The business of dog massage – how my brief reply to an email turned into an adventure in filming

I have been in professional practice since 2009 and one of the more consistent battles I have fought over the years is to ensure that dog massage is recognized for the professional skills and training it requires. Consequently, I have never turned down an opportunity to promote my practice and the benefits to customers – both human and canine.

So when accounting software company Xero sent me its October newsletter last year with a little item – if you’d like to feature in one of our Customer Stories, please tell us about your business and how you use Xero – I replied and didn’t think much else about it after receiving an acknowledgement of receipt.

Then suddenly it was early 2021 and I received a request for a Skype interview with a copywriter from Xero. It was a lengthy interview- and very detailed – and I was totally comfortable telling Roz about my business and passion for dogs. And then I was invited to another meeting, with an Executive Producer and another when I was told that the Xero team had considered many businesses – and The Balanced Dog kept popping up to the top of the team’s list.

It was a little like going down the proverbial rabbit hole.

I had clients to contact to ask if they would lend their dogs and homes to be filmed. My lovely clients all said yes (only two were chosen once the logistics of filming were worked out). I then wrote a brief biography of each dog and information on address, logistics, etc. Special massage table coverings were ordered using my company logo, and lots of questions were asked and answered in email exchanges as we prepared for the shoot.

The date was set. The weekend of 1st and 2nd of May with an initial meeting at my home on the Friday afternoon. It turned out to be an entourage of four people who turned up that afternoon: the Director, the Social Media Director, the Producer and the Director of Photography. Little did I realize there would be more…

Saturday dawned. My hair and make-up artist arrived at 6:30 am and then I dropped Izzy with a friend and drove across town.

….to meet a crew of 13!

A Stills Photographer would be taking photos throughout the two days, I was told. We’d be filming a Customer Story that would be edited into several versions. There would be other filming for social media and stories. The Set Dresser would take care of props and arranging furniture and everything would be put back in its place.

They’ll tell me what to do. Just relax.

Thankfully, Canterbury turned on exceptional weather on both days – frosty and chilly for one day, warming up nicely the next.

Our first hill location above Halswell Quarry was perfect in the light of the morning, shame about the rounds of gunfire going off in the background at times. 1st May was the start of duck shooting season, you see.

Timings were monitored carefully by the Producer; everyone got down to work including wiring me for sound and checking lighting. Furniture was moved, my massage table and gear were set up.

I was told that Bryce, the Director, was ready to film. And we do it over and over again. I soon learned that ”one more time” wasn’t to be taken literally. He seemed trustworthy enough on other issues – just don’t believe him about the one more time… Walking up a flight of stairs with my massage table in hand was also becoming serious aerobic exercise.

Then while the film crew set up for another segment, I was needed outside for other filming for social media. There was another director, Cat, for those segments and yet another Director of Photography, Mike, for those.

Stephen, the Stills Photographer, kept asking me to smile. He was always there. I hate having my photo taken, but if anyone was going to be able to make me look good, I figured it would be a professional.

Then a carefully timed lunch break followed by wiring my car for sound. Don’t use the visor for the sunshine, I was told, because there’s a microphone hidden in there. Drive to our second filming location with Arlo and Neisha and their parents while being interviewed behind the wheel at the same time. This was live action filming!

Day 1 was soon over. Pick up Izzy and re-heat leftovers for dinner. Get some sleep.

Day 2 transformed my home into a film studio and we would also walk in our neighbourhood so that Izzy could show off her pram-riding skills and stellar personality. Another carefully timed lunch break in between.

Here’s what my lounge looked like from the other side of the lens during my filmed interview:

Two film cameras and one still – all pointing at me. Izzy was resting in the bedroom at this point (smart dog).

Then everyone rushed to pack up my house to take a drive across town to set up at sunset on Waimairi Beach.

Izzy and I were filmed using a long lens and also a drone.

And just like that, a whirlwind two days came to an end. It was hard to wind down after all the excitement.

I had plenty of time to wind down, as it turned out. This was probably the hardest time of all – wanting to share the experience with friends and clients but keeping quiet about it until the final product was ready for release.

Production takes time. A lot of patient waiting for the professionals to do their jobs editing, followed by scheduling of social media releases. A second Covid-19 lockdown in New Zealand postponed things a bit further.

It was worth the wait. Versions of my story are now making their way into regular posts onto Facebook and other social media.

Here it is – The Business of Dog Massage – HERO story version.

With thanks to everyone at Xero for choosing to profile my business and to the professional crew. I have a new appreciation for the long line of credits that are shown after a full length feature film!

Left to right: Set Dresser Chris Reddington; Production Assistant Harriette Logan; Hair and Makeup Artist Simone Thurlow; Copywriter and Director Roz Sanderson; Xero Producer & Director for Social Stories Cat Montford, Director of Photography & Hero film Ado Greshoff; Kathleen Crisley & Izzy from The Balanced Dog (also known as ‘Talent’); Bryce McNamara Creative Lead and Director of Hero film; Alix Wilson Workparty Producer; Kelly Chen 1st AC/Focus Puller; Director of Photography Social Stories and Drone Mike Sherrell; Best Boy Zac Beckett-Knight; and Sound Recordist Joseph Veale. Stephen Tilley, the Stills Photographer managed to stay behind the camera for this photo.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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