SJ’s bright film future

SJ’s bright film future

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) In The Doghouse was shot at the Serpentine Camping Centre and Quarry Farm, which were transformed to resemble a prison farm.

A short film shot in Whitby and Serpentine could be Western Australia’s best shot at a spot in Tribeca or Sundance this year.

Melville-born director Aron Attiwell (23) is gearing up to take his short-length prison drama ‘In The Doghouse’ overseas for the international film festival circuit.

The film was inspired by a rehabilitation program – Pups In Prison – which teams aspiring assistance dogs with prison farm inmates as their trainers, and which has seen remarkable results in improving prisoners’ mental health and general wellbeing, and decreasing rates of recidivism around the country.

The main character ‘Joel’ is played by Tristan Balz and veteran correctional officer ‘Lisa’ is played by Kate Elder.

‘In The Doghouse” follows Joel (Tristan Balz), an incarcerated man seeking redemption and a chance to rebuild his life and reconnect with his estranged daughter, Grace.

While serving his sentence, Joel finds himself enrolled in the unique dog assistance program as part of his rehabilitation. The program is led by Lisa (Kate Elder), a veteran correctional officer with a passion for transforming the lives of inmates through the power of assistance dogs.

Joel is reluctantly paired with the spirited but intuitive Lily. The process of building trust and communication with Lily becomes an important first step to mending the fractured relationship with his child, and learning the resilience needed to become a new man.

‘Lily’ was played by five different dogs.

‘In the Doghouse’ was shot over two weeks in March last year at the Quarry Farm in Whitby, and the Serpentine Camping Centre.

It’s currently going through its final edits ahead of its overseas debut in July, before returning to Australia in 2025 for a local screening premiere.

“It’s definitely got legs,” Aron said.

“It’s a big risk to work with animals – and we worked with five dogs on this film. But I’d say it’s paid off.

“In terms of the collaboration on this project, it’s definitely the best creative team I could have hoped for. And the landscape in Serpentine was perfect – exactly what we needed.”

Aron said he’s hopeful that this dog will have its day: “Getting this selected for either Tribeca or Sundance for its world premiere would be a dream come true.”

Aron Attiwell has a keen eye for detail.

Aron has a wealth of film production and directing experience that belies his young age.

He said he owes a debt of gratitude to his media studies teacher at Kennedy Baptist College, who saw a spark in him and ignited the flame, putting him in touch with local luminaries.

After working in the corporate film industry for a number of years, Aron tried his hand at directing narrative work, honing his craft. He worked as assistant director on Before Dawn – a retelling of one of Australia’s biggest WWI victories – which has just celebrated its cinema release.

But his breakout work came in 2021 with Fading Numbers – a short film which explores the legacy of the Holocaust and its impact on future generations.

Fading Numbers received 27 nominations, winning Best Picture and Best Director at the Los Angeles Film Awards, Best Australian Director at the London Director Awards and Aron was named Breakthrough Filmmaker of the Year by the Los Angeles Film Awards. Fading Numbers was also distributed as educational material into Western Australian private high schools for years 11 and 12 media and history students.

With all that already in the can, Aron’s dream of achieving selection in one of the big five global film festivals doesn’t seem quite so lofty.

And he hopes to use whatever success he has to shine a light on his home state.

“It would be great to share a positive message about the Western Australian film industry,” he said.

“There’s a lot of undiscovered talent here.”

He already has ‘ambitious ideas’ for a feature-length film shot in WA should he get chucked a bone after ‘In the Doghouse’ is released.

“I’d say that bringing Hollywood to Perth would be my biggest dream,” he said.

And perhaps a little of that glitz is heading SJ’s way. Aron said he’s been in contact with the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to host a special local screening when ‘In the Doghouse’ comes home next year.