Local film maker shares advice with students during PASS

On May 25 during PASS, MTHS students, many of which who were working on their own short films, attended a showing of Mary Healey Julien’s new documentary, “Searchdog”.

“Searchdog”, which premiers at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) on May 28 and 29, follows widely acclaimed K9 Search and Rescue Specialist Matthew Zarrella from Rhode Island, condensing over four years of his life into 88 minutes.

Julien is a filmmaker and professor of Communication Studies and Film/Media at the University of Rhode Island, and is perhaps better known as the director and producer of “Holy Water-Gate: Abuse Cover-up in the Catholic Church.” The TV documentary, released in 2005 and shown internationally and on Showtime, detailed child sexual abuses within the Catholic Church.

Her newest documentary, however, does not uncover quite so scandalous acts but more of the story behind Zarrella, the impact he has had on the dogs and the impact the dogs have had on others.

When Zarrella was younger, he spent much of his time with dogs and developed strong bonds with them. Due to his dyslexia, Zarrella struggled in school and found solace whenever he was with dogs. “Searchdog”, Julien says, tells the story of police officers “beyond the stereotypes”.

Julien worked on “Searchdog” for six years, spending four and half years on call and the rest editing her over 50,000 minutes of footage.

“Every day [was] completely exciting, exhilarating, and I never knew what was going to happen next,” Julien said. “Sometimes I’d get called middle of the night, 3 a.m. and I’d have to follow the officer.”

She said that she was drawn to the film’s concept because of the upbeat demeanor K9 handlers had to maintain in dire situations.

“I found that really, really interesting. I wanted to know that story, and I wanted to tell that story,” she said.

In “Searchdog”, K9 officers use dogs to find missing people. Many of the situations are either life or death and rely on the dog looking for them.

Julien was also at MTHS to give advice to students, but was cut short by the third period bell.

“I’ve been in your seat. I remember being in high school,” Julien said. “I’m here to tell you… to trust your subconscious to figure [your film] out. Because you will.”  

Her advice also included not always telling a story chronologically, because “sometimes endings are fantastic beginnings”.