Making Sense of Scents

Making Sense of Scents explores the emerging world of nosework in Australia—a dog sport that puts the noses of man's best friend to the ultimate test.

  • Juliana Purnell
    Making Sense of Scents
  • Juliana Purnell
    Making Sense of Scents
  • Marion Brand
    Key Cast
  • Lesia Burford
    Key Cast
  • Lynne Sheather
    Key Cast
  • Margaret Rockey
    Key Cast
  • Tiffany Lu
    Director of Photography
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Sport, Family
  • Runtime:
    25 minutes 55 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 21, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 AUD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • AFIN International Film Festival
    Official Selection – Honorable Mention
  • Salt House Creative International Film Festival
    Kincumber, NSW
    Best Director
  • StarBurst Film Festival
    Penrith, NSW
    April 1, 2023
    NSW premiere
    Official selection
  • Oz Indie Film Festival
    St Kilda, VIC
    Honorable Mention
  • Studio 66
    Fitzroy, VIC
    June 25, 2022
    VIC premiere
    Official Selection
  • IFEFA—International Film & Entertainment Festival Australia
    Best Cinematography for Feature or Documentary Film
Director Biography - Juliana Purnell

Juliana Purnell has fostered a love for both animals and the arts since she was a little girl. After finishing high school, she volunteered at Taronga Zoo and cared for a variety of exotic creatures while completing her Captive Animal Management Cert III and Animal Studies Cert II. However, she couldn’t ignore her love of acting and narrative storytelling. Eventually she decided to change career tracks, completing a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts in 2011. Quickly developing an interest in film, she spent some time in Los Angeles to study the artform further before returning to Australia. Over the past decade she has continued to pursue her interest in acting, helped crew a number of productions for both stage and screen, and developed a career as a film critic. Making Sense of Scents is her first professionally produced film, having mainly worked in other crew roles in the past (gaffer, boom operator, production assistant), and her first foray into documentary filmmaking. She currently lives in regional NSW with her Pomeranian, Samson.

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Director Statement

I’ve always had an interest in animals, particularly regarding training and behaviour. So when I got my first dog, Samson, a spunky yet intelligent Pomeranian, I instantly dreamed of participating in a dog sport to keep his mind active and our bond strong. However, when faced with an unfamiliar environment, Samson would be crippled with anxiety, crushing any chance of entering a competitive event. It also impacted his quality of life, as going on a simple walk became a challenge.

Then one day at a dog expo I saw Marion Brand, the director of the Australian Canine Scent Work (ACSW), provide a demonstration of a new dog sport—K9 Nose Work. When I learnt this activity tapped into a dog’s natural instinct and had a therapeutic aspect to it, I signed up, and within weeks I had not only found a dog sport that suited Samson, but I also had a method to combat his behavioural issues. Years passed, and to my surprise, despite many dog owners sharing a similar story to myself and Samson in closed social circles, nosework was still unknown within the dog community at large.

Making Sense of Scents is an introduction to a sport that welcomes diversity in both its dogs and owners, and I hope that by improving the awareness of this sport, it may provide options for those who may be feeling lost as to how to deepen their bond with their furry companion. With the film partially funded by the NSW Return and Earn recycling scheme, and with K9 Nose Work still able to operate during the early months of 2021, I am thankful filming was possible despite the limitations of the pandemic, though production was impacted by the Hawkesbury floods. I hope you and your dog enjoy this film!