Not a rider himself, screenwriter and producer Rick Hansberry, of Lancaster, PA, was struck by the visual beauty and power of the eventing world after a trip to Rolex last year. His story-telling imagination has come alive with a screenplay centered in the heart of eventing, and is now turning towards the community for help transforming the pages into a film.
Eventing is about feel. Nothing is so thrilling as feeling a horse galloping along well in hand, intently locking onto a solid fence and then launching himself up and over in one single, fluid motion. Unless it’s the focused, driving energy of dressage when the rider sits square and tall and the horse floats, as if by magic, across the arena. Can that feel be translated to the silver screen? Most horse movies are notoriously impractical and difficult for equestrians to take seriously. However, Rick Hansberry, a screenwriter and producer from of Lancaster, PA, is determined to give the sport of eventing the recognition it deserves in his upcoming film.
“My wife rides and competes in local hunter shows, nothing rated, so when we went to Rolex last April for her 50th birthday, it was worlds above what I had been exposed to previously,” says Hansberry. “The one thing that really impressed me was the accessibility of world-class riders; they walk among you, talk to you, answer your questions…in what other sport would such successful athletes do that?”
Hansberry recalls walking the cross-country course and coming across a competitor grazing his horse. It turned out to be none other than Will Faudree and his mount Pawlow. “I went up to him and shook his hand, talked for about ten minutes and let him know how much I respected what he does. I ended up finding his website online and sent him a thank-you message for taking the time to talk to me,” recollects Hansberry. Faudree messaged him back and they spoke more about eventing as a sport. Faudree mentioned the movie “Sylvester” as the catalyst for his interest in eventing and Hansberry, with his passion for screenplays, quickly checked it out. “‘Sylvester’ was just not realistic,” critiques Hansberry. “There’s no other movie that does the sport justice. Eventing is so visual, it cries out to be on film.”
Eventing has all the ingredients for a good story— a tremendous amount of enthusiasm within a community where not only do both women and men compete equally together, but also rely on a partner to cross the finish line. “The horse and rider are together for this journey; without one, there is no other. That connection is something an audience can truly appreciate,” Hansberry explains.
An Underdog Triumph
Hansberry says he wants his film to be “absolutely realistic, plausible, and entertaining—I want people to say it is a good representation of the eventing community.” At the same time, the film is not purely about eventing itself. Hansberry explains thus: “The same way the ‘Rocky’ movies aren’t just about the boxing world—they’re about the man—this is an underdog triumph story within an eventing setting. It’s a dramatic storyline about the rider and his interpersonal relationships.” As other productions have brought awareness to sports such as skateboarding and surfing, Hansberry wants to do the same with eventing. “It’s not all about the top trainers, the million-dollar horses, or the riders who have ridden since the womb. The satisfying thing about eventing is that anyone has a chance to be great with hard work.”
Hansberry himself understands the meaning of long hours and determination. He wakes up at 5:30am every morning, carving out time in his busy schedule to devote to his writing. A father of two, Hansberry first started this habit while making lunches for the kids in the morning. Now he toils for an hour before going to his full-time work as a paralegal. “It’s my mortgage-paying, food-on-the-table job,” he jokes. He is also a disc jockey on the weekends, playing about 25-30 gigs a year. “Writing and producing screenplays is my third hat, and one that there is never enough time for. The worst is the blinking cursor, mocking me and saying ‘I dare you to come up with something good today,’” He laughs. “I try to write two to three pages a day, and each day the first page is usually rewriting the page from the day before because it isn’t very good.”
Despite his modesty, Hansberry has been lauded as a talented screenwriter with a record of achievements for his cinematography, including “Chemistry” (2008), “Chasing Forever” (2009), “Branches” (2010), and his latest film “Alienate,” which is listed for a 2014 release. “It’s the nuances that draw me to screenwriting,” says Hansberry. “The words on paper are just a blueprint for the movie people, and you can’t write what’s not on the screen—no smells, no tastes—you have to think totally visually. The characters have to be placed in settings that convey their emotions and let the subtle, visual metaphors seep into the conscious of the viewers.”
This is why dressage is particularly difficult to capture on camera. Even trained eyes are not always able to catch the subtle differences from rider to rider. “Luckily, movies play like rollercoasters. There are ups and downs, and since it isn’t adrenaline packed like cross-country or stadium-jumping, the relative quiet of dressage will magnify the intensity of the other moments,” explains Hansberry. “I used to coach basketball and practicing the techniques, like foul shots and dribbling, are the fundamental skills needed for a good game. I think of dressage in the same way.”
The other challenge for a movie within the eventing community is a lack of adversaries. “I’ve found that nobody really trash-talks anybody else. Nobody says ‘I can’t wait to beat so-and-so’, or ‘I hope so-and-so has a bad trip today.’ I needed to create more of a conflict, some tension, to get the best out of the story.”Sweepstakes for Character Names
Hansberry wishes he was further along in the process, but is trying to be patient. The script is written and has been sent out for feedback, and now it’s time to assemble a cast and crew to shoot a trailer and show investors that this film has the makings of greatness. “There’s a lot of interest so far, and while eventing season is already underway and only going to get busier, I’d like to use the end of this season for the initial round of shots for the trailer, utilize that for shooting in 2015, and then edit, score, package and ultimately distribute,” says Hansberry. “The ideal target for completion is between Rolex and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 when enthusiasm is high.”
While the film is still in the early stages, there is not yet a website established or production arranged as all beginnings first need interest and capital. Hansberry encourages all interested parties to become familiar with his previous works and has decided on a creative way to physically count the enthusiasm for the upcoming film.
Every person who purchases a copy of Hansberry’s latest film, “Branches”, via the website www.branchesmovie.com, will be entered to have her and her horse’s name featured in the film. Each DVD is $10.00, including shipping and handling, and will be counted as a donation towards the eventing film while also familiarizing the viewer with Hansberry’s style. There will be a drawing of three male and female combinations for purchases made between April 1 and May 15, 2014 and winners will be contacted shortly afterwards to collect the names.
Extras will be needed once filming begins. Pennsylvania Equestrian readers interested in assisting, or with questions about the film, can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.