Brean Cunningham’s “Dogs On the Inside”

Brean Cunningham has been around movies all his life.

His uncle, Westport native Sean Cunningham, directed “Friday the 13th,” “Spring Break,” and “Manny’s Orphans” (the greatest soccer movie ever, starring a young Dan Woog as the referee).

After graduating from Georgetown University, Brean — who in his younger days played “every sport” at the Westport Y, and worked at Carvel — assisted his uncle when Cunningham produced the 2009 remake of “The Last House on the Left.” Brean later worked with Sean, on the development side of filmmaking.

But when Brean decided to do his own film, it wasn’t a thriller. It wasn’t a coming-of-age comedy. It wasn’t even the greatest soccer movie ever.

Brean wanted to make a difference.

Brean Cunningham

Brean Cunningham

In 2011 he co-founded Expect Miracles Productions, to “tell stories people can believe in.” He traveled to Africa for a web advocacy video about the positive effects of combating neglected tropical diseases in Ghana. He was a field producer on a documentary about Churchill, Manitoba (“The Polar Bear Capital of the World”), and the people who live there.

The 1st documentary he directed and produced, “Expect Miracles,” spotlighted the impact of volunteers in Appalachia.

Brean is very excited about his latest project. “Dogs on the Inside” explores the partnership between a Massachusetts prison and a dog shelter. Inmates train rescue dogs, who are then given to new families.

Brean Cunningham, at work in the Massachusetts prison.

Brean Cunningham, at work in the Massachusetts prison.

Both the dogs and inmates gain new leases on life. Both suffer from trust issues. As bonds deepen, prisoners — about to re-enter society — discover a new capacity for love and empathy.

It’s a powerful film. Like any documentary maker, Brean had to navigate a thicket of challenges, from obtaining permission to film, to making sure they had the right people and dogs to tell this compelling story.

Brean - Dogs posterBrean was allowed only 3 days inside the prison. He and his crew filmed the day the dogs arrived; a day in the middle of the program, and the day the dogs left with their new families. Everywhere Brean and the crew went, prison officials hovered over their shoulders.

Brean was impressed both by the prisoners’ warmth, and prison officials’ genuine desire that the inmates succeed. He was devastated, though, by what he saw in Mississippi, where the abused dogs came from.

Post-production took time. Nashville musician Sam Gay scored the film, and in late December it was done.

Brean and his co-director — Fairfield native Doug Seirup — have submitted it to festivals. It premieres at the Boston International Film Festival on April 14, with others to follow. Of course, Brean is looking for a local venue too.

Brean loves sports, so his next venture may be “a great sports story.”

Go for it. Though it will be hard to beat “Manny’s Orphans.”

If the trailer for “Dogs on the Inside” does not open in your browser, click here.

15 responses to “Brean Cunningham’s “Dogs On the Inside”

  1. Holly Wheeler

    Wow, Brean and Doug, (from what I saw on the trailer) superb job on such an important topic. Good luck in Boston. Can’t wait to see DOGS ON THE INSIDE locally. Where can I see your other work?

  2. I hope I will get a chance to see this out here in Southern Ca! What a great story!

  3. Dan, of course you know that Brean’s mom is 1966 Staples grad, Sally Cross. That’s where he gets his good looks.
    John Lupton

  4. Dan, maybe this will turn you into a dog guy. 🙂 Great story.

  5. 🙂 Couldn’t help myself but I think you’re turning into a dog guy, just suspecting.

  6. I may have a venue in New Canaan for him. How can I connect with him?

  7. Amazing! Great concept for low level non-violent offenders and what a life lesson for the inmates. Great job documenting their story!

  8. Hi Jon – I’d be happy to connect you! Can you email me at brean@dogsontheinside.com?

    Thanks!
    Brean

  9. Anita Collins

    Brean, so looking forward to this completed documentary. I am so proud to have met you and Doug and to have been a part of this. Looking forward to seeing you at the show.

  10. Anita Collins

    Brean and Doug my sincere congratulations on a fantastic documentary. It was absolutely fabulous. My family and I loved it. My brother and sister in law suggested you try to get it into the Newburyport Film Festival. If you want I can get you the information. Loved loved loved the film.