Grill Dog

An AFI Thesis Film
Synopsis Trailer

When two brothers sneak away from their family vacation resort in search of a ‘titty waterfall,’ sibling rivalry sends them wildly off course. Collin (13) wants to take the fast track to adulthood but tagalong Keith (7) keeps slowing him down. It’s all fun and games until they steal someone’s family pet, an action with brutal consequences that force both boys to grow up sooner than they wanted. Also, there are dick jokes.



Christmas Eve, 2010, my wife found a dog lying on the road whimpering. Her spine was fractured and her rear legs didn’t work. Her lungs were punctured and she struggled to breathe. My wife came crying to me, making one thing very clear: I had to find a way to end the suffering.


We were in a Chilean desert and I had no way to help the dog. I made three attempts to kill her with my bare hands. I just couldn’t do it. I hitchhiked into town and found a vet’s office that was still open despite the holiday. He injected her veins with potassium and I witnessed death, first hand. TS Eliot exaggerated when he said it ends “not with a bang but a whimper;” in the case of that old girl, it ended without even a sound. Since this experience, I’ve known that I must make a film about my decisions that day.


I’ve seen more than 25 countries in my short 31 years and I’m consistently surprised by how differently we all live – and how similarly. As far as I can tell, we live rich emotional lives whether our homes were built from plywood, re-bar, concrete, aluminum or mud. We are linked by a common ancestor, and a common human condition, though we tend to focus on our differences foremost. Which brings us to Collin.
Collin is a surrogate for all misinformed, myopic, misogynist ‘Meircan males. His ideas about women come from ad nauseum sex in media, internet porn and conversations with his friends. His form of racism springs from a simple lack of knowledge rather than a specific hateful ideology. As a teacher, I witnessed hundreds of Collins repeating what they’d been told about the world, and I will admit that as a white middle class male, Collin lives somewhere inside me as well. These Collins are boys. I wanted to tell a story about those boys becoming men.

Do you like films that tug at your heart strings?
Do you like dogs?



Britain Dalton
He began his acting career by happenchance,​ when a friend asked him to audition for the lead role in the Chapman University film: “Jude’s Tribute.” By the time filming was completed, Britain was on his way to becoming a professional​​ actor. In a very short time, Britain’s natural acting style and unique ‘look’ have already landed him roles on TV’s Criminal Minds, as well as movies, music videos and commercials; garnering him praise from directors, actors, and casting agents. In drama, action, and comedy; Britain’s versatile character range and pop star appeal, create a unique identity that leaves a lasting impression. [/col]

Toby Grey
Toby Grey is 7 and has been performing since he was 3, when he made his debut as Ed the hyena in “The Lion King,” for the Los Angeles Youth Theater Project. Other credits include, a series regular on Fandango’s “Reel Kids,” a pilot for Bunim-Murray productions, & a recurring comic for “CollegeHumor.” [/col]


We're a group that connects around humanity, kindness, and hard work.

We believe that Grill Dog is a special story that needs to be told. It shares the heart we all think we have with the youthful wonderment and discovery we hope to hold onto.

Throughout the first year at the American Film Institute, we have worked together and watched each other grow both as people and as storytellers. We hope to extend this experience into our thesis year and build on each other’s unique strengths.

  • Grill Dog is a fantastic script. I almostteared when I read it.

    Lassie - Border Collie

Corey Aumiller

Corey Aumiller is a Los Angeles based filmmaker, artist and educator. His work has screened at festivals and exhibitions all over America and as an educator he earned numerous accolades. He studied directing at the American Film Institute, his second master’s degree and proof that he is educated beyond his level of intelligence. Aumiller is compelled to tell stories that make clear how painful and joyous the world is; how vast and suffocating. His stories revel in paradoxes, because human life is full of them. His work explores mischief, morality, life and mortality. He is fortunate to have a wife and daughter who support his creative passions, and he adores them more than cinema.

Britanny Brittany Elias
Production Designer

Brittany is a second year production design fellow from Palm Harbor, FL. She began designing scenery at age 15 and won several statewide scenic design competitions through the Florida State Thespian Association before heading off to college at the University of Central Florida. She has a BFA in Theatre Design & Technology and was honored with a Kennedy Center American College Theatre nomination for her design work. Brittany has worked as a scenic designer, props artisan, and painter at theatres across the country including the Tony award winning Long Wharf Theatre, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Tibbits Opera House, Weathervane Playhouse, American Stage Theatre Company, and Utah Festival Opera. She’s worked with Broadway designers Eugene Lee, Michael Yeargan, and Allen Moyer and her property work can currently be seen Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre in “Satchmo at the Waldorf”. Brittany designed four short films her first year at AFI and was recently awarded the Shirley A. Olivadoti Endowed Scholarship for talent and academic achievement.

Sal Pérez García


Salvador Pérez García graduated from the University of Guadalajara with a BA in Audiovisual Arts. He has mainly worked as an editor in a variety of short films, including ALPHA Y OMEGA and CHABELA QUERIDA, both of which played at international film festivals. He directed and edited a documentary about the making of ESCUADRÓN 2011, an animated miniseries for the 2011 Pan American Games. García’s short documentary A CONVERSATION WITH ARAM was shot last fall in Paris and recently completed. Currently, Salvador is earning his MFA degree as a fellow at the American Film Institute Conservatory.

