“Life With Dog,” the Corbin Bernsen directed movie shot in Ceres and Turlock in July 2017, has finally been released – only as streaming online video through Amazon Prime.
Last summer – a year after shooting – Bernsen expressed frustration that he hit a distribution snag with the film. In an August social media posting, Bernsen said “Life With Dog” had “several great suitors for distribution” but that faith-based companies suddenly reversed “on what were essential promised terms of a deal to release it.” He said the matter created turmoil regarding the film and caused him to “return to the minefield of distribution.”
Bernsen said he loves his film but sharply complained about being “subjected to ‘big bad business as usual.”
“…It’s just getting so hard to get a film made and sold,” posted Bernsen who noted that the development has made him “EXTREMELY ANGRY” – in all caps.
In a Courier interview after filming, Bernsen said he wrote the faith-based script but tried to steer clear of making it a corny Christian film.
Bernsen said last summer that he has “NEVER thought I’m the one to stick God in your face and say, here He is. I don’t preach to the choir. I don’t make ‘come to Jesus’ movies. Not my job. My path has been to explore, question, doubt, seek truth. It has been to crack the door and light a single match in a dark world and break that darkness, if only just beyond the extreme edges of complete blindness so that He may begin to reveal himself. Not me, but God reveals Himself to all of us! In a way He wants us each know Him individually.”
The 106-minute film is available for viewing through Amazon prime and available for rent at $4.99 or buy a download for $14.99.
Bernsen directed, starred and produced the film with a decidedly faith based theme. Amazon’s narrative of the movie describes the movie: “After losing his wife Alice in a mysterious bike accident, Joe begins a fast descent into the dark abyss of uncertainty. But his salvation arrives when a Dog wanders into his garden and won’t leave despite Joe’s many attempts to rid him.”
Bernsen and actress Marilu Henner were in Ceres in July 2017 to film scenes at the intersection of Kay and Magnolia streets where Henner’s character is fatally struck in a bicycle crash. Filming also took place at the Ceres Police Department headquarters. Most of the movie was shot, however, inside and outside a quaint older home on Columbia Street in Turlock on the campus of Westside Ministries.
“There are certain elements of faith in all religions and those basic elements are love and compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness – all of those things,” said Bernsen in 2017. “This movie deals with forgiveness. I identify as Christian, that’s my faith and there’s certain elements in there, whether it’s a cross or references to Jesus. God is somewhat universal so yeah, they’re faith-based movies but they’re human stories and stories of forgiveness.”
In the movie, the old Turlock farmhouse is the centerpiece of a development battle as it is being crowded by newer housing. Joe, Bernsen’s character in the film, is convinced that his wife was intentionally run down by someone in the development community to get him to sell out and move. The bicycle and crash scenes were shot in Ceres. He said the concept was based on a real-life story of an arson fire used to burn out a stubborn property owner. In the end, surmised Bernsen, it was “really the man’s paranoia.”
One of the biggest stars of the film is the dog which brings Bernsen out of his depression. Bernsen said his notion of God is the “relationship with this wonderful mystery of the universe, the beauty of a flower, the smell of a rose, a little child being born, love in your heart that takes your breath away.”
And a dog.
While Joe’s wife has bought into faith, Joe “doesn’t quite do it. This dog wanders in, leads him to the mystery of what happened to his wife, and he learns to have this relationship.”
Whether or not the dog is being used of God or is God incarnate for a purpose is up to the audience to decide, he said.
“There’s certainly God in dog. Just change it around.”
Bernsen’s time in Stanislaus County was marked by sweltering triple-digit temperatures that caused problems such as emotional oppression. He said he even felt for the dog who had to be on the streets with his little paws burning.
“A few times I felt like, oh, I’m not cool what I’m asking this animal to do.”
Beside Bernsen and Henner, the movie features Chelsey Crisp of ABC’s TV sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat” plays Zoey, the couple’s daughter. She was in Turlock for the first four days of production.
The low-budget production had a scant cast of some local actors. Clynton Lamur, who appeared in “Perfect Choices,” “Strays” and “Me Again,” has a key role as Detective Rollins. Scenes were shot at Oak Valley Community Bank on Geer Road in Turlock where Rebecca Bjerke played a bank employee and Andrew Burkum – a Chase bank manager and local stage actor – played the bank manager. Local actor Dave Weltner plays a Pastor Frank.
Bernsen is no stranger to the Valley. His mother, the late actress Jeanne Cooper, grew up in Bakersfield and he spent lots of Easters with his grandparents in Taft where he was fascinated to appreciate the Valley’s earthy qualities far from the glitz of L.A.