Known for The Creep Behind the Camera and HAZE featuring Robin Wright Penn, locally based director Peter Schuermann raised development funds for the film, A Voice for Lil Olive, through an Indiegogo campaign last spring. The Springs-based team behind the project includes writer/producer Kirsten Akens (also a Springs magazine contributor). We caught up with Akens to ask a few questions about the project.
Springs Magazine: Who is Lil Olive?
Kirsten Akens: Lil Olive is an Italian greyhound who spent more than 12 years constantly being bred for her puppies in a mill in Missouri. After the state government shut down the mill, she was rescued and ultimately adopted by a local family, Pam and Kevin Horton. She became a bit of a social media celebrity through Pam’s initiative to start her a Facebook page, which now has more than 40,000 followers.
How did this film come about?
Director Pete Schuermann’s wife, Ashley, is a huge animal advocate—the couple adopted a puppy mill survivor named Lola a while back and knew they wanted to expose what was going on at, and as a result of, these mills. Originally the couple began work on a film meant to follow mill rescue teams on their rescues, but after many conversations with family and friends realized that most viewers wouldn’t be able to watch something like that—the horrors at these facilities are heart-wrenching. Out of that process though, they connected with Pam and Lil Olive and decided the way to address puppy mills was not through the typical horrendous images you see, but through the post-mill story of one special pup.
Why does this issue matter?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 10,000 licensed and unlicensed puppy mills in the U.S. Licensed facilities alone produce more than a million puppies each year by breeding roughly 100,000 female dogs; the figures for unlicensed puppy mill breeders are unknown. What is known is that more than 2 million puppy mill dogs are sold each year, from facilities that are often considered inhumane and cruel. Even the licensed facilities, which fall under the federal Animal Welfare Act, have very few requirements for caring for their dogs. For example, there’s no age limit for breeding dogs, dogs never have to be let out of their cages, and the cages only have to be 6 inches larger than the dog on all sides.
What are your goals for the film?
We hope to end puppy mills. It may seem like a lofty goal, but we know that documentaries can have that kind of impact. Just last spring, news came through that the documentary Blackfish, and the education it brought to the masses, ended SeaWorld’s captive breeding of whales. And now there’s more conversation happening about a “Blackfish effect” that’s reaching out further to circuses, zoos and aquariums when it comes to their captive animal policies. It’s not unrealistic to think we can make that kind of a difference when it comes to puppy mills.
What can people do to learn more or support the film?
A group of local individuals has started a nonprofit, SitStaySpeakOut, that focuses on educating the general public about the need for humane treatment of animals specifically through television, film and video initiatives. The first project the nonprofit has chosen to back is A Voice for Lil Olive, which means people can make tax-deductible donations at sitstayspeakout.org.
More generally, people can learn more about the film at avoiceforlilolive.com; or follow one of our social media pages:
Facebook: “A Voice for Lil Olive”
YouTube: “A Voice for Lil Olive”
Watch the teaser trailer here:
Check out an original song in support of the film by Danielle Ate the Sandwich (Fort Collins singer/songwriter):