The Newfoundland Club of America—responsible for the preservation, protection and welfare of the Newfoundland Dog in America since 1930.
Newfs Grace the Silver Screen
The impressive size and historical significance of the Newfoundland dog has led to feature work in a number of Hollywood releases. Here is a summary of some of these gentle giants best acting performances.
History In The Making by Janice Kiseskey
from Newf Tide Fall 1984
Few people in our fancy have had the opportunity to involve our animals with the film industry, let alone a project as dynamic as "Robert Kennedy and His Times," a seven-hour miniseries to be aired in 3 parts by CBS*. Actual production began December 5, 1983, but planning started long before then. I was contacted during the summer by animal trainers looking for a large, friendly Newf to portray "Brumus," companion and friend to Robert Kennedy and his family.
I chose to take CH. Shady Oaks Buster** to an audition arranged at the Burbank Studios with director Marvin Chomsky.
He asked to work the dog, putting him through some basic obedience. Then Buster turned on, charming everyone with his antics, including director Chomsky, who was the recipient of a giant Newfy 'slurp' when Buster jumped up and leaned on his chest to say "Hi!"
"Buster" began working on the Â·project in December with trainer Dennis Grisco and continued through the end of filming in April, 1984. During this time Buster traveled on location to Hyannis Port and Boston, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and many spots in Southern California, where the task of filming a 22 year span in Robert Kennedy's life transpired. He made many a friend of cast and crew members while on the various sets. In between takes his time might be spent playing on the beaches of Hyannis Port with his new-found friends, or frolicking in the snow. While in Washington, D.C., Buster was taken on a tour of the city sights by assistant trainer, Bill Grisco. And he even found time to rest on occasion.
"Robert Kennedy and His Times" begins with a young Bobby meeting his future wife Ethel at age 21. This meeting takes place during John F. Kennedy's congressional campaign in 1946, thus setting the scene for Bobby's involvement and rise in the political arena.
Through the years of political ups and downs, the love that exists between Bobby and Ethel, the warmth of the family life they create is never forgotten. The story ends with his untimely death in 1968, when he is gunned down by an assassin's bullet.
Brad Davis and Veronica Cartwright star in this miniseries, surrounded by an award-winning cast and crew. The story is based on the biography by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. It has been 5 years in the making, written by Walon Green. Produced by Chris/Rose Productions in association with Columbia Pictures Television, "Robert Kennedy and His Times" may prove to be the television event of the season.
Authors Note: Though animal trainers make their living with animals, I would require them to allow me the choice of traveling with and caring for my Newf should this opportunity arise again. After all, no one can care for my dog the way I do.
** CH. Shady Oaks Buster, owned by Janice Kiseskey - Ebon-Tide Newfoundlands, co-owned by Pete & Sue Kiseskey - Shady Oaks Newfoundlands
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Lights, Camera, Action by Caron Dasilva
From NewfTide 2003
In March 2003, I received a phone call from a man named Dennis Burkhart. He said he was producing a film on the Lewis and Clark expedition as seen through Sacagawea's eye's. He needed a Newfoundland for the part of Seaman and asked if I had a dog Ithought could handle the part? Of course! Roan has never let me down, no matter what I have asked of him. The part didn't sound too hard~nothing we haven't covered in basic obedience.
The producer's daughter (about 11 years-old) was one of the first people to greet me. "The dog is here, Seaman is here!" I then met Dennis in person and he introduced me to Rolf Forsberg, the director. Rolf had not seen a Newf in person before, but he loved Roan.
There was a big tent, the inside transformed into a log fort. This was where the first scene was shot. Captain Lewis was seated at his desk. Roan was to lay under the desk and Lewis was to reach down and pet him. The director sat at a table with electronic equipment. Cameramen, lighting people, and assistants seemed to be everywhere. Roan laid down on a long stay. "Have him look up, more to the left! The log behind him is hot!" said the director. The director's attention to detail was amazing. The scene was shot and Roan was perfect.
The main thing that happened on the set was waiting: for your scene and for make-up and wardrobe. Roan's make-up was easy, a quick run through our pasture before heading to the set and he was ready to go!
