The Dog and The Elephant
Based on an original stage play of the same name, The Dog and The Elephant is the compelling story of the unlikely kinship between young boxer Bendigo Barlow and Ina, an elephant from a travelling menagerie.
Set in the violent world of Victorian boxing and the honour code of the Romany Gypsies, Bendigo’s struggle to live with Tourette’s syndrome is made all the more difficult by fear and ignorance as he is violently shunned by those who simply don’t understand. Bendigo’s fractured life leads him on a brutal journey of destruction, retribution and ultimately revenge.
The film was shot by BAFTA award-winning Cinematographer Nicholas Bennett. We wanted the film to have a stripped back visual style, with minimal camera movement and angles, so as to retain some of the theatrical quality from the original play. We also took the bold decision to shoot in black and white, rather than simply desaturating the image in post, and opted for the RED monochrome 4K camera.
The film was shot in one long day on a black sound stage at Three Mills in East London using just one briese light and two cameras. It was, however, an immense challenge for Jack, the actor. The play is incredibly powerful and required him to go through a range of emotions until he is completely distraught and broken. To get all the coverage we needed, Jack had to repeat this over and over again tirelessly for almost 10 hours straight. It was astonishing.
The original play had a wonderful construction to it with “collective nouns” acting as metaphors for the different stories in Bendigo’s life. For example, a “murder of crows” or a “pride of lions”. We used this device to chapter the film into seven clear chapters and introduced title cards at the beginning of each section. These seven animals also feature as tattoos all over Bendigo’s body.
To achieve this we enlisted the help of tattoo artist Martha Ellen Smith who drew them especially for the film. These were then made into transfers using a state-of-the-art technique by Tinsley Transfers and then carefully applied by SFX make-up artist Robbie Drake.