New Doc Explores “Dog’s Best Friend”

Cindy, Brilliant Border Collie

Cindy, a brilliant border collie, came to us from my wife’s family farm.

Displaced by changing circumstance, her herding instincts, drive to please, boundless energy and loving personality made her a perfect companion. 

But of course the day arrived much too soon when she had to leave us. Her passing opened a hole in my heart that has never been filled. A hole so wide and deep that I’m afraid to try filling with another dog for fear of having it open even wider.

My most recent documentary film project “Dog’s Best Friend” is an unabashed attempt to live vicariously through others who have given their hearts to a dog. Those who welcome the responsibility of caring for the animal companion whose life has been intertwined with ours for millennia. 

Feeding, grooming, walking, training, snuggling and yes, picking up pooh all exchanged for pure fun, unconditional love, conversation, inspiration and a warm body to hold,.

If you’ve ever loved a dog, you’ll love “Dog’s Best Friend”

New documentary series from Dwight Storring

In this 5-part series viewers explore life-changing stories of five families through the eyes of their dogs. They meet an aging Great Dane, an athletic German Shorthaired Pointer, a wire-haired rescue dog, two French Bulldogs and a Bullmastiff as they navigate their changing family lives. These dogs have formed extraordinary bonds with their human companions. 

The series produced for Bell Media, launched on its Fibe TV1 community channel for Bell  subscribers in November 2020. 

A public premiere is scheduled for January 2021 – details to come. In the meantime, checkout these episode summaries.

The series was made with the generous support of Rode Microphones.

If you’ve ever loved a dog you will love “Dog’s Best Friend”:

Episode 1 – Teagan

Great Dane Teagan comforted her family, Carolyn and Kevin, as they struggled to start a family. After 6 years with no success, a newborn suddenly arrives in their lives and changes everything. Watch as Hunter becomes the centre of family life, and Teagan enters her senior years.

Episode 2 – Ramsey

Ramsey, an athletic 3-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, likes nothing better than diving, swimming, pulling or agility training. Fortunately his humans, Lindsy and Michael, are happy to run, swim and train right along side him. Ramsey fulfils Lindsy’s childhood dream of becoming an animal trainer, while offering Michael unquestioning companionship.

Episode 3 – Weechee

Weechee, a wiry-haired rescue dog, works alongside Josh in his psychotherapy practice, but Weechee’s most important work is at home where he’s best friend to Josh Jr. and Mike – adopted sons of Josh and husband Nick. Both boys are on the autism spectrum. Weechee supports them as they establish a new life. 

Episode 4 – Roxy (and Maple)

Just a few weeks after French Bulldog Roxy arrived in her new home, 11-year-old Abby was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of leukaemia. Through months of treatment and recovery, Roxy shares her love and companionship with the whole family. With Abby in a promising remission, Roxy is joined by another Frenchie, Maple. Together, they bring new hope and joy. 

Episode 5 – Buttercup

Bullmastiff Buttercup first arrived at Country Meadows at 8-weeks-old in the arms of retirement home manager Sal. Since then she has bonded with residents, bringing a sense of home and spreading her doggie joy as she makes her rounds of residents’ rooms and common areas. 

Thank you to
Rode Microphones for supporting this project.

How to bang a pot and change the world

Pandemic, COVID 19, novel corona virus, respirators, PPE, lockdown, self-isolation, hand washing protocol … everyday words now in spring 2020. 

These days I reach out and grab hold of any moment of intimacy – no matter how small – because this pandemic has not changed the fact that our lives on earth are fully intertwined.

Staying at home rubs agains the grain. We want to bust out – spend time with friends on the patio; make a special dinner for our kids; get in the car and drive 10 hours to sleep in the guest room; hug our special people.

When my wife suggested I make a video about the daily pot-banging ritual on our street, I thought it would be a balm for my mind rubbed raw by the day-to-day, but it became much more. Each evening as I made my way to the front yard of a neighbour’s house to safely set up my gear, a new perspective was revealed. Each household drew from their life experiences to infuse the daily ritual with their unique meaning, the meaning passed from person to person and then united in the clanging. I felt a closeness to humanity I hadn’t experienced in weeks.

