Nelson Woss takes the ‘Red Dog’ franchise in a surprising new direction

Koko: A Red Dog Story.

Nelson Woss made a crazy-brave decision when audiences went wild for Koko: A Red Dog Story at three packed test screenings in Indianapolis in September: He wanted Australian cinemagoers to see the third chapter of the Red Dog franchise this year.

So the producer’s Good Dog Distribution and distribution partner Roadshow Films have booked the film from writers/directors Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce as an alternate content release on 80 screens this Thursday.

With no ads on TV or in newspapers, no billboards, bus shelters or buses, the low-budget film co-funded by Screen Australia, Screenwest and Lotterywest is up against the premieres of Universal’s The Addams Family and Pinnacle’s Oz drama Kairos and the second weekend of Disney’s Frozen 2.

“There is no guarantee of success but what we have is a film with heart and soul that plays like gangbusters,” Woss tells IF before a Monday night charity screening at Event Cinemas in Innaloo to benefit a dogs’ refuge home.

“We also have a bunch of dog lovers who are seeing the film in groups at cinemas and are spreading the word about it.

“It is a completely unexpected experience that can only be appreciated in cinemas, not by streaming on Netflix.”

Indianapolis has been a good luck charm for the producer. Kriv Stenders’ Red Dog won the $US100,000 top prize at the city’s Heartland International Film Festival and the sequel Red Dog: True Blue got the same accolade, worth $US25,000.

Samuel Goldwyn Films has bought the US rights and relicensed the original to streaming platforms including Amazon, Hulu and Vudu.

Woss, who produced with Lauren Brunswick, hired McCann and Pearce after being mightily impressed by their 2017 Japanese samurai mockumentary Top Knot Detective. He observes: “They have re-energized the franchise, brought their own unique style and come up with something really original and fun.”

Sarah Woods in Koko: A Red Dog Story.

The film follows the life of Koko from being raised by a Victorian breeder, becoming a best-in-show show dog, his fall from grace due to bad behaviour and an erect tail, and finding fame as the star of Red Dog.

Woss is unwilling to reveal plot spoilers but says the film narrated by Jason Isaacs features re-enactments. The cast includes Felix Williamson as Woss, Toby Truslove as Stenders, Sarah Woods and Verity James, and there are cameos from some famous faces.

“It’s a love story about why we love dogs,” Woss adds. “Koko had an amazing life and his impact on people and communities is his legacy.”

If audiences respond to this weekend’s screenings the producer says Roadshow will expand the release and spend more on P&A.