Joe Cappa on GHOST DOGS

Now playing in-person and virtually, the 44th Denver Film Festival features 230-plus narratives and docs, features and shorts, series and music videos, many of them in the Centennial State.

Among those featured in the Colorado Shorts program: Ghost Dogs, the latest from Denver-based animator Joe Cappa.

The short’s origin began in Boulder, with a depressed “or something” Cappa driving up from Denver to walk his dog around CU-Boulder. The Grateful Dead was playing Folsom Field that night, and Cappa hooked up with friend J.W. Hallford—who was assisting with the show—after the concert. Cappa pitched him the idea of a dog haunted by canine specters. Hallford liked what he heard and put up the financing. Cappa gave himself four months to finish the project but left that deadline in the dust. Then the 2020 pandemic hit, and Cappa found an opportunity to eliminate outside distractions and “just focus on animating,” he says. 

Inspired by MTV’s Liquid TelevisionGhost Dogs has an enjoyable if unsettling quality: think David Lynch with touches of Stanley Kubrick. Cappa describes the short as something akin to watching a midnight movie—a series of hallucinatory images you’re never really sure if you saw or dreamt while falling asleep.

“It feels a little bit retro,” Cappa says, “but, with all my artwork, I have this kind of creepy, humorous sensibility.”

It makes Ghost Dogs feel simultaneously original and familiar. The short will play as part of the Colorado Shorts: Narrative program on Monday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 4:15 p.m. Also available on DFF’s virtual platform until Nov. 14.

Header photo courtesy the Sundance Film Festival. A version of the above interview first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 24, “The cinematic sampler.”