This fall, Shawn Welling, director of viral hit video If I Could Talk and long-running dance web series The Avengers of eXtreme Illusions, travelled up north from his native Houston, Texas to film his newest project. The movie, a short film called If I Could Bark, is a sequel and companion piece to If I Could Talk, this time from a dog's perspective. Shawn shot the film over the course of four days in the summer and eight days in the fall, capturing the changing nature of New England. Filming took place in Windsor, Vermont, a charming town that bills itself as "the birthplace of Vermont,"a beautiful setting for the touching story. Far from being just a backdrop, however, the town comes to life and is almost a character in the film.
As a full-time fan and sometime writer for Welling Films, If I Could Bark is an exciting project, and I can't wait to see it. In anticipation of its release, I sat down with director Shawn Welling, to discuss some of the details and secrets of this short I'm so hyped for.
Miriam: What does If I Could Bark mean to you?
Shawn: If I Could Bark means that someone out there, who saw If I Could Talk, believed in it and the companion story enough to see it come to life, and the whole town basically came together behind this simple story, to make it into a film. If I Could Bark takes place 40 years after If I Could Talk and we are so very proud to have Mr. Don Miller play the lead along side of the famed english golden retriever Ranger (see bottom film still).
Miriam: How did this project get started?
Shawn: We were initially commissioned to do a music video for Don Miller's wonderful country song, called The Last Ride. We decided to do two films while we were up there, in Vermont.
Miriam: What was the process of shooting in small-town New England like?
Shawn: We were gambling with the executive producer whether the leaves would be falling, so we were thrilled that when we arrived, we hit the jackpot! It was just the perfect fall.
Miriam: You tend to work with a small group of talent. What was it like relocating and working with a new team?
Shawn: Well, the Miller family was extremely helpful. Heidi, their daughter, helped facilitate the animal work as a trainer. Honestly, this was a kind of a dream come true, since I got to do two films, one a music video, and one a companion piece of one of my favorite films I've done, and the crew I brought with me was my wife, Michelle, and one of my longtime producers, Jena Willard. Both are very talented photographers and film gurus.
Miriam: What was your daily shoot like?
Shawn: We usually got up around 7 - 8 AM, had a producer meeting on the Millers' ranch and go over the shots. Then we'd shoot until lunchtime, eat quickly and like kings with the best home cooked meals from Barbara miller, and get on it until dark, then sleep and repeat.
Miriam: How have you felt about the viral success of If I Could Talk?
Shawn: I'm very excited, because it allows me to do other projects that are heartfelt and meaningful. A lot of what makes If I Could Talk interesting is that it's the first opportunity I've had as a director to get a large audience based on the story, the cinematography, and the message, rather than the fame of the dancers involved. I'm a prolific camera guy. Currently the film has over 2 million views on our channel and 55 million views on combined face book threads. The festival runs and theatre screenings have been well received as well. We have high hopes for our Vermont projects and know that the experience of filming there has been tremendous. You've got to keep after it, and soon enough you'll make some cool stuff. But you don't always know which is going to be which, or who is going to think what.
Miriam: What’s it like working with your dogs?
Shawn: It's like working with a spoiled kid who's the hardest worker on set. We learn so much from them, and they have such a great time doing it. Well, they have a great time doing almost everything, anyway. They're dogs!
Miriam: What do you think is the most important lesson viewers can learn from this film?
Shawn: No lesson. The biggest lesson is what I learn from viewers' comments and the impact they have on me. The lesson is what you make of it.
Miriam: Wow, this sounds like such a beautiful film. So, when can we expect to see If I Could Bark?
Shawn: If I Could Bark is in post-production now. Expect to see it soon along with The Last Ride!
Miriam: Thank you so much for this interview. I can't wait.
Shawn: Me either. Thank you.
As a viewer, I can't wait to see what lessons I get to take away. Shawn believes that animal souls and human souls are very tightly knit, and I think that's a beautiful message. You can see it in the way his pets love him and feel so secure around him. Something tells me If I Could Bark won't be the last exploration of the canine soul we see from Shawn Welling, but it may be the most poignant.
Full credits and info on IMDB:
"If I Could Bark"
"The Last Ride"