Rebecca Stern Wants to Introduce You to the World of Competitive Dog Grooming – SXSW Filmmaker In Focus

Take a look at our interview with filmmaker Rebecca Stern. Her film, Well Groomed world premiered at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in Documentary Feature Competition and will air on HBO December 17 at 9pm/8c. You can check out the trailer here.

In your own words, what does this film mean to you?

Rebecca Stern: Well Groomed is a moment to pause and enjoy seeing something you’ve likely never seen before - dog art - and a time to become best friends with the women pushing this activity forward. It is an escape from headline news, politics and vitriol, and a fun, light break from the everyday. As my first feature film, Well Groomed represents so many more lessons than I thought I would learn about working with people, creating art, the hustle generally, and about having a little more fun with it all.

What motivated you to tell this story?

RS: I was motivated to tell this story because of a lot of loves - the love of dogs (and cats!), the love of traveling around the United States, the love of creativity, and the love of exploring something I hadn’t ever considered. When I first stumbled into the dog grooming world I was captivated by the women, their love for one another and their animals, and of course by the images of the dogs themselves. I wanted to capture this in a way that would allow others to feel the same.

How did you find your subject?

RS: I first found out about creative grooming through attending the Tompkins Square Park Dog Halloween Costume Contest. My initial thought was to make a small piece about dog fashion in the city because I loved the idea of dogs wearing Gucci and thought the people who spent so much on their pets would be interesting to speak with. When I got home, I started searching for dog fashion trends to go a bit deeper than the one-day extravaganza, and came across creative grooming. At that point, I basically stopped exploring anything else besides creative grooming because it was just so eye catching and inspired so many questions for me. It’s funny, because that’s actually the same way many of the creative dog groomers find out about creative dog grooming -- through finding it online and thinking “I can do that?”

What do you want the audience to take away?

RS: In my heart of hearts, I would like audiences to walk away both excited by the exploration of a creative world far removed from the dominant, urban-centric art scene and also with an understanding and appreciation of the women who are masters at their specific craft. Some people are initially taken aback seeing dogs with brightly dyed fur, but I hope through watching the film, audiences will be able to consider the women’s work on their own terms and find the joy they bring to it as contagious as I do.

What made you choose SXSW to showcase your film to the world?

RS: SXSW is the perfect place to bring a movie that celebrates the surreal and extreme into the world. I couldn’t think of a better city and community to see and appreciate the film and the women in it. We’re excited to share the puppy love with audiences!

Join Us for SXSW 2020

Register for SXSW 2020 and experience 10 days of conference sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, networking events, mentor sessions, and much more. All attendees will receive primary entry to programming associated with their badge type, in addition to enjoying secondary access to most other SXSW events.

Stay tuned for more programming announcements throughout the 2020 SXSW season. Sign up for SXSW Event Updates and read SXSW News for programming features, registration information, and more.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook for the latest SX coverage.

Dive into 2019 Music Tracks

World Premiere of Well Groomed - Photo by Noel Del Rio

By Neha Aziz