Dog Altogether is a short film by Paddy Considine starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman about Joseph (Mullan), a man who is plagued by violence and rage that is driving him to self destruction.
Dog Altogether has won several awards, namely ‘Best Short Film’ at the British Independent Film Awards and The Silver Lion Award at Venice Film Festival. Considine has since made it into a feature film called Tyrannosaur (2011) starring the same actors.
I actually watched Tyrannosaur (one of my favourite films) before I saw the original short film. For the script writing task, I thought it would be useful in terms of research before writing my script to look at the short film, and see how the script is different from that of the feature.
I re-watched the short film today for research, I feel that my treatment is perhaps too long and detailed; more so than it needs to be for a 3-4 minute film. Tyrannosaur is a very deep film with two main, really detailed characters, so I wanted to have a look at the original short film again to get an idea of how to create a satisfying, successful short narrative with quite a detailed story.
One of the first things I noticed about Dog Altogether was the subtle introduction to the lead character, Joseph. The opening few scenes of the film, and indeed much of the rest of it, are very quiet with little dialogue; yet within the first minute or so, you get to know a bit about the character. This is achieved through the action; showing and not telling. Immediately we know the film is dealing with a protagonist who struggles with anger issues that are beginning to consume his life, because the opening scene shows him kicking his dog, almost to death. His facial expressions and the shots and scenes that follow show his remorse and regret after lashing out at his dog; emphasising his lack of control over his anger. Costume and location plays a big part in telling us about the character; he lives in a run down house and his clothing is scruffy.
Like my script idea, Dog Altogether contains two characters, both with an interesting back story, however the back story of Anita (Colman) isn’t explored, in Dog Altogether she is simply a plot device, and quite one dimensional. Turning it into a feature film enabled Considine to focus on her character and explore her back story more. I think where I’m perhaps going slightly wrong is that I’m looking too much into the back story of all three characters, and trying too hard to consider all of them, when for the purpose of a short film I should be focusing on the protagonist. While its important to have a detailed back story of all the characters, I think I’ve been dwelling too much on it.
The dialogue in Dog Altogether is very minimal, and its not relied upon to tell the story…the story is told through action and suggestion.
Re-watching Dog Altogether has certainly helped me with my script writing task and I have decided to focus on the protagonist and the “smaller picture” for now, as fully developed characters would work better for a much longer film. I will also keep the dialogue to a minimum, and focus on the action.