RUFF LIFE Games Gaslighting & Bitches

Films

1H 17MIN

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Available on 10/11/2020 10am
In 2011 activist filmmaker Tom McPhee began a nine year examination of America's homeless dog population that results in a million healthy dogs being killed every year in American shelters. In Detroit he meets Terri Sumpter, a pissed off dog rescuer who has energized citizens by protesting the treatment of animals at Detroit Animal Control and then is attacked by the old and new animal rescue establishment. In Houston he meets Tawny Hammond an influential member of the Best Friends Animal Society team as she is having their support and resources refused by Houston SPCA after Hurricane Harvey resulting in a logistical catastrophe. In Austin, Texas he hears local civic leader, national pet advocate, and Austin Pets Alive!'s Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson explain why Austin is so different than other cities by refusing to kill domestic animals simply because they are homeless. It is the wild west in the world of domestic animal rescue in the United States, where the rule of law is what you can get away with. Along the way two thousand healthy dogs are killed in shelters every day simply because they are homeless, as the rescue community fights with themselves.

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Director Biography - Tom McPhee

Tom is a story-teller, creating original documentaries about human animal interaction. Tom produces and directs viral videos for the World Animal Awareness Society as they relate to animal rescue, with up to 100,000 people from around the world per day viewing over 500 videos from the ever-growing WA2S Films archive.

In 2009 Tom created and became Executive Director of the World Animal Awareness Society, he's an award winning producer & director of film, TV, and multi-language interactive media, and owns 2 media companies, Cave Studio and Man Smiling Moving Pictures. Tom's passion is to surround himself with people and tools that help him unlock and better understand life's mysteries.

Tom served as Show-runner and Host-Character for two animal centric TV miniseries' broadcast in Canada on the now defunct Toronto based Stornoway Communication's "The i-Channel" and their specialty niche, "Pet Network" - they were Tom McPhee's Rescue Journal and Rock & Roll Dogs in 2009.

Tom produced, directed and was principal creative force behind the multi award-winning documentary, An American Opera: The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever! (2008) chronicling the animal rescue efforts post Hurricane Katrina, with footage shot in New Orleans becoming part of a NatGeo, PBS Nature, and 2 Animal Planet specials in 2005.

Tom created and produced FLIXTOUR, the premier, nationally sponsored, college targeted, indie film tour - in the mid thru late 90's, lauded by indiewire, MovieMaker, Filmmaker and MovieLine magazines as the next 'thing' with sponsors as diverse as Pelle Pelle & Discover. FLIXTOUR achieved memorable successes, including launching indie icon Kevin Smith's ongoing & highly successful college speaking series, and more serendipitously, helping launch the comedy directing career of then almost broke Paul Feig (Freaks & Geeks. Bridesmaids, SPY). Paul wrote F&G while presenting his film on FLIXTOUR in 1998.

Director Statement

In October, 2009 I began building the foundation of the World Animal Awareness Society & WA2S Films to become the award-winning, animal-centric, media non-profit it is today. I had captured the devastation to New Orleans and the gulf following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with my documentary, An American Opera The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever! and had wrapped a national screening tour in 45 cities supporting local animal rescues in 2010.

In early 2011, after much fanfare and launch of the World Animal Awareness Society, our then Michigan based non-profit was challenged by the Detroit dog rescue community to take notice of the homeless dog issues they were dealing with. I did. The World Animal Awareness Society developed the American Strays 2030 Project, an initiative to quantify the stray and homeless population of dogs and the associated community issues in the United States.

For the past 9 years I have been trying to get my head around telling a story with too many mostly opaque layers; the story of abandoned, stray, homeless dogs on American streets and in shelters, and the very rough existence they endure before a million are killed wantonly every year. I have hundreds of hours of the most compelling dog rescue footage and interviews with stakeholders all across the globe.

The American Strays Canine Survey was created, enabling volunteers to understand where the focal points of the problems are. Volunteer surveys have been deployed in many cities in Michigan, Texas, and the gulf region of the south. The canine survey allowed our teams to have purpose at the front lines of the independent dog rescue community, and to capture the raw elements that go into whether a city will be successful handling their community’s domestic animal issues.

The idea that a million dogs are killed specifically due to space issues in American shelters, for being homeless temporarily, was so very striking to me. It was right under my nose, and I truly had no idea until I saw it all first hand.

As our film team captured the action on the streets while the surveys occurred, I began to see the greater powers at work, keeping cities like Houston and Detroit from providing a higher quality of service to the animals and people in their communities.

For 2 weeks prior to Hurricane Harvey, I was in Houston surveying for homeless dogs and filming rescues working in the city, oblivious to any possible inclement weather, let alone a powerful hurricane like Harvey. After leaving Houston one day before Harvey struck, I felt compelled to come back and spent 3 additional weeks filming the aftermath.

As in New Orleans in 2005, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 tore the facade of everything away, including many of the layers that camouflage some animal shelter's activities. Hurricane Harvey opened a window into a dark secret of a multi-million dollar shelter that formerly was the focus of an Animal Planet series. Once Houston had been more thoroughly ripped open, the actual cause of the city's dog population problems became clear.

I believe the work I have put in on the American Strays 2030 Project with hundreds of people over the past 9 years will in fact cause a shift change in how American communities manage their domestic animals. RUFF LIFE is a call to action; The American Strays 2030 Project is the vehicle.

Credits

Directed by Tom McPhee

Written by Tom McPhee
Deanna McPhee

Produced by Deanna McPhee
Tom McPhee

Cast Deanna McPhee
Tom McPhee
Tawny Hammond
Debby MacDonald
Matt Pepper
Theresa Sumpter
Mark Ramos
Dr. Ellen Jefferson
Melissa Miller
Kerry McKeel

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