Pet Sounds

Roger Ebert‘s post about his pets animal companions got me thinking.

A couple of weeks back, I spent a day in a Radio New Zealand studio watching listening to a script being recorded. I spent most of that day with my eyes closed – but instead of falling asleep as I normally would, I found myself transported into a story that I not only wrote but thought I knew inside out. (That’s actors for you.) (And I guess radio’s not called theatre of the mind for nothing.)

Since then, I’ve become just a bit more conscious of what I hear. Small, everyday sounds like —

  • The cccclicks of The Dog’s nails on concrete during our runs.
  • The grunting-beakfuls as The Chickens scarf up their seeds and pellets.
  • The low boaah-boaaahh of The Chickens as they go about their business.
  • The Cat’s paws ghosting through the house.
  • The Dog’s tail ffwhiffing across the floor as she sits, expectant.
  • The kggghhh-snort-grunt of The Dog in contentment.

These give me warm fuzzies.

And when I work them into my scripts and they make it onto the screen without someone explicating it, I’ll be happy.

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8 Replies to “Pet Sounds”

  1. That’s cool… Sounds like you’re in flow with the universe at the moment.

    What you need to figure out is how those noises become a necessary part of the action of the story, so those blasted ‘story editors’ can’t cut them…

  2. hm. maybe through a “My Dog Spot” moment.

    i hate “My Dog Spot” moments.

    maybe an appropriation of a mundane sound (The Dog’s claws) and imbuing it with some menace (The Dog’s hunger).

    nah, too Jurassic Park.

    maybe it’ll be an in-joke that, stars aligning, the sound editor and i could share with pet owners in the audience….

  3. Hello, I’ve been reading many of your posts today, so please excuse a stranger butting in. But I am a dog fan. I love their little furry cheeks when their noses sniff wildly. I love the happy grunting that they do when I rub their belly during a heart to heart chat.

    Maybe (and this is what I’m hoping) that if I put in so many of these little animal idiosyncrasies, noises, expressions (oh yes!) and general mood lifters into a screenplay (god help me, the one I’m writing now), then “they’ll” have to keep *some* of them in. I’m even working dialogue around them. Might be a terrible idea, but can’t stop me from trying!

    I mean, come on, there’s WAY too many stupid animal movies that have animals doing unnatural and completely unbelievable shit, when the the stuff that’s pure gold, that makes you happy you got out of bed that day, is the real stuff. You just can’t get any better than a small wet kiss on the nose.

  4. hi Lyse

    there are no strangers here so you’re not butting in at all.

    if someone told me six years ago i’d be saying things like “who’s a good iddle-widdle wuffle doggle?” on an almost daily basis, i’d have cracked their head open.

    i think it’s important that a pet sound be essential to the story. i wrote one script where the tentative thump of a dog’s tail was a foreshadowing of something (um, can’t remember).

    after Mr Ebert’s review, i can’t bring myself to even consider watching Marley and Me. can’t think of any film or television show that showed a dog just being a dog. Lassie, Rin-tin-tin, et al have a lot to answer for.

  5. Ha! I totally agree! Who the hell are these dogs??!! Dogs don’t have to know how to find a lost child three cities away from one sniff of their jacket to have value! They just have to hang out when you’re sick. Laugh at dumb jokes. Be cute (I’m sure they practice that look in the mirror when I’m not around) and lie on cold feet. Simple. Often subtle. A multitude of expressions. All lost in the depiction of a dog that can open the safe of the bad guy with their super sonic hearing and oh so nimble paws. Ugh. There better be a lot of roast beef smothered in gravy in that safe if I’m going to even remotely buy that load of crap.

    Ah, foreshadowing with a tail thump. Very nice!! I’m encouraged to pursue my realistic portrayal of “Dave the dog” as one of the main characters in my story.

  6. i’ve always liked the Dave Barry quote:

    You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, “My God, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!”

    a sad truth but one i’ve come to depend on.

    “Dave the dog” has a nice ring – i look forward to seeing him on screen!

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