The world is one strange, fucked up place. You never know what kind of weird shit is going to happen next. One minute, you’re maybe hanging out on a giant, fancy cruise ship, having the time of your life; mingling with aristocrats, practicing your drawing skills and casually hooking up with a young Kate Winslet. The next, you’re desperately fighting for your life, hanging on to…I don’t know, a refrigerator door (?), as the freezing North Atlantic tries it’s best to engulf you forever.
One minute, you’re trying to cheer yourself up by trawling YouTube for funny dog videos. The next, you happen upon a trailer for one of those direct-to-video talking dog movies, and its called ‘The Three Dogateers Save Christmas’, and just the still looks so deliciously ridiculous that you can’t resist spending three minutes on watching the thing, and then when it ends and you’re casually glancing at the credits to see whether that really was Dean Cain in the trailer and not some rando who kinda looks like a pudgy old Dean Cain, and you think you spot some familiar names there so you pause it and—what the hell? Did Orri Páll Dýrason and Georg Hólm of the band Sigur Rós actually produce a direct-to-video talking dog movie called the ‘Three Dogateers Save Christmas’, starring Dean Cain???? Huh?
Anyway, yes. It’s true. The rhythm section of one of Iceland’s—nay, the world’s—greatest ever rock bands had a hand in producing a direct-to-video talking dog movie that’s called ‘The Three Dogateers Save Christmas’, starring former TV Superman Dean Cain. Such a film exists. It was released in 2014, you can watch the trailer on YouTube, and you can rent or buy it via services like iTunes.
Even after watching that fucking trailer thirty times, I was still doubtful. Maybe that trailer was some sort of elaborate prank played on Sigur Rós’ rhythm section by one of their friends, like that shady Jónsi character.
Then, I ran into the handsome drummer man, Orri, at a concert the other day. I gathered my courage and straight up asked him: “Hey, were you involved in making a talking dog movie called ‘The Three Dogateers’?”
Orri’s eyes lit up, and he excitedly exclaimed: “Yes! Yes I did! With my friends! It was the best investment I’ve ever made! And I learned so much from it! We’re going to make another one!” I congratulated him on his success, and then asked if the film was supposed to be some sort of secret, or if he maybe wanted to give a short interview on the subject. “Of course it’s not a secret,” he said. “Call me later and I’ll tell you all about it.”
VALUABLE LESSONS FROM THE DOGATEERS
A few days passed. After making sure it was definitely later, I called up Orri, who proceeded to tell me all about his secret life as a money-grubbing Hollywood producer.
How did your involvement in the Dogateer franchise come about?
Well. We had just arrived to Los Angeles from Hong Kong, to record a performance for Jay Leno. I was really tired after a long trip, but I knew my childhood friend Sindri [Már Finnbogason, formerly of noted Reykjavík indie-rock outfit Wool, currently CEO & Founder of online ticket vendor Tix.is] was in town, enjoying some time off between projects, so I called him up to see if something fun was going on. He was literally poolside at the Beverly Hilton when I reached him, leafing through a pile of scripts, because he’d always wanted to invest in a film.
I went to meet him by the pool, and we hung out and browsed through the pile. It was a mixed bag, mostly low-budget horror movies. We got really excited, however, when we found a Christmas movie that had talking dogs in it—‘The Three Dogateers Save Christmas’! We immediately started planning the production. Our dream was to get Chevy Chase to star in it. You know, a Christmas movie with Chevy Chase—it can’t go wrong. When Chevy fell through, we acquired the talents of Dean Cain, and… the rest is history!
A few friends of ours also got involved in the endeavour, like Goggi [Sigur Rós bassist Georg Hólm]—us serious artist types all banded together to produce a talking dog movie. It turned out to be a great investment, and it also taught me some very valuable lessons.
What are these lessons you speak of?
Being in the production team basically put me at the other end of the table. We were there as investors, with the clear aim of making a profit off the endeavour. In order to reach our goals, we had to ensure that the production was very thrifty and cost-effective, you know, you have to be careful with your budget if you want to make money.
We were very stringent, pinching pennies at every opportunity. If you watch the movie, you’ll notice that the dogs’ mouths are sometimes obscured by strategically placed Christmas tree branches when they’re supposed to be talking—that’s because the budget for the animation software stuff that makes it look like the dogs’ mouths are moving in synch with the voice acting ran out, and we refused to raise it. There was lots of stuff like that going on.
But, I mean. It’s a talking-dog movie!
VARIOUS CLIPS OF THE DIRECTOR’S DAD’S DOGS
What were your groups’ motives for producing a talking dog movie? Did you do it just for fun—or is it maybe one of those weird jokes you artist-types sometimes like to make?
No. We were completely serious about the production. It was an investment. We did it to make some money. It’s not as if we place any kind of meaning or importance in that film. We didn’t foster any artistic ambitions or anything like that. It’s a talking-dog movie, you know. We just wanted to make some money, and we worked hard to meet our goal.
Did you attend the premiere?
Did it premiere? I don’t think it was premiered anywhere. I don’t think our writer/director, Jesse Baget… He’s made a bunch of films, and I don’t think he’s ever screened any of them at a movie theatre. He makes a lot of direct-to-video stuff. Those dogs that starred in the movie, the Dogateers, they’re his dad’s dogs. I think the majority of the movie was basically stitched together out of various clips that he’s shot of his dad’s dogs over the years.
Who is this man?
He’s a guy called Jesse Baget. I’ve never met him.
Did the production take a long time to complete? What was your role, as producer?
It took a little less than a year to complete. Our role was basically supplying the money, funding the production. We did influence the outcome a little… at one point we got excited about this ‘Back To The Future’ style ending…. Anyway, it’s all about the finance. Gaining that perspective was so healthy for a guy like me, who has only ever sat at the other end of the table. All of the sudden, I could sort of understand record company people. Those guys just want money, they don’t mean anything by anything—they don’t care about music—they just want to make money. And that’s great, because we need record companies that make money so people like me can focus on making music.
Are you planning to finance any more direct-to-video talking dog movies?
Yes! ‘Jurassic Bark’ is in the works! It will star the same dogs, except one of them passed away, may he rest in piece. The plot sees the Dogateers embarking on a search for the world’s biggest bone. It’s a dinosaur bone.
Then, we’re planning to maybe make ‘Indiana Bones’.
Would you recommend people see The Three Dogateers Save Christmas?
You can try, but it’s a horrible movie. I doubt you’ll manage to finish it. I don’t think I did.
Deconstructing The Three Dogateers: Paw-Teur Theory
No cinematic genre testifies more urgently to the realities of contemporary American family life than the direct-to-video talking-pet movie. A deceptively homespun transposition of a French literary classic to a middle-class American household, ‘The Three Dogateers’ is an incisive work that fits perfectly into the visionary Sigur Rós oeuvre.