“Nobody would ever do what I did,” declares John Wojtowicz, the inspiration for the Academy Award-winning crime drama Dog Day Afternoon. “Nobody would ever rob a bank to cut off a guy’s dick to get him a sex change operation. That’s why they made a movie about it.” This is an accurate and frank summarization of the iconic 1975 crime-drama. But in the trailer above the self-professed crook and lover tells us the Sidney Lumet film that starred Al Pacino playing Wojtowicz’s brash yet charismatic doppelganger Sonny Wortzik was just the tip of the iceberg of his outrageous tale. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
In 2001, documentarians Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren watched Dog Day Afternoon and noticed the end titles said Sonny got twenty years in jail, meaning his real-life counterpart would be released in 2002. Fascinated, the pair sought him out, eager to hear his side of the story Hollywood so concretely defined. Shortly after finding Wojtowicz’s mother in Brooklyn, they got a phone call at two in the morning:
“This is the Dog calling. My mother told me you sounded sexy, so I'm calling you back.”
This fantastic response was the birth of The Dog, a documentary that will screen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Over the past decade, Berg and Keraudren have gathered interviews with The Dog and his mother Terry, and used some of the archival mementos they saved to create a character portrait of the curious man behind Dog Day Afternoon. However, it’s upcoming debut doesn’t mean The Dog is done. In fact, the filmmakers need about $65,000 to finish the film. They have 17 days of fundraising to go, and must raise nearly $52,000 or the site's bylaws mandate all the donations they’ve collected thus far will return to their donors.
With the rise of Kickstarter, film funding has never before been such a public spectacle, especially with the likes of Rob Thomas, Zach Braff, and Spike Lee utilizing the option. The last of these three won scorn from detractors who rightly pointed out Lee wanted money for a project he was totally unwilling to share details about. But The Dog’s campaign sets itself apart by having a concept many are familiar with and a transparent justification for why they need financing.
On their fundraising page, you can see donations will cover the costs of color correct, HD conversion, title design, graphic design for promotion, and various archival footage meant to help flesh out the film’s setting. Should you choose to donate, incentive prizes range from e-updates, thank you post cards, and a The Dog T-shirt to tickets to its premieres (in New York or at TIFF), your name in the credits, and access to the filmmakers via an online Q&A or one hour phone call. So, if you want to see this intriguing doc come to a theater (or VOD service) near you, kick in some cash so The Dog doesn’t have to come out of retirement.