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"Away to Me" is a documentary by filmmaker and part time Park City resident Andrew Hadra. The film centers around the Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Classic. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Hadra)
Filmmaker Andrew Hadra loves dogs, and his family always had dogs when he was a child.

"We had every kind from mutts and pound dogs that my mom would rescue to full-bred basset hounds," said Hadra who has been a part-time Park City resident for 12 years. "We never showed, because they were just companions to us, but my dad was obsessed with dogs and I was that weird guy on the sidewalk who would stop people and ask if I could pet their dogs."

So it was a no-brainer that Hadra would eventually make a documentary film about dogs. The surprise was that the film, titled "Away to Me," would be anchored in the annual Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Classic that takes place every Labor Day weekend.

The 98-minute film spotlights three participants in the 2011 competition — five-time Canadian National Champion and North American Champion Amanda Milliken, South African National Champion Faansie Basson, and current South African Handler of the Year, and Californian Haley Howard, who is a two-time U.S. champion.

Both Basson and Milliken have medaled at Solider Hollow.

"Away to Me" had its world premiere at the Canadian Sheepdog National Trials held in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, last September and the audience gave it a standing ovation.

"At that time, I knew if they liked it, I got the story right," Hadra said.

his idea for the film came in a roundabout way.


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When the Newport Beach resident and his girlfriend decided to buy a second home in Park City in 2001, their friends introduced them to the annual Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Classic.

"We went out to see it when it was a small little gathering," Hadra remembered. "There were no bleachers at the time, so we took our little beach chairs.

"The experience blew us away and we made it a point to attend several years in a row after that," he said.

In 2005, Hadra made the decision to change careers.

"I wanted to switch from the finance and real estate development that I was doing to something more creatively engaging," he said.

So he applied to University of Southern California's film school and was accepted.

While he was in a documentary-making class, he decided to make one about the Sheepdog Classic.

"It became clear that the idea had some built-in cinematic elements — dogs, sheep and sports — that would make it into a wonderful experience," Hadra said. "With the dogs and sheep there would be a lot of movement and with any sporting event there will be a lot of drama and I knew I could find a lot of interesting characters."

One of the first things Hadra did was contact Mark Petersen, the promoter for the Solider Hollow event.

"Mark asked what he could do to help me out and I told him I needed access on the course for cameras and that I needed to talk with some of the participants and cast the film," Hadra said.

Petersen agreed and introduced Hadra to Basson, Milliken and Howard.

"Faansie is a full-time farmer and Amanda runs a cardiac-testing company in Canada, while Haley is a ranch hand from California," Hadra said. "They were great because I was looking for some international flavor."

The filmmaker also liked that there were differences with how the three humans related to their dogs, which are all border collies.

"Faansie works all day with his dogs every day to manage his farm and says that at the end of the day, he does not want to see another dog," Hadra laughed. "He sees the dogs as his colleagues and not as pets."

On the other hand, Milliken's top dog Roz is constantly with her, including at night when they fall asleep, he said.

"Then there's Haley's dog Ross who is all work and no play," Hadra said. "In fact, Ross is kind of the one who runs the relationship."

Although the film is centered around the Classic, it is really about the relationships between these handlers and their dogs.

"That's what I really wanted to show, because dogs are an important part of my world," he said. "We have a seven-year-old parson russell terrier named Charlie, and we love him and he loves us."

Hadra will sell DVDs of "Away to Me" over the weekend during the Soldier Hollow Classic. DVDs are also available by visiting www.sheepdogmovie.com and www.amazon.com . For Solider Hollow Classic ticket information and visit www.soldierhollowclassic.com. Spectators' dogs are not allowed at the event.