Animal Planet Premiers SMU Alums' "Glory Hounds" Documentary
Gritty, real and dangerous film follows four U.S. military canine teams through live-combat zones of Afghanistan
When SMU alumni Andrew Stephan (B.A. Communication Arts/Advertising, ’93) and John Dorsey (B.A. Communication Arts/Cinema and B.A. History, ’94) set up their production company ten100 TV in 2009, their goal was to create content that makes an impact. They’ve more than reached that goal with their latest documentary, Glory Hounds, a two-hour film that follows four U.S. military canine units as they work in the Taliban strongholds of Kandahar and Helmand, the Afghanistan region responsible for most U.S. and other coalition casualties.
Permission to film in the active war zone required more than a year of discussions between Animal Planet, ten100 TV producers and four branches of the U.S. military. Once access was granted, the camera teams went through specialized training before spending nine weeks embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“Our crews were given incredible access, which was paramount in being able to show people what the dogs and handlers go through on a daily basis,” says Stephan.
In one harrowing scene, cameraman and Gulf War veteran Craig Constant is following a group of Marines as they investigate a quiet, dusty pathway when a roadside bomb explodes in the middle of the group. Constant drops his camera to the ground and rushes to help Staff Sergeant Len Anderson, badly hurt in the blast. Anderson’s dog, Azza, emerges in the smoke, clearly shaken and anxious as she worries over her handler. The Marine ended up losing six fingers and suffered deep-tissue damage, but is recovering from the blast. Azza, miraculously, was not injured.
Glory Hounds premiered on Animal Planet on February 21, 2013, to tremendous press reviews:
Newsday says “These filmmakers know what they're doing. Directors John Dorsey and Andrew Stephan delicately handle the disasters met -- not just by the MWD teams but by their own sound and camera guys, who equally face a bloody tourniquet-and-prayer test.”
The Miami Herald says Glory Hounds “ … will warm — and break — your heart.”
The Wall Street Journal says “As painful as it is to see a fallen dog's body draped in the American flag, what 'Glory Hounds' also does is deepen our appreciation for the servicemen who train them.”
The team also produced Pony Excess, the final installment of the first season of ESPN's critically acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series. The film, about the SMU football “death penalty” of 1986, was directed by former SMU film student Thaddeus Matula. Pony Excess helped earn ESPN the coveted Peabody Award in 2010. ten100 TV has produced several works for ESPN, Red Bull, Microsoft and more. In a recent email to Chair and Associate Professor of Film and Media Arts Sean Griffin, Dorsey says, “None of it would have been possible without the friendships we started at SMU.”
See Glory Hounds in its entirety and learn more about training dogs – and Marines – for serious bomb and insurgent detection work.