Andy Siara

After graduating from UC Irvine in 2008, Andy really put his Sociology degree to good use by spending five years in a beat-up 15-passenger white Ford Econoline, touring the United States and Canada with his little indie rock band, performing everywhere from the shitty dives in forgotten towns in front of five screaming fans, to Coachella and Lollapalooza, in front of five screaming fans. After feeling that the band, and van, ran its course, Andy hung up the guitar, choosing to pursue one of the few lines of work that is even more obscenely competitive than the music industry: Screenwriting. The joke’s on him.

Daniel Leighton

Daniel is a second year producer at the American Film Institute. He has been interested in filmmaking from an early age, and has always gravitated towards narrative storytelling. He had degrees from the University of California, Davis in Film Studies and English Literature, with a minor in Sociology. He has worked on numerous feature-length filmed events, short films, web-videos and promotional content. During his first year at AFI he produced four short films, three other projects, and worked in various production positions for numerous other projects. Daniel is excited to produce “Grill Dog” because it is a coming-of-age story with heart, conflict, and dogs. Daniel loves animals.

Benjamin Dell
Director of Photography

Benjamin “Benji” Dell is an Alumnus of the University of Michigan’s Screen Arts and Cultures program. Beginning in the stills world and quickly transitioning to film, Dell has lensed a collection of music videos, commercials, and shorts, including ZUG, 2013 Student Academy Award Winner. Benji has recently wrapped an upcoming feature RAISED BY WOLVES for the Butcher Brothers as well as docudrama pilot AMERICAN MUSCLE for Discovery Channel. Dell has also served as second unit DP on several films, including SXSW selection HOLY GHOST PEOPLE. He has been involved in photographing ad campaigns for ASHWORTH, SKECHERS, NIKE, and MOUNTAIN DEW. Dell recently finished his Masters in Cinematography at the American Film Institute.

The American Film Institute

At the world-renowned AFI Conservatory, a dedicated group of working professionals from the film and television communities serve as mentors in a hands-on, production-based environment nurturing the talents of tomorrow’s storytellers.

Established in 1969, the two-year Master of Fine Arts program provides training in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting.

With an emphasis on narrative visual storytelling, personal expression, and professional production standards, Fellows collaborate to make more films than any other graduate level program. Admission to AFI Conservatory is highly selective, with a maximum of only 140 graduates per year.

Notable Alumni

Darren Aronofsky

Director – Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan

Terrence Malick

Director – Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life

Wally Pfister

Cinematographer – Memento, The Dark Knight, Inception

Robert Richardson

Cinematographer – Platoon, Django Unchained

Christopher Gay

Editor – Mad Men, CSI:NY

Howard Smith

Editor – The Abyss, Glengarry Glen Ross

Franco Giacomo-Carbone

Production Designer – The Expendables, Hostel

Todd Cherniawsky

Production Designer – Avatar (Art Director), Alice In Wonderland (Art Director)

Sharon Seymour

Production Designer – The Town, The Ides of March

Affonso Gonçalves

Editor – Winter’s Bone, Night Catches Us

Frank Reynolds

Editor – In The Bedroom, In Search Of A Midnight Kiss

Professional Mentors

The GRILL DOG team is fortunate to have two esteemed mentors helping us to shape and produce our film. Leslie Belzberg is our production mentor, who is advising us on everything from casting agents and animal trainers to budgeting and distribution. Neil Canton is our development mentor, who will work with us to develop our script into the strongest story possible and help us to keep our story and themes intact as we begin to tackle the numerous obstacles we’re sure to encounter in bringing GRILL DOG from script to screen.

Leslie Belzberg

Veteran film and TV producer Leslie Belzberg is currently Senior Vice President, Scripted Production, at Shine America. Her responsibilities include overseeing all scripted production for Shine America including the recently launched series for FX , THE BRIDGE.

Producing credits include: SUSAN’S PLAN, BLUES BROTHERS 2000, THE STUPIDS, BEVERLY HILLS COP III, OSCAR, GENOCIDE, CATEGORY 6, DAY OF DESTRUCTION, SPRING BREAK SHARK ATTACK and more. Leslie holds a Masters in Business Administration from Fordham University, New York and and a B.A. in English Literature and Contemporary Drama from York University, Toronto, Canada.

Neil Canton

Canton is a senior filmaker-in-residence at the AFI Conservatory. He first worked in Hollywood as assistant to Peter Bogdanovich on WHAT’S UP, DOC?, PAPER MOON and NICKELODEON. He then spent two years on Orson Welles’s THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND before leaving to work with Walter Hill on THE WARRIORS.

Producing credits include THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, BACK TO THE FUTURE (and its sequels), TRESPASS, GERONIMO, MONEY TRAIN, DUETS, GET CARTER, ANGEL EYES, TRAPPED and INTERSTATE 60. Canton is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Producers Guild of America.


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Contact details
American Film Institute
2021 N Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027