Having saved up enough money to shoot his first documentary, Land of the Stray’s (LOTS) director Adrian Cicerone began his research on topics regarding animal wellness/the environment. It was his wife at the time who showed him an article written for The Dodo by Elizabeth Claire Alberts about this incredible woman (Lya Battle) and her dog sanctuary - the Territorio de Zaguates.
Lya welcomed the project with open arms and with the help of family, a crew of friends and a supportive camera supplier (Red Letter Creative), the project was a go to shoot for five days in February of 2018.
Adrian and Director of Photography Paul Theodoroff agreed to go ahead and film the documentary using an Alexa Mini with Cooke Anamorphic lenses.
“Cooke Anamorphics have a certain nostalgic quality and warmth to them, not in color, but in feeling. There’s a dreaminess there that we felt best evokes the innocence we all feel around dogs.” - Adrian, interview for StoryFrame
With a non-existent budget and very limited time, there was no way the crew would have been able to capture everything without the help of Manu, Production Fixer at Mombo Congo Productions. In a rented minivan, he drove them out of the beautiful, busy city of Alajuela, and up into the mountains of the Heredia Provence. After thirty minutes of coffee plantations and small villages, they finally found themselves driving up a road which lead to a large red gate. Álvaro Saumet, Lya’s husband, was the one who let them in… him and several hundred dogs.
Lya arrived shortly after. Juggling her tutoring and all the work at the “farm” (what she calls the Territorio) occasionally made scheduling difficult. Regardless, she arrived with a beaming smile and immediately made everyone at home.
“It was like we were already close friends… he felt like family.” - Lya when asked about Adrian
The mountainous terrain made shooting a little difficult at times, and seeing the state of some of the dogs, even though in the process of healing, was hard… but there was a strong sense of optimism, affection and drive which pushed the filming process to an even more intimate and rewarding experience.
On the topic of scheduling, Jose Pablo Campos, founder and veterinarian at Innovavet (one of the short’s interviewees) was at the time in New York, escorting a dog, free of charge, back to “his” owner after needing surgery. During Jose’s brief stay in the city, he was mugged and hospitalized but did everything he could so as to make it back in time for the shoot.
So much happened in only five days, but for the sake of time we will end with a bit from Adrian when interviewed for this:
“We definitely experienced many emotions and adventures during our short visit. We saw death and suffering, joy and love. We had rocks thrown at us and families welcome us into their homes. Unfortunately many things didn’t make the final cut, but I hope that we were able to show, in a small way, the magnitude of work, dedication and above all love that goes into their everyday lives to help save these animals. Lya was and is an inspiration, and I very much hope this documentary will help raise awareness for her cause, and above all, show that there is always hope.”
Camera Assistant Joshua Robert Coté flew back home with Tico, a beautiful black puppy who was dropped off at the sanctuary while the crew was filming.
For more detailed information, please feel free to email Adrian directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org