Jonathan Brind, a British journalist turned filmmaker, shows us the once very popular greyhound racing track, Walthamstow Dogs, and how it has not been able to keep up with the changing times in “Dogs Gone.” The arena used to be filled to capacity and was renowned around the globe. However, the internet and contemporary society have lead to the closure of Britain’s most famous dog racing track. The film is available to view now on SnagFilms (and below).
What it’s really about: “Walthamstow Dogs was an East End icon, as cockney as jellied eels and rhyming slang. It had been run from the day it opened in 1993 by a single family, the Chandlers, the children and grand children of a far too colorful bookie who gambled fortunes, sometimes winning, often losing. It was the world’s greatest dog track but it was created for an era when millions attended the cinema or went to their local football team, each week. In the era of the internet and online gambling, the Stow was simply too real, especially for the animal rights protestors. But if dog racing, inititall created by a different generation of animal rights protestors who wanted to stop the cruel hare coursing it replaced, disappears, what will be next? Sport fishing, pigeon fancying, keeping cats, mice and budgerigars?”
On the influence of his journalistic background: “I’m a local newspapaer trained journalist who went on to edit lots of business to business magazines. Six years ago, just before the great economic crash, I decided to use my training as a photo journlaist to make video stores, or documentaries. My idea was that the explosion of new channels would create a new generation of comiisionning editors who would be hungry for great stories told in a beautiful way. Not great timing, as it turned out.”
What inspired you to make this film? “I live up the road from Walthamstow Dogs and when they announced the closure people kept on saying you’ve got to make a video about the Stow before it disappears. I told them I was too busy, I was doing other things; let someone else do it! But when the 99th person said it I thought, ‘what the heck?’ I might as well have a bash. I contacted the Stow and they said OK. My timing was impeccable. Up until the day before the Stow’s PR department had been ferociously batting away anyone suggesting making a video. Loads of big companies had been sent away with a flea in their ear, sometimes two fleas. But the day before the lovely PR lady, one of the Chandlers, had checked herself into The Priory. When I started everyone else had given up. I had the field to myself, one of the biggest stories in the world at the time.”
On filming against time: “I had three months to capture the sights, the sounds and the feelings of a great institution. Miss something and it was missed forever. Once it had closed there would be no going back.”
What do you think SnagFilms audiences will respond to most in your movie? “The characters, the sights, the dogs, the sounds; a different world as alien now and as confined to histor as the world of the dinosaurs.”
What’s Next: “Currently making a video about the greatest oil painter you’ve never heard about. This unveils some of the absurdities of the world, which no one in a single lifetime could unveil them all.”
[Full Disclosure: SnagFilms is the parent company of Indiewire.]