Q&A interview with Director Rebecca Stern about the documentary Well-Groomed, and her experiences in documenting the fascinating world of competative creative dog grooming. Well-Groomed can be found on HBO SPORTS® .
Joanna: Were you familiar with the world of creative grooming before doing this documentary?
Rebecca Stern: Not at all! Joining the world of creative dog grooming was a complete joy – and I have to thank Adriane Pope, Cat Opson, Angela Kumpe and Nicole Beckman for letting me into their world of art, dogs, passion, and sculpture.
How did you find or decide to do a documentary on creative grooming originally?
I had originally planned to do a short film on dog fashion in New York City. I was interested in exploring how documentaries can be used for both comedy and empathy, so thought that pets would be a great way to enter that world. But, then I saw creative dog grooming and was instantly hooked. I reached out to Adriane and Angela to start, and once I met them in-person I knew I wanted to make a film about them.
How long did it take you to do it from beginning to completion?
It took about five years to complete both the short film (by the same name) and the feature film. The short took a year to shoot and edit, after which it went on the festival circuit. Then it took about seven months to film the feature film and about eight months to edit it. In documentary timelines, it’s actually pretty fast!
There is controversy over if this is humiliating for dogs versus if they like it. The dogs appeared extremely happy throughout the documentary while being groomed, after, before and in between. Did you leave out any parts where any dogs were embarrassed or upset over any aspect of grooming?
Not at all – I was with the women to be a documentarian and represent their world as I saw it. In the film, you see the entire process of grooming beginning to end, and every step of the coif-ing process.
Do you know if the grooming competitions had regulations or testing on what dyes are used?
Yes, no bleach or harmful chemicals can be used. Most of the dyes used are made for use on pets.
What surprised you in the journey of filming this that you didn’t expect when going into it?
I thought going in that I would make a film about the process of the competitions, but it quickly turned into a film about the inner workings of the women’s minds – how they thoughts about their art, how much they wanted to win, why they compete in the competitions at all.
I hope everyone catches the film on HBO Sports!
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER:
Rebecca Stern is a director and producer living in Brooklyn, NY. She is the producer of TRE MAISON DASAN, a documentary exploring the lives of children affected by parental incarceration (Independent Lens 2019). She is the Co-Producer of NETIZENS, a documentary delving into the effects of online sexual harassment (Tribeca 2018). She was the associate producer of “the bomb,” an innovative installation and film which premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and the 2017 Berlinale Film Festival. She started out in documentary as the production coordinator of Academy Award nominated and Emmy-winning documentary CARTEL LAND. She previously was a staff member of Picture Motion, the leading film impact firm, managing film marketing campaigns for acclaimed documentaries including FOOD CHAINS (2016 BritDoc Impact Award) and THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING. WELL GROOMED is her first feature film.