So, when we raise an arm to bang a pot with a wooden spoon, wave to an neighbour or blow kisses to the camera with our 3-year-old we tug on the threads connecting us – one to the other.

We are not only honouring the frontline and essential workers who risk there lives daily to keep us safe and care for the sick, but we are also remembering the importance of caring for each other.

If you like this video I urge you to seek out opportunities in your own community to connect safely and care for others. The story of our lives unfolds moment by moment. Each choice we make echoes around the world.

Mystery House Found

Keith Shantz House

The John Lingwood mystery house was tracked down in a matter of hours after my recent post on here and on the Facebook page for my film “Finding John Lingwood“.

It’s perched on the very edge of the city, at 2219 Ottawa St., S. Kitchener at the intersection with Trussler Road. Based on information found in the Lingwood office project list it was commissioned by successful industrialist and owner of Morval-Durafoam Ltd., Keith Shantz in 1967.

Mr. Shantz married Winifred McLaren (nee Fitch) in 1973 – a second marriage for both. They were renowned for their support of the arts as founding supporters of Waterloo’s Clay and Glass Gallery, establishment of the Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics,
the Keith and Winifred Shantz International Research Scholarship and other important contributions.

The home showcases some of John Lingwood’s favourite materials – field stone and wood. Also in the work, we see his commitment to complementing the terrain. This respect for the physical attributes of the building lot also shows up in the twenty Manchester Road houses that will be featured in the film (due out later this year). All the homes in this group have terraced lots. The houses are carved into the hillside with tall front windows that look out on a wooded conservation area.

Terrain also figures deeply in the Lingwood family cottage on Burnt Island in Georgian Bay – in the selection of the building site and the positioning of the cottage deep in the forest, where chunks of the Canadian Shield actually poke into the interior of the building. In the film, we make a return visit to the cottage with one of John’s daughters, after a 20 year absence.

In the Shantz house we see the influence of the great American modernist architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The modest entrance is tucked into the back west corner of the house where you anticipate entering the expansive interior, speaks directly to Wright’s thoughts on compression and expansion.

The Wrightian influence is also present in Lingwood’s 1960 commission – the Carmel New Church on Chapel Hill Dr., Kitchener – another site featured in the film. However, he  bring’s his own vision of materials and meaning to this design resulting in a building that show’s John Lingwood at the pinnacle of his architectural mastery and positions Wright’s ideas as sub-text.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 9.00.29 AM
Google maps areial view shows the extent of the woodlot

The Shantz house and surrounding property were purchased by Stephen Moxey in 2012 after Winifred’s death the same year. Mr. Moxey applied for, and got, a permit from the Region of Waterloo to clear the trees from the lot in 2016. Links to news stories from the Waterloo Region Record  below show how the work progressed.

Aug 3, 2016 – Kitchener property owner wants to clear three hectares of trees 

Aug 10, 2016 – Permit to clear Kitchener woodlot approved by region 

Oct 17, 2016 – Stop-work order issued for tree clearing at Ottawa Street property 

Nov 9, 2016 – Woodlot clearing investigation continues in Kitchener

Mr. Moxey was finally given clearance to proceed.

Keith and Winifred Shantz House

The house now sits on the cleared lot – a little forlorn and worse for wear.

I stopped by recently to let the owner know about “Finding John Lingwood“. I left my contact information with the hope someone would contact me and let me know what plans there are for the house.

Of course demolition is a potential fate for this 50-year-old piece of Waterloo Region’s modernist architecture. It’s not possible to preserve every building from the mid-century nor does every building warrant preservation. However, this house appears to be a significant building in John Lingwood’s body of work and is also deeply connected to the business and cultural life of the community through its former owners.

It would be sad to see it razed.

Project supported by:

Once a darling, always a darling

I’ve gathered at least 20 hours worth of interviews, additional hours of location video and 100s of photographs for my film “Finding John Lingwood.” The finished film … 55 minutes.

