This Saturday, August 16th, a family movie titled, Miracle Dogs, will premiere on Animal Planet. The movie is “inspired” by my children’s book, Annie Loses Her Leg But Finds Her Way and stars my dogs and book characters, Max and Annie as well as Kate Jackson, Rue McClanahan, Stacy Keach, and other human beings. You might ask if making a movie based on your book was exciting, fun, and most of all, profitable. The answers are yes, yes, and NO (at least not yet).
I was thrilled when I got a call from Hollywood asking if I was interested in exploring the idea of making a family film using my book and my real English springer spaniels, Max and Annie. When I was asked if these family pets could be trained to “act” in a movie, with the confidence of the totally ignorant, I answered, “Yes, of course they can be trained to act in movies. They are brilliant geniuses, in fact!”
However, the training of the dogs actually turned out to be one of the easier aspects of this whole process.
Getting the movie contract and negotiating with “Hollywood” required a lot of time, patience, and a very expensive entertainment attorney! The project almost died several times (we don’t know why), and we spent almost eight months holding our breath, wondering if the movie had been shelved every time the phone rang.
Scheduling the filming was also touch and go. First it was March, then April–for sure. Filming started in May. There is a lot of hurry up and wait going on in moving making. Cast call may be at 8 a.m., but sometimes the dogs did not get on until 5 p.m. or later. Since they were the lowest on the pay scale, they got last priority in the schedule. Also, they didn’t get a trailer! All the human stars basked in beautiful RV’s with beds, kitchens, televisions, etc. I’m sure you get the picture. Max, Annie, and I hung out in my mini-van–so much for Hollywood glamour!
Still, when their scenes did come, it was great fun and exciting to see my dogs perform perfectly with the actors, cameramen, trainer, and myself in attendance. Like all great animals, they wanted to please and they did–at least with a little coaching and some great liver treats.
You might want to know if movie making is profitable for me, the author/publisher of the book that inspired it. The answer is NO. The contract paid us very little, and we do not get royalties. This was a small, independent film company that made the movie, not MGM. Still, we wanted the experience and were willing to work for dog biscuits, literally. It was our experience that because we were anxious to do the project, we had to take little or no pay for ourselves and the dogs in order to get the movie made. We had no star power to command big salaries or residuals or royalties. We wanted the project; that was the bottom line.
The movie has not been shown yet on national television, but it will be this Saturday! Will the showing of the movie drive sales of our independently published books? We honestly have no idea. We have used the movie to get publicity in our home state of Ohio where we are well known. Will all this translate into national attention for Max and Annie and our products? We admit to being somewhat frustrated with the movie company to whom we gave incentives to do cross -promotion. They promised a lot. Not much has happened yet.
Someone close to us asked the other day if we would do it all again, knowing what we have learned this time. I would do it again because I love the product. Miracle Dogs is a very nice family film that I am proud to have been associated with. All family members can watch and enjoy it together. There are not many films on the market that can make that claim. My books have brought joy to many people, especially those touched by cancer, and I believe children have been inspired to write their own stories by my school programs here in the Midwest.
So, if we don’t get a movie sequel (and an RV trailer) or sell a million books, the project will still have been a success from our perspective because Miracle Dogs and Annie Loses Her Leg But Finds Her Way will bring smiles, a few tears, laughs, and warm, inspiring stories to the families and children who see the film and read the book.
Sandy Philipson is an educator and writer. She has undergraduate degrees in history and education from the University of New Hampshire, a Master of Arts degree in history from Tufts University, and a CAGS (Master of Arts plus 30) in education and literacy from the University of Connecticut. She has also done post-graduate work in literacy and the reading and writing connection at Kent State University. Sandy has had a varied career as a teacher, marketing manager, researcher, and writer. She is currently a children’s author, speaker, and freelance literacy consultant.
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