The Doc Doctor’s Anatomy of a Film: “This Is Where My Dog Is Buried”

A still from "This Is Where My Dog Is Buried"

About this column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So each month, the Doc Doctor will go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. The “Anatomy of a Film Column” is a chance to learn from filmmakers’ hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

Case Study #9

This Is Where My Dog Is Buried, produced and directed by Nir Keinan

Running time: 50 minutes

Film Vitals

Logline: An emotional and geographical road movie that takes filmmaker Nir Keinan along the many places where people that mattered to him are buried, until the final revelation on whether he has to choose between killing or dying.

Location: Shot in Israel’s northern regions

Length of shoot: Two weeks

Length of editing: Six months of traveling back and forth to the Netherlands northern village of Westerwijdwert (the place where everything happens and nothing really happens)

Length of time from pre-production to broadcast air date: Five years

Money Talk

Research and production done with less then $4,000 from The Israeli Second Authority For Television and Radio; post-production and retro money for the time the producer suffered making this film generously invested by VPRO The Netherlands; money for an Hebrew version given by the same authority & Tel Aviv Joshua Rabinovitz Fund for Literature and Art.

Filmmaker’s History

Studied in The Sam Spiegel School for Film and Television in Jerusalem. Worked for years in the Jerusalem Cinemateque, patching old celluloid, making sure films run, that the actors play and that audiences were cool, while managing to watch a film here and there. Later put his film knowledge into practice by developing youth and adult programs with the intent of using filmmaking as a way of understanding one’s society and self. Left Israel for good several times, published a short novel in between. He now lives in Israel with his wife and two children.

Film school: Sam Spiegel’s School

Other studies: Islam and Psychology in the University of Amsterdam

Beyond academia: Worked as a grip, camera, director’s assistant, and editor for no money whatsoever. Paid the bills by founding a mover’s company with two hungy film students.

Survival strategy: Not even one dream completed so kept on dreaming while running

Previous films: Several shorts

Smart Move

More strikes of luck than smart moves, or both. Met left-wing Jewish Dutch multimillionaire who put him in touch with Dutch media, which in turn financed part of his film. More luck and destiny had some ex- film school mates working at a Dutch network. The smart move was to keep them in the fold in spite of serious artistic differences. Mastering conflict resolution brought the loose team together at the critical point of the final financing.

Never Again

Taking a volunteering student as a soundman.

Film’s Successes So Far

This is Where My Dog Is Buried was premiered in Utrecht’s Film Festival. Broadcasted in VPRO. Gained some attention at the Israeli Competition in Doc Aviv-Tel Aviv Documentary Film Festival 2005. Broadcast the same year in Israel’s Channel 10, on the National Memorial Day for the war losses, and gained a lot of angry right wing critics, asking how come a film that shows compassion to the enemy is shown on such an aching day? Participated in Munich Documentary Film Festival and broadcast in, yes, the Maory Channel of Australia. Planning on coming to NYC for Yom Kippur screenings and intensive Q & As (for bookings

Most Memorable Moments

“Saying special thanks to my wife at the premiere,” says Keinan without hesitation. Also firing the volunteering soundwoman after one week and taking the boom into his own hands. Plus an unexpected phone call, the sister of one of the deceased persons in the film, she found his number and called to thank him.

Will Relapse?

“Gladly so!” says Keinan. Working on four different documentary proposals nowadays, two as director and two as creative producer and scriptwriter.

Related Links:

Visit the film’s official website.

The Doc Doctor will be presenting her signature workshops and speaking throughout Israel and Europe this summer. For details check

Read the Doc Doctor’s previous “Anatomy” columns on Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, The Longing and Muskrat Lovely.

About :

Internationally renowned author and story consultant Fernanda Rossi has doctored over 300 documentaries, scripts, and fundraising trailers including the 2009 Academy Award® nominated The Garden by Scott Hamilton Kennedy and the 2007 Academy Award® nominated Recycled Life by Leslie Iwerks. In addition to private consultations, lectures, and seminars worldwide, she has served as festival juror and grant panelist. Ms. Rossi shares her knowledge and research of story structure and the creative process in columns and articles in trade publications. She is also the author of the book Trailer Mechanics: A Guide to Making your Documentary Fundraising Trailer.