Filmmaker's Blog

I am a passionate filmmaker, and am inspired by those persons (and dogs!) who give selflessly, courageously.  I am also a professor, and learn as much from my students as I do from my books.

Palm Springs Film Festival NEWS: Standing O's & Best of the Fest ... Hollywood Reporter Review!

We were honored to be chosen as the "official selection" for the 2016 Palm Springs International Film Festival.    When I began this project I had a dream: Tell the story of K9 Search & Rescuers and their incredible dogs on the big screen.   SEARCHDOG is an epic journey where the viewer steps into the "skin" of K9 searchers who rely on dog partners to help them find the lost and the missing.  Intimately filmed over 4+ years we learn the language, patience, empathy and courage that these handlers practice with their dogs on searches in environments that are vast, daunting, dramatic ...  Here is the SEARCHDOG HOLLYWOOD REPORTER Review.

Festival response to SEARCHDOG:  Not only did we sell out our screenings, but we were voted by the audience as "Best of the Fest", which is thrilling for us.  Matt Zarella, his family & his dog Buster were in attendance alongside K9 handlers Scott Carlsten, Dan O'Neil and their families.  Chief SEARCHDOG strategist Kurt Jamiel (my awesome husband) and Jill Culora set up advance event recon and canine intel! (double woof!).  They shook hundreds of hands in advance of the screenings and petted lots of dogs and helped us to make wonderful connections at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter and dog parks. 

SEARCHDOG was among the top scorers in audience award voting at the Palm Springs International Film Festival!  Out of 126 films, four docs were selected for the Best of the Fest and SEARCHDOG was among them.  In no particular order the other three docs were Miss Sharon Jones by Barbara Kopple,  James Solomon's brilliant documentary The Witness, and The Birth of Sake by Erik Shirai.  We're honored to be in such great company.

Here is the SEARCHDOG summary from the Palm Springs International Film Festival Catalogue:

“I have always felt that dogs had a higher purpose on this earth, and it was up to the humans to make that happen,” says Matthew Zarrella, an internationally renowned K9 Search and Rescue Specialist, Rhode Island State police sergeant and unofficial “dog whisperer.”

As a youth, Zarella struggled in school with dyslexia, but developed confidence through his connection with dogs. Later, he became a leader in the Search and Rescue field. Now, he is training the next generation of Search and Rescue Specialists and preparing them to take the rigorous cadaver-search test.

Watching Zarella at work, we experience the highs and lows of cases that involve life at its most tragic or heroic, from people who have been murdered or committed suicide, to those whose lives hang in the balance. But it is the everyday scenes between Zarella and his dogs that you will remember most and may bring a tear to your eyes.

We're especially grateful to Ken Jacobson, David Ansen, Helen du Toit, Laura Henneman for selecting SEARCHDOG and placing us in the Annenberg Theater and we'd also like to thank the Desert Regional Medical Center for sponsoring the free community screening of SEARCHDOG.  BIG WOOF of THANK YOU to the University of RI Harrington School, Dean Winnie Brownell, and all of my colleagues & students.  Thanks for your support on this journey. It was an incredible #PSIFF16 experience all around.

We'd love to hear from you!