Mon 6.17.2013

10 Questions: Four Dogs’ Director Joe Burke

“10 Questions with LA Film Fest Filmmaker Spotlights” is a series of posts to help you get to know our Festival filmmakers and their films just a little bit better.

Joe Burke

FILM: Four Dogs / Narrative Competition

Already branded an acting school drop-out, Oliver courts further indignation by serving as his aunt’s live-in dog sitter and pool boy. Having reduced his (anti)social circle to his paranoid drug dealer and embittered best friend, Oliver is shaken from his stupor by the arrival of an alluring houseguest dealing with her own issues.

Working from the bitingly funny, sharply observed script he wrote with actor Oliver Cooper, director Joe Burke edits Four Dogs for maximum comic effect. Jump cuts turn Oliver’s interactions into a veritable tilt-a-whirl of social awkwardness. Meanwhile other scenes are allowed to linger until they reveal surprising emotional depth. Be advised: this cutting, close-quarters chamber piece will hit awfully close to home for many viewers.

Meet Joe Burke,

1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Joe Burke and I’m a filmmaker. My first feature film Four Dogs is World Premiering at the LA Film Fest. I wrote / directed / produced / edited this film.

2. Tell us about your film in 140 characters or less.

Four Dogs is a voyeuristic, slice-of-life comedic drama, centering around the world of twenty-two year old Oliver, who lives with his aunt and her four dogs in Encino. We spend a week following Oliver (along side his buddy Dan) through his daily routine, which is shaken up by the arrival of a family friend, Diane, who is in town for business, staying at the house for a few days.

3. Who were your early filmmaking mentors or inspirations?

I’ve been inspired by many people throughout my life. My film school teachers both at Columbia College Chicago and AFI have been a huge influence on me. As well as many filmmakers, including Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Gus Van Sant, Cameron Crowe, Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg, Alexander Payne, and many others.

4. What inspired you to make this film?

First, I knew I wanted to finally make my first feature film. So that really propelled me to step up to the plate. But what inspired this specific film was the world around me. We wrote the film centered around my friend Oliver’s aunts house in Encino. It’s a real place. It’s a fun, interesting place which we thought would be a perfect setting for a great film. From there we figured out the story we wanted to tell and took a lot inspiration from our real lives and injected it into the film.

5. Who or what influenced the creative decisions for this film?

I worked with a few close friends on this project, and it was that collaboration, that trust, that allowed us to creatively move forward and make the decisions that were best for the film we set out to make.

6. What challenges did you face while making this film?

We decided early on that we didn’t want to write a standard full length script. Rather, we wrote an extensive 45 page outline, explored every beat and detail in full, but knew that we wanted to allow ourselves the freedom to explore a lot on set in the making of it. We wanted to embrace being in the moment and encourage our actors to improv and do what felt natural in the moment. I loved working that way, but it can be challenging at times to be in a position like that cause it forces you to really be on your toes and write the film as you go.

7. What’s been the coolest experience so far with the film?

The coolest experience was simply making the film. It was an amazing 15 day shoot. But we’re now most excited about finally premiering the film at the LA Film Fest. We can’t wait to share it with everyone.

8. Are you a film festival newbie or have you done the circuit before?

I’ve had a few short films in festivals over the years, but this is the coolest festival experience I’ve had for sure.

9. How are you preparing for the festival and/or getting the word out about your film?

We have a great team. Our publicist Morgan and sales reps Maren and Asher are super cool and have been doing a great job helping us spread the word. Now with Facebook and twitter, we are able to easily share the news with our friends and colleagues.

10. Lastly, what are you most excited to do and/or see at this year’s LA Film Fest?

Honestly, as a filmmaker who just finished his first feature, I am really stoked to see it on the big screen with a lively audience. It’s been a lot of work, in a good way, but to finally be ready to screen it and share it really excites me. I hope folks enjoy the film. Either way, it’s nice to finally premiere it. And premiering it at the LA Film Fest is really the perfect place for our film.

Four Dogs online:
Official Site:
Joe Burke’s Site:

Four Dogs screenings at the LA Film Fest:

  • Sunday, June 16 5:00 pm [Rush Line Only]
  • Monday, June 17 9:50 pm
  • Saturday, June 22 9:40 pm [Rush Line Only]

Four Dogs tickets on sale at the door or online now »