The Dog Film Festival and Cat Film Festival are precisely what you’d expect, a collection of films about the top two pets of just about every human on the planet, and the mastermind behind the whole thing is Tracie Hotchner.
The five years running, the Dog Film Festival premieres in New York then travels the world on a digital wave powered by dog fans. The festival collects films about our furry friends that range from hilarious to so heartwarming that a person could bake bread with the heat. It might sound impossible that a festival about dogs or cats would have enough programming, but pets are deeply connected to human existence and run the gamut of shared human experiences.
Tracie’s connection to dogs goes way back but also takes two forms — personal and professional. “I grew up with a dog. He was my brother. They got him six months before me, and there are all these pictures of me crawling around with him and sharing snacks.”
“I always had dogs and donkeys,” Tracie says, “lots of animals. But in terms of dogs, always. In my adult life, I’ve always had at least two, if not three, dogs.”
Professionally, Tracie began research on her books the Dog Bible and Cat Bible roughly 15 years ago, leading to becoming a pet influencer. “My awareness of dogs and how important they are in other people’s lives began since doing research.” Most of us think about ourselves and not other people and how animals affect them.”
About Film Festivals
Tracie’s no stranger to the cinematic world. As an author, she’s written several screenplays and for TV shows. “The power of the visual image to delight or inform or inspire is something I’ve always been aware of. Several filmmakers came on as interviewees for my radio show, and that’s when I began to think about the possibility that there were other films out there.”
“The more I looked, the more I realized there was a lot of filmmaking going on,” Tracie declares. “And it was just for the passion of filmmaking like all short films are. Not to make money, not to be famous, but because the people are passionate about the subject.”
“The film festivals came out of the realization of the joy that people get from pets.”
The Dog Film Festival is a lineup of movies highlighting humanity’s best friends in a wide-range of touching ways. One story follows inmates at a prison who are part of a unique program where they train dogs. “I think they’ve had their lives transformed by taking care of dogs.”
Another story follows the bond between a handicapped dog and his disabled owner and how the furry one teaches the human to embrace life despite their disadvantages. Some are funny, some are joyfully sad, but all the films are immensely satisfying. “There will be more versions of the streaming Dog and Cat film festivals. More free, delightful entertainment.”
Love & Dogs
Tracie is the host of Dog Talk And Kitties, Too, a radio show on NPR. The thing I’ve figured out over all these years is that unconditional love is a misplaced term. I think dogs and cats let us have the experience of giving unconditional love. It’s not the receiving of it.”
“People always say, ‘Oh, I love dogs because they love you unconditionally,’” Tracie brings up a phrase familiar to most dog owners. “But they don’t,” she adds, “we don’t know how they love us. We love them, unconditionally. They poop, eat a shoe, and make a mess, but we spend money, time, and energy to look after them. But unconditionally, we want to do it; it’s us who’s doing it. I think that’s an interesting thing I’ve come to realize.”
The average person moves from one environment to the next, whether it be an office setting or public, where we often disconnect from certain emotions. “The thing that moves us is connecting to our own emotions,” Tracie argues, “it’s important that we say, ‘These emotions are good.’ It’s good to have emotions. Sometimes pets are the only way we can access these really deep feelings of love, sadness, or anxiety.”
“Connecting to the feeling of loving an animal,” Tracie adds, “is a way of connecting to your empathy or feeling of connectedness. It’s a great feeling.”
Tracie The Author
At 25, Tracie wrote Pregnancy & Childbirth, which sold millions and made her “a premiere voice for pregnant women. I’d become a guru and wrote three or four books. I discovered there are things people don’t know about that they want to know about.”
I share with Tracie my thought that my dog thinks he’s a God because he gets love and attention (and treats!) sometimes for doing nothing. “It’s funny you should say that because I’m working on a children’s book. In it is a little girl who’s 12 and gets to have a dog for the first time. It talks to her saying things like that.”
“It’s so much fun imagining a slightly sarcastic, bright, with-it dog saying ‘Why are they doing that? What’s wrong with these people?’”
The Dog Film Festival is hours of programming featuring films as short as a minute to as long as thirty minutes. For Tracie, short filmmakers are “the poets of the film world. People don’t write poetry because they want to be rich or famous; they do it because they’re driven. It’s the purest form of expression.”
Short filmmakers are a passionate bunch, and Tracie likens them to those same passionate poets. “I think the same is true of short films, especially if it’s about animals because it costs a lot of money and time and people are likely not going to see it. So, the film festival became a way for these people to have a platform.”
Will you be watching The Dog Film Festival?
Thanks to Tracie Hotchner and October Coast
for making this interview possible.
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