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This project was successfully funded on April 19, 2014

Golden Retriever

by Jason Underhill and Rena Kosnett


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Golden Retriever is a 9-episode web series about Rea, a working artist who takes a job at a Los Angeles animal hospital in an upscale neighborhood. The series is based on the real-life experiences of one of the co-creators, Rena Kosnett, and has been developed over the last two years between Rena and collaborator Jason Underhill. Each episode's script is approximately 15 pages in length, and we now have a 140-page working script to lead us into production. Additionally, we've held a public table reading of the project, during which the dialogue and scene directions were read aloud by actors and friends, and feedback was given afterwards. 

Rena and Jason have been collaborating on art, film and photography projects together since meeting in college at CalArts in 2002. Rena’s work as a filmmaker, journalist and in social politics, alongside Jason’s extensive filmmaking experience, his interest in the underbelly of Middle Class America, serial narrative and dark humor are a perfect match for producing a workplace video series that examines the disparity between the struggling employees of the animal hospital and the wealthier clientele who patronize it.

As a thematic element, the animal hospital itself is used as a vessel for contained chaos. There are always spills to be cleaned and wounds to be bandaged, as well as dogs to pet or owners to calm down. We strive for realness and don’t shame at placing Rea, the protagonist, as an observer of the squeamish details that come with a pet’s unconditional love; i.e., attempting to console the grieving family of a recently departed dog while simultaneously searching for the surgeon’s demand of a correctly-sized urine sample tube (Episode 8: “Death by Laughter”). We’re telling these messy, loving stories with humanity and wry humor, and wet dog kisses. Rea is in the center of this storm.

This project has a timely and immediate appeal for several reasons. The economic gap in the United States is widening exponentially and the focus of wealth versus need is a major theme of this project.

Also, the current cultural obsession with pets, animals, and cuteness on the internet via social media is at an all-time high. Take “Buttermilk the Goat” as a perfect example. A 65-second clip on Youtube of baby Buttermilk playfully knocking over her goat friends has a hit count of almost 11 million as of January 16, 2014. We are admittedly victims and perpetrators of this obsession, but by producing a work at an animal hospital specifically for the internet, we want to add a dose of realism to the flood of cats caught in bread slices. Offline, we're dedicated to increasing awareness of animal homelessness and care.

Especially with the sacrifices many American families are having to make, including giving up pets to shelters due to financial hardship, animal homelessness and neglect are at extremely high levels. Part of this project’s goal is to draw attention to these issues, and to advocate for adoption over breeding when at all possible.

Additionally, there has never been a more difficult time for the Arts in public education and, consequently, awareness in the United States. With the Great Recession came massive budget cuts, and when budgets are slashed, arts programs are among the first things to go because they are seen as unnecessary and lavish. Our heroine, Rea, is a real working artist - she is not a struggling martyr or berét-adorned primadonna. She is a politically-minded outsider with deadpan wit, just trying to make a living.

Execution of the project:

 - The series will be directed by Jason and Rena, and shot on a stand-alone set of our own design and construction. We are estimating that shooting will take place over the course of three months, on weekends. We also have a dedicated pool of actors, cinematographers and a producer who are excited to contribute their talents to our project.

 - There will be a website for the series to function as a home-base for the project. The website will host two major launches of the web series. The first launch will be Episodes 1-5; the second launch will be Episodes 6-9.

 - We will host an Instagram account that can be followed, where we will post both production stills, humorous pictures based on individual characters’ interests, the animal actors, and Jason and Rena behind the scenes. As well as cute animals we happen to come across on a regular basis.

 - There will be a blog on Tumblr that can be followed as Jason and Rena host dog-on-the-street interviews and embedded Vimeo links featuring short video-sketches, improv, and previews of episodes - uploaded before each respective launch.

 - A Facebook page that will collect the stream and can be liked and shared with fans.

We are asking for $12,000. That will give us a budget of $1,000 for each episode (total $9,000) to feed the human and animal actors, pay for rental cameras, lights, and other equipment, plus $3,000 to build the set and buy props, supplies, and costumes before shooting.

Thank you for helping us fund our project! We're thrilled to be undertaking this work and grateful for any contribution that you can invest in Golden Retriever!

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