The latest project by Asheville filmmaker Jeff Corpening marks the on-screen debut of a beloved hometown favorite. Clay, a three-year-old tan and white mixed breed shelter dog, shares the screen with his co-star, lead actor and film veteran, Lavin Cuddihee, in Corpening’s second installment of the anthology film “Compassion” (stylized as “com•pas•sion”).
Writer and director Corpening has spent over a year filming his three-part anthology. Clay will feature in part two of the film, in the segment titled “Empathy.” This is the last installment to be filmed, as parts one (“Knowledge”) and three (“Action”) have already wrapped.
“The word compassion is defined as a type of empathy, or pity, but it shouldn’t simply be a passive emotion. Compassion should be a word of action – action taken based on one’s empathy which results from the knowledge of a tragic situation,” Corpening said.
It was fitting then that Corpening cast a rescued dog to be featured in his project. And it makes perfect sense that he connected with Kim Smith, the director of Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue (CAAR) in Fletcher. Despite being one of the smaller organizations in the Asheville area rescue community, CAAR houses 22 dogs and 15 cats at any given time. They also foster out even more pets in need, including with Asheville’s Aloft Downtown Hotel, which has helped them find forever homes for over 100 dogs.
Clay’s former caregiver, Smith served as the Animal Wrangler on set during filming. Not that Clay needed much wrangling. “He was happy to be around everyone, and the entire crew loved him,” Smith said. As it turned out, Clay was adopted the day before his debut in front of the camera. Clay’s new owner, Michael Newmandd, wasn’t about to keep his new companion from such a big moment, so he brought Clay to the set for his big break.
Clay had been in a rural county shelter when Smith heard that “no one was going to adopt the three-year-old because he was heartworm positive and had scarring on his ears.” Apparently, early in his life, someone had tried to cut his ears, thinking Clay was a Pit Bull, disregarding the fact that he is also part Labrador and part Beagle. Clay doesn’t seem to mind now, though. In fact, neither Clay’s medical history nor his breeding was a problem for Smith; she knew that Clay could be rescued the minute she saw him.
“He’s one of the happiest, sweetest dogs you’d ever lay eyes on,” she said of Asheville’s latest movie star.