Aspen Filmfest: Documentary a ‘wild ride,’ even for the filmmakers
September 25, 2011
ASPEN – Husband and wife filmmakers Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus had 100 days to travel back and forth from Texas to New Hampshire to Arizona, among other states, hoping to capture the dynamic between a horseman and horse.
Their documentary “Wild Horse, Wild Ride,” follows nine horse trainers as they participate in Extreme Mustang Makeover, a program developed by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, that gives willing trainers 100 days to attempt to train a wild, rounded-up mustang.
“We had both always been drawn to stories about horses and were interested about doing a film about the relationship between man and horse,” Dawson said.
The film follows the 3-year-old horses from when they are picked up to when they are ultimately auctioned off after 100 days of training, bonding, some frustration and humor.
Dawson and Gricus live near Jackson Hole, Wyo., and said even though they aren’t horse people, they are fascinated by the rough cowboy lifestyle and the soft spot in the heart that most horsemen have for their animals.
This is the couple’s first full-length film. Dawson brought her experience of writing and producing; Gricus is a director of photography. Their work has appeared on the History Channel, Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel, among others.
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The couple, who have two young children, had to balance the 100-day filmmaking process with their family life.
“Sometimes Greg would go out to shoot alone, leaving me at home to my mom duties,” Dawson said. “In those instances, he did camera and sound and interviewing all on his own. How he did it all still baffles me.”
Dawson and Gricus, in creating the film, planted themselves among the controversial topic that is the horse round-ups.
There are nearly 30,000 wild horses roaming in 10 western states, including Colorado – Nevada having the most.
In recent years there has been a polarizing debate between the Bureau of Land Management and environmentalists as to whether or not the horses can sustain themselves. Since the horses are federally protected, the BLM is mandated to protect them. The BLM hopes that the horses can be relocated, or find good homes.
“There are 38,000 horses in the Bureau of Land Management holding facilities,” Dawson told the audience at a question and answer session after the film’s screening Wednesday afternoon during Aspen Filmfest. “So there are more in BLM holding facilities now then there are wild on the range.”
Gricus said that he has seen areas where the land has been greatly impacted by the wild horse herds.
“It would be great if they could just run in the wild,” Gricus said. “I’d love to see them out there. It’s kind of what drew us to the film, is how beautiful they are.”
The film, however, which briefly shows horse round-ups occurring, focuses more on people’s connection with the horses and the characters that train them, not the political policy of how to handle them.
“We were fortunate to have these people let us in their lives the way they did,” Gricus said.