Just over a year ago, my good friend and filmmaker Rich Brauer approached me with interest in doing a film about the Dogman legend. While several good screenplays have been written over the years (one, I’m told, ending up on Ron Howard’s desk), Rich’s proposal was the one that really caught my attention. Rich is a laser-focused guy. When he sets his mind to something, it gets done, without equivocation.
On Wednesday, December 14th, the end result of that first meeting, and all the intense labor in between, came to fruition. On a warm and misty night in December, at the beautifully restored State Theater in downtown Traverse City, “Dogman” hit the big screen.
Both showings of the film, at 6 and 8:30pm, had sold out just three days after tickets became available. On premiere night, the box office had not a single ticket to sell. Scores of people waited in stand-by lines, hoping to grab (or scalp) a spare ticket, or a will-call ticket whose owner couldn’t make it.
Jack O’Malley, the morning man at WTCM Radio (and the guy who first made the suggestion that we needed something for April Fools Day back in 1987) orchestrated a Northern Michigan-style “Red Carpet” event. All of the actors attending the premiere, Rich, and I, were loaded aboard a huge black limo and driven to the State Theater at 5:30. There, Jack and Colleen Wares waited to interview each of us in turn. Two professional photographers, one still and one video, captured the moment.
Inside the theater, an absolutely packed house. The popcorn machine in the concession area was running non-stop. There was not a spare seat anywhere. In fact, the State had to set up some folding chairs in the few open floor spaces for media. On the screen, a ghostly backlit logo said “Dogman World Premier.” The famous State Theater ceiling, which replicates the Northern Michigan night sky, twinkled softly.
Then, it began. Three beats on a skin drum over a black screen, then a rousing title theme – a blend of native American and Irish folk – and the opening credits rolled. Having seen the movie two weeks prior, I knew what to expect; when the humor and “jump” moments were coming, so I had the advantage of watching and listening to the audience reactions. They came exactly as expected.
All too soon, the blunt, twist-filled ending came, and the end credits scrolled across the screen. Rich and I, along with actors Stacie Hadgikosti, Tom Ciluffo, and Luke Bonczyk went on stage for a period of questions and answers. The audience was engaged, interested, excited. They had pointed and intriguing queries. We loved it.
The after party at Phil’s on Front (a local gourmet bistro across from the State) was filled with energy. Following the second showing of the film – which started almost 40 minutes late due to the logistics of unpacking one full house and replacing it with another – the same Q & A group returned for another session on stage.
In all, it was a night that will become a highlight-reel memory for all of us who had a role in making this film. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
The film will show in several theaters in Michigan in the early part of 2012. Once a distributor picks it up, it may get wider theatrical release, or be sold to a cable network, eventually going to DVD. Hope you get a chance to see it. When you do, drop me a line and tell me what you think!