From rural Uganda to local pubs in Scotland, We Don’t Deserve Dogs immerses you in 11 different countries capturing the extraordinary bonds between everyday individuals and their dogs.
The Australian-born, Brooklyn-based documentary film duo of Urtext Films, Matthew Salleh and Rose Tuckers’ latest feature film premiered in competition at SXSW 2020, with selections at other major festivals. It is now digitally available (April 9th).
We sat with Rose and Matt to discuss their inspirations and filmmaking process. And to discuss Rose’s unique experiences as a female producer traveling the world.
Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What was the inspiration behind making We Don’t Deserve Dogs?
Our previous film is about barbeque culture around the world. It’s a subject that gets people talking. Dogs are very similar. No matter where you go in the world you see dogs, people love their dogs, and get excited talking about them… We like taking a common everyday thing and seeing how it manifests. It’s a way of exploring the differences between cultures, but also celebrating the things humans have in common.
It’s important to me because I come from a mixed-race background, so I’m always questioning what comes from each culture’s side… We live in a seemingly very fractured world, and post-pandemic even more fractured. We can give insight and show commonalities in people’s lives while celebrating our unique differences.
What is your filmmaking style?
When we started doing the documentary work, we realized how much just the two of us could achieve. I wasn’t a technical person at all but doing this I learned how to film, record sound, learned how to edit, and color grade… So Matt was the director and cinematographer, I produced and did sound, and we edited together.
It’s a very DIY, hands-on way of filmmaking, which makes for a personal, intimate way of talking to people and capturing their lives.
You traveled around the world for nine months filming, what was that experience like?
We went to 11 different countries, just the two of us; and in every place, we worked with a local translator/researcher… Traveling when making a film is so different than traveling for tourism because you get that insight into what real life is like for people. You travel to neighborhoods you wouldn’t normally go to.
We are very fortunate and privileged to be able to do these global hopping films. One thing I notice is the sudden change when you go from one side of the world to the other, and there’s a totally different rhythm to life.
A good example, we went to Uganda filming with former child soldiers to the next week being in Finland, which couldn’t have been a bigger juxtaposition of environments.
It’s a stark contrast. But then again you look for the similarities… We always start our films off with this positive hypothesis that there’s more good in the world than bad. Over and over again we meet people who amaze us with their stories. Their courage, their bravery, their insight into the world, how they preserve their history, how they celebrate their cultures.
How did you find your documentary subjects?
Having a good researcher that was embedded in that particular place. They came from all walks of life- film students, journalists, photographers. They would also act as our translator… One of our best researchers was in Peru, a young female filmmaker. She had lots of ideas. She knew everyone loved their dogs, women were getting dogs instead of having babies, or how people had birthday parties for their dogs.
We went with a street performer in Santiago, Chile. She created these street tours that took us to hidden parts of the city. She knew the less popularized history, like LGBT history, which meant she had to talk to people, understand the culture and stories… These researchers offered a bridge between the communities we work with.
Can you reflect on your experience as a female film producer traveling the world?
Sometimes it would help. In this film a lot of our subjects were female, so being there as an only two-person crew helped put them at ease. It made them more comfortable… But it also has its challenges. You go to a country like Pakistan, which is a very male-dominated society. I had to learn to respect and accept that certain people wouldn’t want to deal with me as a woman. They would only want to deal with Matt, particularly regarding things like money or logistics, so I had
to step back from my producer roles and let him be the face. (Matt: Which I had no idea what I was doing.) Or I would have old grandmothers very worried that I hadn’t had children. So navigating those balances and being respectful was unique.
You said many of your interview subjects were female; do you think women bring a different energy or way of storytelling as documentary subjects?
I think men have an inbuilt confidence when talking about themselves. And with women, it takes a little more coaxing. Especially considering a lot of the places we filmed were developing countries, so many women were not familiar with being on camera. But each had a very honest and reflective presence, being able to tell stories they normally wouldn’t share.
One thing I noticed was a lot of women were impressed with Rosie running her own business, and traveling with her own production. So modesty aside, I think Rosie inspired a lot of people.
As a Director what do you hope people get out of the film?
We were very lucky to finish the film pre-pandemic. Now our understanding of global culture has shifted. It was a very fractured time last year, people are more apart than ever before, not just with everything happening in America but around the world… So the fact our film is just listening to people talk about their lives and what is important to them is a positive first step to greater cultural understanding.
As a Producer what advice can you give to aspiring female filmmakers?
I don’t think being a woman has ever held me back. I don’t think I have experienced a lot of the pressures that other women have in the industry, but that could come largely because I am running my own company and doing things my own way… My main advice would be: We’ve never let anyone tell us whether or not we can make a project. I believe that goes for any kind of artistic pursuit. Maybe you don’t get the funding or don’t get that grant, if you want to you can find a way. Don’t wait for permission to make something.
Photos courtesy of the filmmakers