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SxSW ’10 Interview – “The Ride” director Meredith Danluck

The Ride - At SxSW Film
by Jason Whyte

“The Ride is about Cowboys, bull riding, rock and roll, wild west punk cowboys. Feeling more like narrative fiction than a straight up doc, the film floats through this rough and tumble world, seamlessly connecting people and places together. It’s a portrait of America told by these mythical archetypes.” Director Meredith Danluck on the film “The Ride” which screens at this year’s South By Southwest Film.

Is this your first film in SxSW? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to be in Austin for the screenings?

Vice Films premiered “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” at SXSW in 2007. I’ve personally had short films at a number of festivals including Toronto, Margaret Meade and Sao Paolo, but this will be my first feature premiere and I’m really excited it will be at SXSW.

Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

Funny question, I was in a few commercials as a kid, nothing major just little bit parts here and there. At some point I told my mom that I was over it, that I wanted to “behind the camera” If you ever meet her I’d bet you a dollar she’ll tell you this story.

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!

I wanted to be an “explorer.”

How did this whole project come together?

I did a piece on the Indy 500 for, Vice’s online documentary channel, and just loved it. It turned out so great and we started thinking of other Americana stories to do. We then got an opportunity to go to the PBR through our executive producer, Jeff Yapp. Within the first 30 minutes of being there I was sold. A film had to be made.

What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it the script, principal photography or post-production stage?

I honestly can’t answer this. We worked with so many incredible people and everyone was so collaborative and cool, at no point did I feel like we had a crazy insurmountable obstacle in our way. I mean, there were little challenges, like getting 23 year old millionaire cowboy JB Mauney to return a phone call or getting stranded in El Paso for 24 hours with no money after a cowboy we were with broke his neck, but all in all it was smooth sailing.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

The cinematographer is actually the love of my life, Jake Burghart. We met on location in 2007 while filming “Garbage Island”, a film about the plastic garbage patch the size of Texas. The Ride is part HD, part up-rezed SD. We began production right around the point we were transitioning to HD and hadn’t locked down our HD work flow so we did what we could to shoot most of it on HD, and shot the rest SD. He’s got such a unique and thoughtful style. He really focuses on details and manages to capture a real sense of “place” through his camera work. He’s a natural.

Talk a bit about the experiences (festival or non-festival) that you have had with this particular film. Have you had any interesting audience stories or questions that have arisen at screenings? If this is your first screening premiere, what do you hope to expect at the screenings of the film?

The screening on the 17th will be the World Premiere. We’ve only show the film to friends and family so we’re very excited to see how it’s received. Everyone seems to have the same question though, which is “how were you able to get these guys to open up?” which is a very interesting question. We could not have done this film without the support of Randy Bernard, who is the CEO of the Professional Bull Riders. We clicked with him and he vouched for us and like any social network, when the head honcho says you’re ok, you’re ok.

Who would you say is “the audience” for this film? Do you want to reach everyone possible or any particular type of filmgoer?

I think anyone can enjoy this film. It’s set up using a lot of tropes from narrative fiction but applied to documentary so it’s experimental in a way that’s a crowd pleaser, but still interesting for “film” people.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this project in particular?

In our first conversations about the film I was thinking about the film “Slacker” by Richard Linklater. I was interested in the way transitions are set up between characters and how you got these snapshots of people’s everyday experiences. That seemed like an interesting and new approach to documentary filmmaking. During post Lauren Cynamon, the film’s editor, and I kept referring to Tom Teague as a kind of narrator, like in “Big Fish” by Tim Burton so I think that played out as well.

How far do you think you would want to go in this industry? Do you see yourself working on larger stories for a larger budget under the studio system, or do you feel that you would like to continue down the independent film path?

I could see myself doing anything. I’d love to do a super Hollywood-chase’m-down-shoot’m-up-thriller, just to see how I could work in that genre.

If you weren’t in this profession, what other line of work do think you would be involved with?

I have a background in fine art and continue to work with a Gallery in New York, so I guess art, but I get bored pretty easily so I’m sure I would take up something else too, like Lepidoptery?

Please tell me some filmmakers, actors or other talent that you would love to work with, even if money was no object.

I’d really love to work with Paul Ruebens as he is so genius.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

It’s hugely important to have media support film; that is if you want to keep making films.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

My all time favourite theatre is IFC in New York. They really put together a great program, have the best seats and films look and sound great there. I’d want to watch “The Ride” there.

What would you say to someone on the street to see your film instead of the latest blockbuster playing at the local megaplex?

I’d say, “I’ll buy you a beer if you go to see my movie,” people love beer, that would work.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking during or conversing/texting on their cell phone while you’re watching a movie (if at your own screening or another movie you attend)?

I’m usually not too bothered by other people in movies. I have the most obnoxious laugh so I can’t exactly throw stones you know?

What do you love the most about this business of making movies?

I love it all, the pitch, the production, post, everything, but I guess I’m happiest in production when everything is full blast nutso.

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?

Get a camera, don’t wait to get “financed” just get a camera and do something within your means.

And finally…what is your all time favourite motion picture, and why?

That’s a tough question, it’s a toss up between “Fire Walk With Me” by David Lynch, “Grizzly Man” by Herzog and “Hoop Dreams” by Steve James. Every time I see “Fire Walk with Me” it’s a new and different film. It’s so beautiful and holds such emotional weight in so many ways, from fear to humor. Grizzly Man is just an incredible approach to filmmaking and given that most of it was filmed by Timmy Treadwell, the protagonist; it’s so personal and revealing. “Hoop Dreams” is just one of the most epic documentaries about ambition and hope of all time…(cutting herself off) wait, so is “American Movie” by Chris Smith. Crap…this question sucks.

This is one of the many films screening at this year’s South By Southwest Film in Austin, Texas between March 12-20. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 03/10/10 05:09:55
last updated: 03/10/10 05:10:14
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