Roan's other scenes were outside. He hunted with Lewis, Clark and York for game. The area we filmed in was very wooded and hilly. They wanted Roan to come from behind the group and lead them up the trail as if he had caught the scent of an animal. In another scene he walked along the trail with Lewis and Clark as they neared the ocean. In the Corps of Discovery scene he had to walk in a procession that included people and horses.
Only one scene had to be re-shot because of Roan, and that was my fault. I could not hear the director and I sent him up the trail too early. The only thing Roan got upset about during filming were the powder muskets going off. I don't know why. He is usually fine with gunshots-maybe the sulfur smell?
In August there was a preview of the film for the cast and invited guests and the film looked great! It is geared towards grades three through eight.
The director has since told me that he would like to do another film on the Lewis and Clark expedition from Seaman's point of view. That film will be a lot more involved for Roan, but I know he can do it.
Hooray for Hollywood! by Ginny Mack
first printed in Newf Tide 1999
In January 1999, I was contacted by a representative from Paramount Studios. The representative asked if had a good looking, well-trained Newfie that I would be willing to use in a bit part of a movie that they were going to film in my hometown of Pittsburgh. It sounded like fun and certainly a once in a lifetime experience. So I said yes. They wanted photos, so I sent pictures of my Zoe (Ch. Amity's Zoe of Pouch Cove, CD, WD, DO, CGC, TDI) off to Hollywood, and they immediately called back stating she was the dog they wanted to use. They wanted her shaggy, but I cheated a bit and trimmed her ears and feet. They even wanted her dirty, but I cheated there too. They said filming would be mid-January or early February. "That's OK," I thought. My reservations for the National would still be safe. Well, filming was pushed back to mid-February, then late February, then early March, then March 17. At this point, I had to cancel the National trip. We finally did the filming on March 24, 25, and 26.
Originally, they briefly described three stunts Zoe was to do and we practiced them as well as we could. They sent two trainers from California to see Zoe. They said, "Beautiful dog. Wonderful, outgoing personality. Exactly what they want for the bit part as the family dog." Then they promptly left! They didn't even go over any stunts!
When we finally started filming at the set in late March, it was cold! Talk about hurry up and wait! We had to be there at 7 a.m. and could not leave without the director's OK, and that was always after 6 p.m.
One of the stunts involved Zoe going through a doggie door, but they put in the wrong size door and Zoe could not get through it, so they scrapped that one and had her do something else. Another stunt had Zoe aggressively scratching and barking at the trunk of a car. (No problem practicing for that one-I just got in the trunk and called her). However, when it came time for filming, they wanted her to sniff all along the side of the car and then questionably sniff the trunk. We literally had minutes to change to this new format. My girl got it down pat in just three takes! Another stunt had Zoe jumping out of the back seat of a car and running to the house. No problem practicing that, either. But when it came time, the director wanted her to jump out of the back seat, walk to the back of the car with the family, stand there while the family got their groceries, then walk to the house. This took five takes to change, but Zoe did it like a champ. The two trainers from California had been working with a dog (that has a much bigger part in this movie) for over a year, knowing exactly what to train for. I was very proud that my girl could adapt so quickly.
The week we did the filming was time consuming, exciting, eye opening, and very interesting. We met some very nice people, ate a lot of wonderful food, were amazed at the amount of equipment needed, and were impressed at the stress the crew put on details.
The spectators were very plentiful and well mannered, and security was everywhere. One lady, wearing light tan very crisp slacks came up to me and asked if this was the Newfie that was in the movie. When I said yes, she jokingly asked if she could have Zoe's autograph. As if on cue, Zoe immediately put her dirty paw on this lady's knee. I said, "I think you just did."
Another lady (pushing a wheelchair containing a pre-teenager who appeared to be severely affected with Cerebral Palsy) came up to me and asked if her son could pet my dog. Zoe sat in front of the wheelchair and gave a very gentle lick on one of his frail, contracted hands. His eyes, which had been staring at the sky, slowly lowered and focused on my dog, and his expressionless open mouth slowly closed and a faint smile appeared. His mom started to cry, I had tears in my eyes, and lots of hugs were exchanged. I've used Zoe in therapy before, but I have never been as proud of her as I was at that moment.
