include any famous actors or notable dancers; it was just my dog.
Lauren: What's next for you? Are you planning any more dog films?
Shawn: Yes, actually. I'm currently planning one called "If I Could Bark." It begins with an elderly man who has a wonderful relationship with his wife, and the opening line is, "Julia, you are my everything, you are my life." The next scene is him walking out of a hospital and he's sad and lost without her, whispering, "Julia, you were everything, you were my life." Walking out of a grocery store, he sees rescued puppies with a sign above them, saying, "Please Save Us, We Are Lost." He feels a connection with the puppy, because he also feels lost, and as a result he decides to adopt one of the dogs. It revolves around the idea: "If I could bark, I'd tell you thank you for making me smile again." So that one is in the works, and hopefully will be released around late fall.
Lauren: That sounds amazing, and I'm excited to see what other projects you have in store for us.
Check out the full film here: