LOS ANGELES — Anyone who’s ever wondered what’s really in their pet’s food can now get answers in a brand new documentary film.
“Pet Fooled” is a 71-minute film investigating the business behind commercial pet food production, exposing a poorly regulated industry driven more by profits and less by the wellbeing of animals.
The film is produced by Vernon native Kohl Harrington, 28, a film maker now residing in Los Angeles, California.
“I’ve grown up with the idea that I was going to move to L.A. and make movies,” said Harrington.
Harrington was fascinated by the off limits family video camera as a kid, but he and his cousins found opportunities to make homemade VHS movies with flash cards. His interest in film also grew through participation in theater camps during the summer.
Harrington graduated from Vernon High School in 2007 and left to attend film school at Columbia College Hollywood. At 19, Harrington was at Paramount Studios getting a sampling of what it’s like to make TV shows, but found a calling in documentary film.
“It allows you to time travel into someone else’s world in a way,” said Harrington. “When making documentaries, it’s not necessarily about having passion. You follow your curiosity.”
Harrington was inspired by the work of other producers, such as Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, on the 2006 documentary “Shut Up & Sing” chronicling the backlash around the Dixie Chicks when lead singer Natalie Maines commented to a London concert audience the band was ashamed the U.S. President was from Texas.
Harrington said the film was produced with an objective view of the anger, censorship and death threats the Dixie Chicks experienced while trying to push forward with their personal lives and music careers.
Harrington was able to later work with Peck as an associate producer on the 2013 film “Brave Miss World” telling the story of Israeli beauty queen Linor Abargil, who was raped just two months before being crowned Miss World in 1998. The documentary follows Abargil’s choice to break the silence on what happened to her and become an advocate for victims of sexual assault.
Harrington gravitated toward other projects in film school allowing him to dive deep into issues with opposing viewpoints, such as the death penalty and the role of religion in the Bible Belt.
“I wanted to make the movie about religion because I am fascinated by the division of it,” said Harrington. “People always say not to talk about politics and religion, and I say why not?”
Putting taboo subjects on screen is something Harrington hopes will start fruitful conversations leading to more empathy and tolerance in society.
“Growing up gay in Vernon, I’ve only just gotten over the feeling of being hated and judged,” said Harrington. Harrington comes from a supportive family he said has always been able to disagree on large issues while loving and respecting one another.
“Pet Fooled” is Harrington’s first complete film to reach a wide audience. He got the idea for the film five years ago when a friend’s dog had itchy skin on its stomach. A veterinarian was unable to diagnose what its groomer recognized as a common side effect of food allergies.
The film exposes the motivation of companies mass producing pet food from corn, wheat and other non-nutritionally sound ingredients that cause illness and disease in pets.
“We’re so conditioned for convenience that we don’t question where things come from,” said Harrington. “It’s all about people (pet food manufacturers) making their product at a lower cost.”
The messages Harrington wants viewers to take away from the documentary are that animals deserve species appropriate food and that consumers have the right to question what’s in the products they buy.
“Pet Fooled” is screening around the country and is scheduled for a one-time showing Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Carmike Cinema in Panama City. The film is also available on iTunes, Vimeo and DVD.