Photo above: Courtney Balcome tells the audience about her dog, Yeti T. Fuzzbottoms, shown on the poster.
By Kat Walsh
“This place has really gone to the dogs.”
It was the too-easy joke of the night.
On Aug. 24, the Beaufort Film Society hosted a Meet & Greet, officially kicking off its new season for the upcoming Beaufort International Film Festival and drawing a specifically canine-centric crowd.
The dog owners – and jokes – were in attendance for the evening’s biggest announcement, the top five finalists for a role in the upcoming local film “Basement Bob.” More than 200 dogs from Bluffton to Beaufort and points in between tried out for the role of Bob’s unusual friend in the comedy about a man living in his ex-wife’s basement.
The Beaufort Film Society recently made its support of the film official by becoming a producing partner on the film.
Briana Rosen, of Beaufort, was one of the many with a dog in the fight; her Maltese, Lasi, had auditioned at the open casting call and Rosen was hoping for a callback.
“Everything has been so well done, I’m amazed. I’m here because I was so taken with the tie-in of ‘Basement Bob’ and the film festival,” she said.
Rosen has been so impressed by her experiences with the film society that she said she’s telling everyone about February’s film festival and that “all the people in our dog park can’t wait.”
Co-director and producer of “Basement Bob,” VW Scheich, said he was hoping 30-50 dogs would come to last month’s open casting call; over 200 dogs with their owners lined up and waited patiently outside Port Royal Veterinary Hospital for their turn at future stardom.
Scheich credits the strength and uniqueness of the Beaufort community for the support on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
“I mean, what town are we in? That’s amazing,” he said. “People ask why we moved from L.A. to Beaufort. This is why. This community is so wonderful; we thought it would be a great place to make a film.”
Rebecca Tucker, vice president of the Beaufort Film Society and deputy director of the Beaufort International Film Festival, said that’s what it’s all about.
“The community never lets us down,” she said. “We couldn’t do this without them. And it’s time for Beaufort to host another feature film.”
Shelia Ellis, co-owner of Port Royal Veterinary Hospital, echoed that sentiment.
“I think it’s a really cool idea that they’re bringing back our community as a place for filming,” she said.
Ellis said that she and co-owner Mari Kay Campbell were happy to support the project by hosting the casting call at their clinic. Ellis even offered casting suggestions. “You know, I told them that in the movie that the dog needs a veterinarian.”
Following the announcement of the top five finalists, which included Pasha, a Swiss mountain mix whose minutes-old life was saved moments before euthanasia, to Yeti T. Fuzzbottoms, a golden boy born on the same day as his owner and with his own Facebook page – Schiech and his wife, co-producer Uyen Le, assured the crowd that more opportunities await.
The film will remain locally cast as much as possible, and many extras in the film will be the dog owners who originally came out.
“If you’re not on this list, you’re not out of the running to be in this film. We still need your help,” said Schiech. “We are so, so close – we just need a few more investors to come into play, who want to make this movie happen.”
Tucker agreed that just a few more investors are needed to close the gap between what they have and what they need. And that funding could include investment opportunities for local businesses that would like to be in the film.
Ron Tucker, president of the Beaufort Film Society and executive director of the Beaufort International Film Festival, said the evening was an ideal start for the society. “We had a tremendous turnout for the new film festival season,” he said. “In addition to seeing the Top 5 “doggies” revealed, many wanted to learn more about the film society and the 11th annual Beaufort International Film Festival.”