Casting ends as 'Benji' PR push begins

WASHINGTON: The nationwide search for the canine that will star in

the upcoming Benji movie is over, but a two-pronged PR campaign has just

begun.



The selection was preceded by an appearance of three finalists - on

ABC's Good Morning America in November - that were found in animal

shelters in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Gulfport, MS. During a second Good

Morning America appearance in mid-December, the Gulfport canine was

named the new Benji.



According to Joe Camp, producer of the movie, all three dogs will have a

part in his upcoming project. He said that ABC is interested in

following the film's shooting, the latest in a series of Benji projects

dating back to the 1970s.



But gaining publicity for the Benji film is only half of the publicity

objective. Camp's real mission, he said, "is to make a positive

difference for kids and homeless animals." To help achieve that goal,

the upcoming movie will feature a number of dogs from various animal

shelters around the US. There could be up to 26 dogs used, depending on

the final script.



The result will be a significant number of local publicity tie-ins in

which local animal shelters can contact the media about their dogs being

part of the film project.



Camp already has publicity plans for Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Los

Angeles. One approach may be to hold a Benjithon to try and get

publicity for homeless hounds.



If the public's response to past Benji projects is any indication,

animal shelters will be inundated by people who want to adopt canines.

But to these people - and especially children - the campaign will warn:

Don't get one unless you understand "you are taking care of a life,"

said Camp.



Camp is currently reviewing two script outlines, and will decide which

to put into production shortly. Under one scenario, there will be a film

released in time for Christmas, while the other scenario calls for

release in mid-2003.



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