Interview with Filmmaker Theresa Desautels (YOU HANDSOME DOG)

YOU HANDSOME DOG (DON’T YOU EVER DIE) played to rave reviews at the February 2021 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I was motivated to film an interview with my grandfather back in 2016 when Trump won the US presidential election because I wanted reassurance from my grandfather that it was all going to be alright. He gave me no such reassurance, but once we got to talking about his life growing up, working in the Navy during WWII, and how he personally has lived through all kinds of struggles, I was reassured of our family’s resilience. I didn’t know what I’d do with the footage, maybe just keep it for posterity’s sake. But when I started to edit it in 2019, I realized that the most moving part of the interview had nothing to do with politics at all, but instead was about his expression of grief for having lost his mother at such a young age. I slowly edited the film for the next year, and when COVID-19 hit and I was forced to be in quarantine myself, I was motivated to finish and share his story with the world as soon as I could.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I suppose you could say it took 4 years from shooting to final edit, but once the idea was super clear, it took less than a year to really gain momentum and finish it.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Tender and ordinary.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The fear of being vulnerable about the impact that unexpressed grief has had on my family obstructed me from finishing this film for a while. It took a big structured push and a lot of tenderness and support from my mom, sisters, and partner for me to finish and share the film. So far the reaction to it has been so supportive and connective, which feels so nice.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was so touched by people sharing how the film moved them. It felt so nice for strangers who would have otherwise never known my Grandfather to get to know him and love him and see him for who he is.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make movies?

I worked at a movie theater where I grew up in Silver Spring MD for a couple summers before I went to college, the AFI Silver theater. There was a documentary film festival that happened there every summer, and because I worked there I had a free pass to any movie I wanted to see. There were so many different kinds of documentaries with varying structures and subjects and themes that I was immediately intrigued by the process of how they were made. The intrigue grew into fascination and an eventual determination to make some of my own short docs, as well as work on some spectacular documentary features.

7. What film have you seen the most times in your life?

The NeverEnding Story.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I appreciate how simple and straightforward the process is for a filmmaker. I do wish that the submission fees weren’t so high at some festivals so that it could be more accessible to folks with lesser means.

9. What is your favorite food?

Pizza. Ever since Kindergarten.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I am working on the second episode of a short doc Web Series I created in 2018 called “Millennial Think.” Each episode is a 5-10 minute story featuring different folks from the millennial generation about their thoughts on current events and how they move through the world as agents of change. The next episode features a millennial who worked in collections for Bank of America during the 2008 housing crash, and their experience as a financial literacy educator today. I also work as a tax preparer for a place called Brass Taxes, a tax prep company that specializes in doing taxes for freelancers and creatives, so I’m also headed into tax season and looking forward to helping people figure out their 2020 taxes.

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