There’s a certain magic about dog tales.
They’re relatable. They’re emotional. They’re feel good stories. And they’re man’s best friend.
W. Bruce Cameron wrote the story and screenplay to A Dog’s Way Home, which is out in theaters nationwide today.
A Dog’s Way Home is a heartwarming story about the adventures of Bella, who treks on an epic 400-mile journey home after she was separated from her beloved owner.
The film stars Ashley Judd, Jonah Hauer-King, Edward James Olmos, Alexandra Shipp and Wes Studi. Bryce Dallas Howards provides the voice for Bella.
The film is directed by Charles Martin Smith.
Cameron wrote numerous novels relating to canines, including the best-selling book A Dog’s Purpose and adopted on to the big screen back in 2017. The sequel to that novel and film A Dog’s Journey is planned for release early this summer.
He is also the author of several youth novels and is also known for the self-improvement book “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”
LRM Online spoke exclusively with W. Bruce Cameron over the phone about the film adaptation, Shelby the dog and many other things.
A Dog’s Way Home is currently playing in theaters nationwide today.
Read our exclusive interview below.
LRM: Could you start off with telling me where you got the original idea for A Dog’s Way Home?
W. Bruce Cameron: From time to time, something would cross my e-mail box and I would read a story about a dog that had found his or her way back to his or her owners over a long period of time. I was just always, always just fascinated. Then I read some scientists on trying to figure out how it is a dog could possibly do this. How they can navigate. The theories went all the way from, some people say, they smell their town. When they go to a different town, they can still sense the first town on the wind even if it’s several hundred miles away. Others say, they could sense the magnetic north. I’m not sure how that’s actually helpful, but we’re not talking about geese here. I don’t understand how that would be helpful if you’re going east and west. Regardless, I started thinking, our full force in the universe is love. Couldn’t be possible the real reason that dog and find its way home is from the tug of the invisible leash of love leading her unerringly to her person. The impetus for A Dog’s Way Home is it’s just my own personal exploration of this phenomena that we don’t really understand it as humans.
LRM: Wow. I’m impressed. You really do your research into your books. [Laughs]
W. Bruce Cameron: I set it in Colorado. I spent a lot of time in Colorado on the Colorado trail just trying to understand what life would be like for [Bella] on the trail headed home from Farmington, New Mexico all the way to [Colorado]. On how Bella would feel being on that trail through the scenes, through this harsh terrain and stay alive to fend for herself in an impossible environment. Dogs are not hunters anymore. Not even a pack of dogs could survive on its own up in the mountains. It takes the human hand and then some other friends of intervening along the way.
LRM: I’ve read your book. I love your book, but obviously going from book to screen–there has to be changes. How comfortable are you with changes like this?
W. Bruce Cameron: They’re so different. These art forms. In writing a novel, I have a great deal of freedom when it comes to the length of the novel. I have a great deal when it comes to what I decided is important to put in. I could have followed some interesting sidetracks if I want just to sort of explore some themes. When it comes to a movie, a movie has to tell a story in a very contained type format. Furthermore, a movie brings in the artistry of all kinds of different professionals. Everybody from the costumer to the sound person to the color mixer, they’re all going to apply their skills to what we are ultimately going to see on the screen. I have come to understand that. Therefore, I feel as if I’ve just moved into a completely different media. It’s the same story,being the screenwriter along with my wife, makes it so that I have real control over the story. But, then everybody else contributes and that’s just how that goes. My level of comfort is adjusted by the fact that that’s the reality. I don’t really allow myself to dwell on the differences, because there’s no point.
LRM: I’ve heard you have a fascinating story about Shelby, the actual dog in the movie. Why don’t you tell us about your discovery of Shelby in the first place?
W. Bruce Cameron: We’ve committed very early on. When Sony agreed to make this movie, they agreed with us that it was important to send a very strong, clear message about dog rescue, about animal rescue. We said the dog who is going to be our movies star has got to be an animal that we rescue. The search for Shelby was conducted by a lot of different people. It’s searching for the right look. When you’re looking for an actor, you’re looking at head shots.
We settled on this dog, Shelby, who was living in a shelter in Tennessee. We had conversations with the shelter people about the dog. They convinced us that her temperament was special. So Catherine and I flew down along with Theresa Miller, who was the head set animal trainer to meet this rescue dog. Shelby came out of that cage in the back. She was so infusive in her greeting, which is very special to me since she grew up, as far as we know, in a landfill. We don’t know what her life was like, but we can imagine how awful it was that she was just basically surviving on garbage. Yet she was a far from being timid or aggressive or any of the things that you might expect from an animal that wasn’t raised at a low level. She was responsive and interested in us. Immediately loving. If we had decided not to put Shelby in the movie, I probably would’ve have taken her home myself anyway. [Chuckles] She was that wonderful. She went from junkyard dog to movie star.
Now she’s got a great life and she’s touring. She flies in first class. She’s touring the country with us. It just shows the rescue dogs can do anything. They can be very special. If you’re considering adopting a dog or going to buy a dog, you should give in consideration of the fact that even if you’re partial to a certain look or a certain breed, you can rescue that. There are Labrador rescues. There are Dachshund rescues. Shelby, through her life, gives us all a lesson in love and in adoption and rescue.
LRM: You wrote numerous books on dog novels. Aren’t you afraid that you boxed yourself to be a sort of like a dog author? [Laughs]
W. Bruce Cameron: Well, that’s an interesting question. I’ve written other books. I’ve got a mystery series that I’ve written. I’ve written books about the Paleolithic. I have to say that when I write about humans–I have to go into the human psyche. People can be dark and the morose, vicious and selfish. Dogs are none of those things. Am I afraid that I had saddled myself an obligation or write about the most enjoyable, obviously optimistic animal I can think of? I don’t mind that at all.
LRM: Excellent. Could you talk about some of your future projects?
W. Bruce Cameron: I’ve got a book coming out in October, a called “A Dog’s Promise.” It is the third book in the A Dog’s Purpose trilogy. It’s a very special story. I’m very, very happy with it. The draft is with my publisher right now. I write younger reader books. I got a book called “Toby’s Story” is coming out. They are adaptations of the novels that I’ve written. I misspoke. I have a book called “Shelby’s Story” that out in November. It is the story of this dog I’m looking at right now. This dog, Shelby, who was adopted from the shelter in Tennessee. “Toby’s Story” tells the story of a dog who lives in a hospice and helps take care of sick people. That’s the younger reader series.
I’m starting chapter book series in 2020. I’ve written the first two. They are based on a dog that lives in an animal rescue organization called Lily “Lily’s To The Rescue” is the name of the series. I don’t have titles for the books yet, but I’ve written two of them. I’m still writing about four books a year. One grownup book and three kids books a year.
We have a movie coming out in May, A Dog’s Journey, which is based on the sequel to A Dog’s Purpose. It’s the number two of the three [in the series] from the Amblin Entertainment and Universal. I imagine I’ll be back on tour with that.
We’re hopeful that this weekend, people will come out in force to support this movie. It’s a family fare in the theaters. This whole business keys off of the opening weekend. If they have a strong opening weekend, the it approves the model. It proves the investment was worth If you have any influence over on anybody, tell them, “Please go, go this weekend. Go now. Go see this movie.” [Laughs] Prove to the studios that there’s still support for a family affair where you can take your grandma and you can take your grandkids. They can all sit together and all have this family experience.
LRM: Most definitely. Hey, thank you for this conversation, Bruce. I really appreciate it. Thank you for introducing cats this time around in a round about way.
W. Bruce Cameron: [Laughs] You got it.
Source: LRM Online Exclusive