A case of mistaken identity has led to an unlikely alliance and the creation of Old Dog, a short film about aging, life and the similarities between man and dog.
The story begins in 100 Mile House, where Ann-Marie Fleming, owner of Dog Quality, designs and sells products designed to improve and enhance an old dog’s life.
For years, people have confused her with another woman with a near-identical name: Ann Marie Fleming, a filmmaker living in Vancouver who runs Sleepy Dog Productions. This Ann Marie, whose first name doesn’t have a hyphen, has been making films for decades after discovering her love of film in 1980s London.
“I’ve always known there was another Ann Marie Fleming in the world, particularly in Canada,” Ann-Marie said. “Usually it’s people mistaking me for her. I’ve had people try to give me screenplays and I’ve gone ‘No. Wrong Ann Marie Fleming.’”
After years of confusion, the two women finally met a year ago after Dog Quality launched its dog wheelchair prototype and Ann-Marie began receiving a lot of media attention. After her mom asked if she was now caring for old dogs and her mom’s friend sent her clippings of the launch, the filmmaker read Ann-Marie’s blog and was struck by the parallels between caring for dogs and humans as they age.
She reached out, wanting to run an idea past Ann-Marie: an animation that would show off these similarities.
“I loved the idea. of course, so she spent a day with us, me and my senior dogs. She took a lot of footage and spent the day talking and she watched how my seniors used the products and noticed things as simple as when Bamboo walks, his front feet step on each other and her dad does the same thing,” Ann-Marie said. “She just wanted to get a sense of what dogs go through firsthand and then put this really clever, simple and meaningful piece together that shows how similar we really are.”
After collecting the footage in 2019, the two kept in touch, with Ann-Marie sending the filmmaker more footage of her senior dogs doing simple things such as drinking or getting stuck in corners because of their dementia. The end result was Old Dog, a short and simple two-minute long film about an old man caring for an old dog, while illustrating the similarities between them.
“It’s a film really about being tender with others and ourselves and just to celebrate life and the act of caring,” Ann Marie said.
To make the film, Ann Marie reached out to the National Film Board of Canada, which helped her to produce it and put her in touch with its animator Kevin Langdale, though the story and design is her own. The film was finished just before B.C. went into lockdown for COVID-19, which Ann Marie said gives it all the more meaning as the pandemic has highlighted the importance of caregivers, while showing how much older people rely on that care and connection with others.
Old Dog has so far premiered at two film festivals in B.C. and Nova Scotia and from Oct-29 to Nov-8 it will be available for online screening throughout B.C. as part of this year’s SPARK Animation Festival.
Ann-Marie said she’s proud to have played a “very small part” in helping make this movie happen, adding “the other AMF” is really smart and funny.
“I think it’s a wonderful way for people to see something they see all the time but in a completely different way and hopefully it will make them a little kinder and more accepting of people who have these special dogs in their lives, or these special people in their lives that go through these challenges,” Ann-Marie said.
For her part, Ann Marie finds it delightful this film emerged from a simple misunderstanding and hopes Ann-Marie continues to develop technologies that help people who want to make their dogs’ lives better.
“I think it will last forever,” she said. “It’s a film whose message will, no pun intended, never get old.”