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We spoke to Tracie Hotchner, founder and director of The New York Dog Film festival for our Spotlight series highlighting innovative film festivals.

The New York Dog Film Festival

We spoke to Tracie Hotchner, founder and director of The New York Dog Film festival, for our regular Spotlight series highlighting innovative film festivals and competitions.

Film Daily: The New York Dog Film Festival is an amazing concept. What inspired you?

Tracie Hotchner: I knew there had been a wildly successful Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis that was traveling – just a bunch of silly and fun online YouTube videos. I was sure that dog lovers would embrace the idea of coming together to share their love of dogs, but I felt certain there were real films on the subject made with skill and passion by real filmmakers. I wanted to feature the opposite of “funny animal videos” and I was blown away by the number of movies coming in from around the world, proving dogs are a universal fascination and passion.

When was the festival founded?

It began on October 15, 2015 at Symphony Space in NYC, where it returned in 2016. The 3rd annual in NYC festival will be on November 5th at the School for Visual Arts theater.

Will furry friends be invited to the festival events?

Tracie Hotchner: In many cities, we have found theaters welcoming dogs, and it has been a truly transformative experience for everyone – just depends on the theater.

Will there be any canine judges?

Tracie Hotchner: The only “judges” are my two Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda, who keep me company while viewing (and then drag me outdoors for fresh air when they think I’ve been sitting there too long!).

Do you have any plans for famous canine attendees?

Tracie Hotchner: In some cities, there are social media celebrity dogs who want to come – in NYC I am hoping that Marc Jacobs’ dog Neville (who had a very well-received photo book about him published this year) will be the host of the Pooch Party in NYC the evening before the 3rd annual festival.

Any tips for people entering films in the festival?

Tracie Hotchner: It’s a shorts festival, so keeping a film at 15 minutes or less makes it much more adaptable to being edited into a flow. We are looking for movies with a heart and soul which make the viewer experience a range of emotions – or a very funny movie. My main tip for documentary filmmakers is not to fall in love with your footage! May of the docs are redundant – same idea repeated in multiple scenes. Trust the audience to get it the first time. Don’t hit them over the head, especially if it’s a very emotional point. Less is more.

Did you receive any support from grants or funds?

I did have a grant from the non-profit Petco Foundation as well as from Bayer K9 Advantix II, and a number of other pet related sponsors. The Dog Film Festival is also philanthropic, so a portion of every ticket goes to a local animal welfare group.

How did you find your festival audience?

The first year, I hired a PR person for every single city, but discovered that is an “old school” marketing method. I have the Radio Pet Lady Network, on which I podcast pet talk radio shows with co-hosts, along with my NPR show of 10 years, “Dog Talk.” I have a big following nationally and a weekly e-newsletter that goes out to 24,000 people.

I have hosted a live weekly show on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius/XM for 7 years, so a lot of people knew of me that way, too. We also do targeted Facebook ads in each city, and our shelter beneficiary reaches out to their followers through email and social media. Our partner festivals KC FilmFest, Nashville Film festival, and others show the Dog Film Festival as part of their programming.

Learn more about the New York Dog Film Festival and submit your canine related films here.

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