Cleveland International Film Festival } March 25 – April 5, 2020 } Tower City Cinemas

Quality Time with Technicolor Poodles

March 30, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


Rebecca Stern thought she was going to be a lawyer, but life had other plans for her.

“The plan was always to go to a good school, read a lot, spend some time in an office, and then go to law school,” she told Gabriella Rico of Women and Hollywood earlier this month. Instead, she found herself in New York, crewing for Matt Heineman on his 2015 documentary, “Cartel Land.”

“That experience taught me about verite filmmaking and about moving fast,” she recalls, “and I got addicted to the documentary form and to the pace of the work.” From there, she moved on to producer duties on several documentaries before finally taking the directing helm with “Well Groomed.”

Many of the productions she has worked on have covered dark or heavy topics—internet harassment, nuclear weapons, and the war on drugs, to name a few—but “Well Groomed” journeys into a lighter, and much brighter, world as Stern explores “a niche community of women spending quality time with their technicolor poodles.”

From the beginning, the project kept taking her by surprise. “The first thing that drew me in was the images of the dogs,” she recalls. “The sensational colors and designs were something I had never seen before.”

Equally surprising was the controversiality of the hobby. “Fifty percent of the people who see pictures of creative dogs are in awe and laugh,” Stern muses, “and the other 50 percent are also in awe but say ‘poor dog!’ The women were understandably frustrated by the negative reactions.”

She decided to address the controversy head-on within the documentary, although it was somewhat difficult because many of the most vocal critics were anonymous voices on the Internet. “I wanted to cover this controversy in the film in a way that took the concerns, and the women’s answers, seriously,” she says, “but also stayed true to my goal of making a movie that would let people relax and smile and be along for the ride with the women as they groom.”

But “Well Groomed” is definitely more than a light-hearted romp, delving deep into both the artistic impulses and the emotional relationships with their dogs that her four main subjects share. “When I got to know Adriane, Angela, Cat, and Nicole,” Stern remembers, “their earnest search for creative outlets and deep bonds with their animals got me further into their stories.”

She hopes that this will be true for audiences as well. “I wanted to communicate how much the women love both art and their dogs, and I wanted to leave audiences thinking about their own passions and what makes them happy during the day-to-day when they leave the theater.”

–Lara Klaber

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.2 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/30/19 @ 6:10 PM – Well Groomed
03/31/19 @ 1:50 PM – Well Groomed
04/01/19 @ 11:50 AM – Well Groomed

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