June 16th, 2015

Video Pick: “Denali,” Film About Photographer Ben Moon and His Dog, Goes Viral

Denali from FELT SOUL MEDIA on Vimeo.

Our cover story last September was about DamNation, a film about dam removal and river restoration by director Ben Knight and the production company Felt Soul Media, which he cofounded with Travis Rummel. Outdoor apparel and equipment company Patagonia commissioned that film because the company’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, is an advocate for dam removal and river restoration. In our article, Knight predicted that we’d see more companies sponsoring documentary films about issues that matter to them. That relationship has continued, with Patagonia supporting Felt Soul Media’s latest short film, Denali, about photographer Ben Moon and his dog.

The seven-minute video, which Moon produced, chronicles the relationship between he and Denali, both of whom suffered through bouts of cancer with support from the other. It tells their story from Denali’s perspective, which is both charming and incredibly moving.

There is a very good chance at this point that you’ve seen or at least heard about the film. It has 8.2 million views since June 8 and was a Vimeo Staff Pick. But if not, we suggest you take the time to watch it with a best friend and a box of tissues.

Also: We hear Ben Moon will be speaking about building a photography career at PhotoPlus Expo this year. Maybe he’ll even tell a dog story or two.

Related: DamNation Documents the National Debate Over Dam Removals and River Restoration

March 21st, 2012

Ellen Degeneres Not Amused By Photog’s Billboard Stunt

An artist's rendering of the billboard Madalyn Ruggiero attempted to put up for six weeks in West Hollywood.

Artist's rendering of the billboard Madalyn Ruggiero attempted to put up for six weeks in West Hollywood.

Television personality and talk show host Ellen Degeneres—and her show’s lawyers—were not amused by an Ohio freelance photographer’s recent publicity stunt, and their legal action has cost the photographer thousands of dollars.

Photographer Madalyn Ruggiero created a small business by putting costumes on her dog, Denali, photographing him, then selling greeting cards bearing the images. Buoyed by the success of her cards and Denali’s 27,000+ Facebook fans, Ruggiero bought billboard space in West Hollywood in an attempt to get Ellen Degeneres to put Denali on her TV talk show. “Ellen,” the billboard read, “Denali the dog wants to meet you!”

Just days after the billboard went up on February 13, the show’s lawyers ordered the billboard company to take it down because, they argued, it traded on Degeneres’s name and likeness (Ruggiero dressed Denali up to look like Degeneres for the billboard).

Ruggiero says that the billboard company’s lawyers sought and received approval from Warner Brothers, which owns and produces Degeneres’ show, prior to putting up the billboard. The ad should have been displayed for six weeks but was up for only a few days.

“I was shocked and confused why my harmless billboard was removed,” Ruggiero says. “When I spoke with the billboard company they were very cold and told me nothing.”

The LA Times, Today Show and MSNBC have all published stories about Ruggiero’s run-in with Degeneres’ lawyers.

“I meant no harm with my billboard,” Ruggiero explains. “I am disappointed and confused. Denali is getting old and I thought trying to get Denali on Ellen’s would be fun. I always thought she was a huge dog lover, but I was mistaken.”

Now Ruggiero is out thousands of dollars for a publicity stunt gone awry. Should Ruggiero have known better? Maybe. Should we be surprised that Degeneres responded with legal threats rather than a sense of humor? Probably not.