Profile | Video Director Jess Rona on Directing a Doggie Empire and Tegan & Sara's "100x"

The beauties on Jess Rona's Instagram are innumerable. Every couple of days, the L.A. director and dog primper uploads a short video showcasing a gorgeous pooch she's groomed in her garage, the slow-motion clip letting us relish the immaculate outcome. For instance, you'll find a long-haired dachshund's milk chocolate coat ruffling beneath the airy push of a blow dryer, its eyes lolling back in ecstasy as Built to Spill's appropriately titled "Life's a Dream" plays in the background. Gilligan, a black and white MaltiPoo with deeply penetrating eyes, dives straight into your soul to the jangly soundtrack of the Lemonheads' "Into Your Arms." Flipping the feel to a nearly tearful display, a wiener-y gentleman sporting a Hawaiian kerchief looks up towards Rona's iPhone camera with sorrowful, saucer-sized eyes as an Otis Redding breakup jam frames his solitude.

Currently, her furry vignettes are getting tens of thousands of likes through social media, and her Jess Rona Grooming business is getting even more mainstream recognition now that she's applied the same kind of pet-centric cinematography to Canadian pop duo Tegan and Sara's recent "100x" video and an upcoming commercial for fancy U.S. chain Standard Hotels. "It's mostly in the rooms, dogs running around in the bedrooms," Rona says of the latter during a phone call with ION.

It's often theorized that you should steer clear of animals in show business, owing to their unpredictability, but when asked if dealing with dogs offer up bloopers, she insists her actors generally come from good stock. "I'm looking at footage right now of dogs romping through the Standard Hotel, and I get a lot of tush shots, which I don't want. I don't want the rear, I want the front. That's funny, but that's as crazy as it gets."

Rona has been grooming out of her L.A. garage for seven years, but has been lathering up pups of all kinds for the better part of the last two decades. While the company has blown up over the last little while -- she recently had to stop taking on new clients -- the canine-focused work is just a part of Rona's busy and artistic day-to-day.

"I got into dog grooming 17 years ago, just working as a bather to make some money to get a car when I was a teenager. I fell into it organically. My mom used to get cat food at a certain pet store, and they were hiring, so I just started learning how to bathe dogs," she says. "I was also interested in acting, comedy and music, so I never fully pursued it. It was always something I did to make money while I pursued other things."

Projects outside of Jess Rona Grooming right now include working on a film treatment with College Humour comedian Elaine Carroll (Very Mark-Kate), a to-be-detailed stage show, and a recent appearance as a pregnant woman on Zooey Deschanel's The New Girl sitcom. As for her video for Tegan and Sara, getting to work with the pop pair still blows her mind.

"Can you believe it? Holy crap, this is my life? I'm such a huge fan of them. I met Sara at a party here in L.A. and I kind of geeked out," she recalls before explaining how she was asked to direct the music video. "She could tell I wasn't insane, so we started talking and became friends. We went to brunch a few times and hung out. I showed her my Instagram, and she loved it."

Considering it was shot on-location in her garage, Rona used the opportunity to bring out some of her best beasts. In particular, there's Lilly the Bear, an aging teacup poodle whose longing, cataract-lensed looks would melt even the coldest of hearts; a Chihuahua named Chooch; and teal-eared Teddy, a tiny dog that's easily as feathery as Falkor the luck dragon. They all get thrown into the mix alongside Tegan and Sara, whom Rona said knocked down their own crestfallen on-screen moments in seconds flat.

"The song is the saddest breakup song ever, and it's just about someone wanting to tell the other person that they tried to leave so many times," Rona explains of her take on "100x," though she notes that her pointy-faced clientele's visual acting can inadvertently bring out tears of joy. "My goal wasn't humour, my goal was to be grounded, and real, and as emotional as I could with these expressions. I went through all the footage, and even an eye glance would make me feel something. A turn of the head or something so small could mean so much with the lyrics."

Rona's directorial work is also bringing added attention to the fine art of grooming. While there's a practical value to cleaning up her clients, with blueberry facial scrubs making pugs and schnauzers extra easy to snuggle up to, the wind-blown aesthetics of her videos are helping redefine how we look at our furry, four-legged friends.

"I want to pave the way for grooming," Rona reveals. "I want people to know that it's an art form, and not just 'oh, I'm going to get my dog's hair cut by whoever.' I want to show people that it doesn't have to be a mindless thing that you just do."

With thousands of eyes affixed to her fashionably shorn stable of stars already, Jess Rona's years of hard work clearly haven't gone to the dogs.

IG @jessronagrooming

 

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