Four Fresno State students won the Award of Merit from the Accolade Global Film Competition for their documentary “Bully: The Story of the Rock Dog.”
Belen Gomez, Elsa Mejia, Andrea Guyton and Melanie Daniel created their own production team called B.E.A.M. to dedicate and develop their film based on issues of animal cruelty.
The documentary focuses upon Enzo, an abandoned pit bull terrier who was found in Fresno two years ago suffering from severe malnourishment and cracked skin sores across his body and face. Enzo was rescued and taken to Fresno Bully Rescue (FBR), a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates abused dogs.
Daniel, a Fresno State alumnae, participated with crew in the production as creative director, videographer, editor and ran audio.
Daniel said the production first started out as a project for class, but has now grown to become something much bigger.
“We decided to participate, because we all had a special connection to the film and just felt we should enter just to see what happens,” Daniel said. “We didn’t expect to win, especially on an international scale.”
The production team had posted the film to YouTube last December, and it has received more than 16,600 views.
Daniel first heard about Enzo while volunteering at FBR. She said how important it was to her and her crew to have their documentary focus upon Enzo’s story.
“I think, as a team, we felt Enzo’s story was a very extreme animal neglect case, and because he was able to overcome his health issues and still love humans is simply extraordinary,” Daniel said. “We also wanted to focus on his story, because many people are not aware that there’s so many other abuse/neglect cases like Enzo’s, but those stories get little to no amount of media attention. So people are not fully aware of how common it is.”
Crew member Mejia said she had an unusual response to the animal rescue due to her fear of dogs and that it was hard for her when filming to be near to the animals.
“All my life, I’ve had a fear of dogs, in general, and more so pit bulls,” Mejia said. “There was only one particular moment where I felt extreme anxiety, as I was down on my knees, and he started approaching me quickly. The staff at FBR was very kind and understanding of my fear and just directed me on what to do.”
Mejia said due to the success of the film, the crew plans to work on more film projects in the future.
Bridgette Boothe, director of FBR, said the organization hopes to find loving and lasting homes for the 45 dogs it houses now. She said awareness that can be spread in any way possible about animal abuse is very helpful.
“We need to make a change, and change starts with becoming aware,” she said.
Boothe said she’s proud of the young filmmakers and that the award is very much deserved.
“It makes you want to get up and do something about the problem,” Boothe said. “It evokes emotion and sticks with you. I think the impact of them winning this award just is pretty substantial and speaks volumes.”
She said that due to the prevalence of animal abuse both in the Valley and in the nation, there needs to be more attention focused on this issue.
“People need to know that they can do something about it,” Boothe said. “Animals cannot speak for themselves, so they rely on us. Hopefully, with better education on the topic, the next generation will be better educated and more compassionate human beings.”