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Development   /  Stefan Bugryn

Man’s Best Friend (working title)

An uplifting look at Aussie farmers and their dogs as they endure the harshest weather conditions in our history.


Impact areas




  • DIRECTOR Stefan Bugryn

  • PRODUCER Clare Plueckhahn, Fran Derham, Cathy Rodda



Bushfires. Drought. Floods. Australian farmers are on a new frontline as climate change turns their land against them.

From December 2019, up to 95% of NSW and two thirds of Queensland is in severe drought. Then came the worst bushfire season on record, causing headlines worldwide and sparking a global debate.

In private moments, as the world argues on, the farmers turn to the ones always there....

Their dogs.

Man’s Best Friend is a collection of inspiring stories about the intimate relationship between farmer and dog across drought, flood and fire affected areas. It details the hardships of battling the changing climate, told through the emotional support and loving companionship given by dogs; the unsung heroes of the Australian bush.

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  • July 2020

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Rachael Hayes $10.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Traditionally speaking, the suicide rate in regional and remote areas of Australia has been more than double that within major cities. Depression and anxiety can be made worse by the isolation of living in rural parts of Australia. Unfortunately, people living in rural and remote communities face more barriers to accessing health care than those living in major cities, making it harder for them to maintain good mental health.

Making matters worse is the ongoing and increasing devastation of drought and bushfires that can decimate their livelihood. The stress of running their own business can feel like a battle to survive.

Our project seeks to highlight the effect of climate change on the mental health of regional Australians, the importance of dogs and pets through difficult times, and encourages the audience to support their farmers both emotionally and financially.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Man’s Best Friend intends to shine the light on the rising emotional cost of the drought and bushfires on mental health for regional Australians. By using the storytelling device of farmer dogs as an entry point to a tough subject, we plan to break the stigma around rural mental illness, and address an issue beyond the headlines.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Short Term: Increased awareness of the connection between mental health and climate change.

Directing donations and traffic to Drought Angels channels. The stories will create empathy and understanding with the audience for Australian farmers, and instigate them to send support to those affected by bushfires and drought. Other channels we will support on our social channels include: Thank a Farmer, Givit, and Rural Aid.

Additionally, we will use our own social media channel to encourage our audience to send in messages of support, which we’ll then give directly back to the farmers who feature in the series.

Medium Term: The creation of more people powered initiatives similar to Drought Angels to continue support for farmers.

Long Term: Increased financial support and investment policies from the Morrison Government for drought affected farmers / Overall reduction in suicide rates in regional areas of Australia.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Social media will be vital in our pathway to audience, development, and impact strategy. It will be utilised in the aforementioned methods of collecting messages, advocating for support for farmers and the drought, and guiding the audience to Drought Angels and other charitable causes.

On top of this, our partnerships with Drought Angels, NSW Farmers Association, and Edwina Robertson will inform the process and ensure we find the right subjects and audience, and deliver the best message possible.

Upon completion and pending finance, we’d like to host a regional tour similar to Edwina Robertson’s A Beer on the City initiative that rallied together communities in affected areas through a social event at different venues.

Additionally, we will utilise our work with a PR agency to also send our material to mental health initiatives such as Beyond Blue, Healthline, Movember, Smiling Mind to gain further coverage with our message of support for farmers in drought affected areas.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

We have partnered with NSW Farmers Association to assist with a proposed Development Trip in March 2020 and give us guidance on the best places and people to connect with throughout the way. Further details will be solidified later in February.

To assist with the topic of mental health and interviews, we’ve teamed up with qualified psychologist Dr Christine Alger and a Lifeline Phone Room Manager (who requested to remain anonymous due to the nature of their work). The purpose of this is to ensure we are approaching the interviews respectfully and diligently with the farmers so they feel connected and supported.

As mentioned, we are also partnering with Drought Angels for our impact strategy, forwarding our audience their way for donations and support. We will also liaise with them, as well as notable bush advocate Edwina Robertson, to help aid the process of connecting with the audience, and farmers in drought affected areas.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

Engage with us directly on our social channels, passing on supportive messages for us to give to the farmers.

An increase in donations to charities such as Drought Angels, Givit, Thank A Farmer, and Rural Aid.

Relay our message to the Morrison Government of increased support for mental health and farmers in rural areas of Australia.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

We have clear ways in which we can examine a positive outcome from this project;

We will liaise directly with Drought Angels throughout the development and release of the project to monitor referrals and activity, and gauge the effect our project had on this.

Viewership and reach of the project, and earned media that passes on our message.

We will examine the messages sent through to our social media channel to directly assess the effect our project has on the audience. We will also leave a short online survey that will pose quick, easy to answer questions on how the audience reacted after watching the project.

Additionally, when we hear from farmers who have notified us the process of this project has helped alleviate any potential previous issues with mental health, either from sharing their story, helping them understand the significance of their dogs, or from the support they’ve received afterwards, we will measure and share this as well.