A mountain of information to work with and a lot left on the cutting room floor. It’s not quote as bad as you might think – logging all those clips, assessing their relevance and selecting the ones you think might be part of your story.

Not every word or thought an interview subject utters is compelling or fundamental to your narrative, not every photograph adds to the complexity of a scene. 

But … 

  • The person whose backstory tugs at your heart strings;
  • The interview filled with clever turns of phrase;
  • The beautifully lit locations
  • Moments when you laugh or cry or scratch your head

The “darlings” I call them – these stand out in your mind as you begin to stitch together your story. The more you are play the clip the more it calls out to be included. Intimacy clouds your judgement.

So, it is no surprise there comes a time in the editing process when you must cut your darlings to honour the story.

But, once a darling always … well you know how that goes. 

I thought you might like to meet some of my darlings. 

As you wait patiently for the premiere of “Finding John Lingwood” later this year, I will – from time to time – be posting some the compelling moments that ended up on the digital trash heap.

First up, this clip from my interview with Eric Haldenby, professor and former director of the Waterloo School of Architecture. Here he talks about Lingwood’s command of the principals modernist design and his work on the home he created for Dr. Roy Howarth and his family in 1957.

Why I open my heart and head to critiques

I’ve finished the first cut of “Finding John Lingwood” and it’s time to find out if the John Lingwood I’ve come to know resonates with audiences. Over the next month I’ll be screening this version with test audiences to hear what they have to say.

It’s stressful, having your work critiqued, but it’s essential to getting the film ready for a premiere in fall 2018. 

I have had the help of some talented crew members from time-to-time during production, but the micro-budget for this project kept me working in virtual solitude – interviewing, shooting and editing.

Although this suits my nature just fine, this is where problems can start.

No matter how hard you to try to rein in your biases and experiences, their influence creeps into your process, particularly in editing.

You easily become convinced you’ve got it right:

  • The sweet little scene with a subject you’ve really connected with; 
  • The funny moment that makes you laugh each time you see it; 
  • The beautiful drone shot.

They all fight to find their way into your film. As editor you must guard and guide the story, making sure every moment, every cut, every visual advances the narrative. 

The ruthlessness required is simply beyond me.

This is when I depend on members of the test audience. They poke your soft spots, call you back when you wander from the storyline and question every awkward moment. 

Sometimes you just want to bury your head in the sand – pour a glass of wine and ignore the advice. But that is hardly useful. So when I do a screening, I strive to open my heart and head; I take notes; I consider every comment.

For the filmmaker, the challenge is not only to listen, but also to try to understand. Feedback can’t always be taken literally; improvements are often found by changing something other than the specific quibble. 

Here’s the thing: I have never found my work to get worse after a test screening. It has always …  always gotten better.

Not everyone can be part of the test audience so, as a thank you for reading this post, I’ve included a little taste of the first cut of “Finding John Lingwood” – a clip of my work so far on the opening credits.  

I’m hoping to achieve three things:

  • Evoke the period, 1955-1996,
  • Set a tone of the film,
  • Reflect the character of John Lingwood. 

It’ll be hard to judge these criteria without see the entire film, but I would love to hear your thoughts just the same. Please comment below.

Meanwhile, in Waterloo Region lives are changed

As the world continues to swirl about us – political maneuvering, terrorist attacks, climate change – the quiet life in Waterloo Region carries on.  Ignoring the world is not the answer, but it is equally important that we hear and share the stories of how everyday people enrich the life we share here.

I finished producing this short video for House of Friendship last week. It documents the renovation of the agency’s Emergency Food Hamper Program building at 807 Guelph St. I started way back in August 2016, capturing daily time lapse sequences and live video. The real story didn’t emerge until the finally weeks, when we discovered that early in her career, Teresa O’Reilly a project manager for the job, depended on the program to help her make ends meet.

Watch as Teresa tells her story about how the Emergency Food Hamper Program changed her life.