In 2010, Tracey Smith was a Creative Director at McCann-Erickson NY and won a company-wide contest called The Passion Project. She was given three weeks of paid time off to purse a passion of hers and set out to make a film about Animal Rescue. 5 years later, The Passion Project has become a captivating story of a documentary gone awry.

The Passion Project story follows director Tracey Smith as she sets out on a mission to make a movie about Angel’s Gate - an animal hospice run by Susan Marino, a leader and pioneer in the world of Animal Rescue who’s funded by Oprah and many other supporters. While spending six weeks living, sleeping, and shooting in and amongst Susan and her 450 abused animals, Tracey witnessed first hand a lot of suffering, a lot of disease, a lot of super cute animals and also a great big attempted takedown of Susan’s entire operation by PETA.

That’s when Tracey started to question her own motives. She couldn’t help but draw a parallel between the animals and her personal experience as a victim of child abuse. This is when she put down her camera and began the more difficult task of confronting her own past which was uncomfortably similar to that of the animals she so desperately wanted to help.

Over the next two plus years, Tracey started shooting again through a new lense. As Susan’s story became more complicated and fraught with both legal and moral implications, Tracey captured it all. What unfolds is a movie not just about animal rescue, but a heartrending story about how far we’ll go to avoid our own pain.



For the first time a film is going behind the grim sadness of animal abuse and exploring why some of us might get involved in animal rescue in the first place. By taking a few steps back, this film can make a bigger impact than a typical movie about animal rescue. Our hope is to stop the cycle of abuse of all kinds by seeing things for what they really are and beginning to talk about them.