Many humorous, touching, educational, and exciting things happened-too numerous to mention-and they are all wonderful memories that I am grateful to have.
The name of the movie is "Wonder Boys" (with a name like that, it's bound to be the next "Titanic"). It stars Michael Douglas and is due to be released near Thanksgiving. I have no way of knowing how much of Zoe's part will be used, but the experience was a wonderful one. I feel privileged to own such a great girl who displayed some of the inspired things that Newfies do best.
Wonder Boys Available on DVD
Newf Stars in A Television Movie - By Gillian MacArthur
adapted from Newf Tide Fall 1985
The American poet Emily Dickinson may have never visited upstate New York, however, that area will depict her home in a Public Broadcasting System show about her life and work.
The show is one part of a 13-part series called "Visions and Voices," focusing on the work of the American poets. The series, which will include Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson, among others, is to be aired in the 1986 season.
Approximately a decade of the poet's life was spent in a rather solitary style with her Newfoundland dog, Carlo. Aotea's Bonnavista Beauty, called Bonny and owned by Gillian McArthur, will play the part of Carlo in the hour long movie.
Actually, the reclusive poet never strayed far from her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. The producers, however, quickly realized that the modern-day Amherst had changed so much that the authenticity was lost. Even the old home was modernized on the advice of Brockport College theater design professor Richard Montgomery, the producers decided that Leroy, Caledonia and the outskirts of Rochester were the best setting for 19th century Amherst.
A male dog was first considered for the part of Carlo. However, since some of the shooting would take place in the Leroy Historical House, it was decided at the last minute that a female would be more suited near the brocades and antiques.
The day before the shooting, the director, Veronica Young, and her assistant came out to see if any of my Newfoundlands could play the part. When they were introduced to Bonny, they were pleased with her attitude and personality. I was told that she must be quiet on the set since there would be people, lights and camera action. I thought she would perform nicely because she is easy going and has been recently shown in competition. After a little basic obedience practice and grooming, we were all set to play the part of Carlo.
I was a little apprehensive at first, wondering if Bonny would obey hand signals and look enthusiastic about meeting a person whom she had never met. After the first day, it seemed that everything would be fine. Bonny performed well with Emily in front of the camera. Shots were taken in the drawing room, bedroom and library.
Probably the most difficult shot was to get Bonny to run out of the house, down the path to a horse and carriage where she was expected to greet Emily who had just returned from a long trip. We must have used a bag full of liver treats that day!
Getting the dog to stay under the piano while Emily was playing it was also tricky. This problem was solved by hiding me under the piano, where I occupied Bonny with another bag full of liver treats.
It was all an incredibly interesting three days. The crew spoiled Bonny with food and petting. How she will behave when her name appears in the credits, is open to debate! Since PBS is always on a low budget, there was little finance except for paying for gas expenses. Working with the crew on the movie was great fun.
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Brown Newf Steals the Show
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
The 1985 “in your face” comedy sequel featured the least likely of additions to the police force: Officer Vinnie Schtulman (Peter Van Norden) and his K-9 Newfoundland dog, Lou. Of course, Officer Lou is the exact opposite of your traditional police dog – slow, cumbersome, clumsy, messy, and seemingly unintelligent (in reality Newfies can be smart). The K-9 compliments Officer Schtulman who is also messy, slow, less intelligent than the others, and quite stubborn. Of course, it hads to the comedy when they both eat form the same plate.
Officer Lou was played by a versatile canine performer Kodiak (aka VN Ch. Riptide’s Brown Kodiak Bear, CD, WRD, DD). Of course the dog was a big teddy bear on the set and was quite stubborn – quite often dictating how many takes he’s want for a shoot. Don’t let this get you, though, he did alert his owner, Kathie Cullen, to a dangerous fire that was burning in her home.
Rob Bloch and Kim Lindemeon were the dog trainers on set for Lou.
**reprinted from "Dog Actors on the Big Screen"
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© 2011 Newfoundland Club of America