Based on an original stage play of the same name, ‘The Dog and The Elephant’ is the compelling story of the unlikely kinship between young boxer Bendigo Barlow and ‘Ina’, an elephant from a travelling menagerie.
Directed by London-based studio Found, the short film is set in the violent world of Victorian boxing and the honour code of the Romany Gypsies, Bendigo’s struggle to live with Tourette’s syndrome is made all the more difficult by fear and ignorance as he is violently shunned by those who simply don’t understand. Bendigo’s fractured life leads him on a brutal journey of destruction, retribution and ultimately revenge.
Creative director and founding partner of Found, Mike Sharpe, approached the team in 2016 about developing a film adaptation, after seeing the play at the VAULT Theatre Festival. “After discussing my vision for the project, I was given the freedom to cut the script down from its original one hour running time to a more manageable 25 minutes. Traditionally we work in short form content of about 1-5 minutes in length, so tackling a longer form narrative was both daunting and exciting in equal measure,” explains Mike.
The original play is constructed from chapters with “collective nouns” acting as metaphors for the different stories in Bendigo’s life. For example, a “murder of crows” or a “pride of lions”. Found Studio used this device to divide the film into seven clear chapters, introducing title cards at the beginning of each section. The seven animals feature as tattoos all over Bendigo’s body, with the studio enlisting the help of tattoo artist Martha Ellen Smith who custom drew them all especially for the film.
The film was shot by BAFTA award-winning Cinematographer Nicholas Bennett. To retain some of the theatrical quality from the original play, it was filmed with minimal camera movement and angles, giving it a stripped-back visual style.
Rather than desaturating the image in post-production, the film was shot in black and white on a RED monochrome 4K camera to give it an added cinematic quality. Embracing yet more challenges post-filming, Found designed and created the elephant in 3D CGI – the motion design studio’s first foray into character animation.
Set within the minimal backdrop of a one-man show, the elephant had to be photoreal – to be both believable and have a powerful enough presence to effectively portray the supporting character of Ina, the only other character shown within the film other than Bendigo. The final element which completes the film is the 25-minute original score by Matthew Wilcock and Aleah Morrison-Basu at Zelig Sound, a haunting and poignant soundtrack to this powerful film.
‘The Dog and The Elephant’ is also available to watch online at thedogandtheelephant.com.