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Rescue dogs star in movie filmed here

Hungarian pointers are among the dog stars in 'The Rescue Dogs of Western North Carolina: A Christmas Caper' Hungarian pointers are among the dog stars in 'The Rescue Dogs of Western North Carolina: A Christmas Caper'

After David Sullivan made a movie starring neighborhood dogs back in Dallas, fans asked him if planned a sequel. He did but in the meantime he and his wife, Jan, had retired to Hendersonville.
“I thought I was going to have to go back to Dallas to do it,” he said. “Then we arrived in Hendersonville and we discovered this community full of incredible actors and musicians. It was a bonanza.”
That’s how Hendersonville became the shooting location for Sullivan's sequel.

“The Rescue Dogs of Western North Carolina: A Christmas Caper” premieres next week at the Regal Biltmore, starring local actors and 35 Hendersonville dogs.
As soon as they arrived here in 2017, Sullivan and his wife bought season tickets to the Flat Rock Playhouse. It didn’t take him long to realize everything he needed for movie-making was right here in Hendersonville.
After howling at Mark Warwick's performance in “Little Shop of Horrors,” Sullivan decided he had to have Warwick in the movie. He recruited Mark and his wife, Paige Posey, both professional actors.
When he started laying the groundwork for the movie, he was astonished at the cooperation he received at every turn. County Engineer Marcus Jones helped arrange shooting involving county property; Hendersonville City Manager John Connet and Police Chief Herbert Blake made the downtown shooting easy.
“They couldn’t have been nicer. It was not, ‘What do you want to do?’ It was, ‘How can we help you?’ We just did the whole production there. And now Hendersonville is going to be the central location for my future films. … The people’s enthusiasm keeps me going. They just love dogs here, and cats. So it’s a perfect place.”
The Christmas Caper opens when, crossing the Smokies, a strong wind blows all the presents out of Santa’s sleigh unbeknownst to Santa. When he reaches the last stop of the night, Hendersonville, he realizes what's happened.

Three dachshunds become the first enlistees to save Christmas when Santa’s sleigh lands on their roof. Hearing Santa’s sad story, they hatch a plan to “let themselves in” to all the stores downtown and collect gifts for everyone in Hendersonville, leaving Santa’s credit card as payment.
The dachshunds visit the Blue Ridge Humane Society to recruit a rescue for the Christmas rescue. “There’s a dog there with lots of leadership capabilities. They talk her into coordinating this effort,” Sullivan says. She's a golden collie mix named Sasha.
The villain is dog catcher Snidely McFish from “Tennalina,” a town so mean neither North Carolina nor Tennessee will claim it. Hendersonville’s police chief, played by Warwick, and an FBI agent, played by Posey, investigate a break-in at Renzo’s Ristorante, where the dogs have stolen gift certificates. “They call Renzo, so he’s in the film and he does a good job getting all excited,” Sullivan says.
At Mast General, 60-pound Hungarian sporting dogs, or Vizslas, race through the store. The crew got permission to film in the store before it opened. “They really run fast,” Sullivan says of the Vizslas. “They allowed us to have these Vizslas running through their store at full speed. It really is funny just to look at.”
A Vizsla in charge of disabling the burglar alarm accidentally sets off the sprinkler system and fire alarm. Meanwhile, the dogs who are supposed to be guarding Santa’s sleigh instead decide to take the sleigh for a joy ride, causing air traffic controllers to report a UFO, which results in the governor’s order to dispatch F-16s and the National Guard to Hendersonville while the first responders race to the fire alarm at Mast General … you get the idea.
Two Newfoundlands break into Dancing Bear Toy Store, with the dog catcher on their tail. The Newfies freeze in front of a stuffed animal display and blend in, escaping capture.
Preston Dyar plays Santa Claus. Scott Treadway, in the voice of a miniature dachshund, sings “Dog Bones o’er Carolina.”
The dog catcher, played by Charlie Smith, gets doused by balloons filled with paint and then pea soup dropped by dogs piloting red miniature biplanes deployed to thwart him.
The dog catcher nabs Sasha, the hero, and puts her on trial in Tennalina. The police chief and FBI agent save the day, with help from Frank “Fineprint” Peterson (specializing in 1-point fonts and missing semicolons), played by Page Collie, a real-life attorney who handled the real estate closing for the Sullivans.
Recruiting the dog stars was easy.
“We put an ad in the Pet Gazette and we got an immediate response,” Sullivan says. “People were so excited about having the dogs in the film. We bring the dog in and we want the dog to be comfortable and not nervous. We either have them sit or run and their parents are right there. The idea is we keep filming until we get a funny expression or some type of thing that looks like they’re talking. So it’s completely relaxed but we get footage that’s comical, and then write around that.”
He hired nine or 10 voiceover artists who did three or four parts each. (A Doberman sings like Ethel Merman.)
At 32 minutes, the film is short enough to leave plenty of time to introduce actors and entertain questions during the premiere, Sullivan says.

The revenue comes from ticket sales plus a director’s cut DVD, including outtakes and scenes that didn’t make the finished product. His next step after the premiere is to try and sign a distributor. If that doesn’t happen, he hopes word of mouth will create enough buzz to warrant more showings in Hendersonville.
Sullivan’s next project is a musical comedy based on a Battle of the Bands between beach music and Rolling Stones bands. (He’s recruited guitarist Bill Altman, drummer Paul Babelay and his wife Susan and their daughters Elizabeth and Rebecca, and is still casting otehr roles for that one.) “It’s Hollywood East as far as I’m concerned,” he says.

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“The Rescue Dogs of Western North Carolina: A Christmas Caper” premieres Wednesday, July 18, at the Regal Biltmore in Biltmore Park Town Square. Shows are at 5 and 6:30 p.m. Twenty-five percent of the gross revenue (not profit) goes to the Blue Ridge Humane Society. For tickets email jdmsullivan@att.net.