Trafalgar Square Books caught up with filmmaker Cindy Meehl last week and had a chance to ask her about her work with Buck Brannaman, first on the award-winning documentary BUCK, and now on the all-new, seven-disc instructional series 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN.
TSB: How did you get the idea for creating a documentary about Buck? Was it easy to convince him to participate in such a project?
CM: Buck had been talking about making a narrative movie based on his book The Faraway Horses. He told me that when I attended his clinic in Belton, Texas, in 2008. I was thinking how no Hollywood actor could ever truly capture the real Buck Brannaman, especially his horsemanship skills, and people should get a chance to see the real guy. It was just a thought at the time, but I felt pretty strongly about it. That idea and feeling would not go away. It only grew and became stronger the more I witnessed the improvement in my horse using these methods and concepts. This was so exciting to me, but I found it difficult to share his knowledge with others. People in my English-riding world didn’t really want to hear what a cowboy had to say about riding. They didn’t recognize the value.
Then, about three months later, I went to a clinic at McGinnis Meadows Ranch in Montana. I had heard they rode all their horses in the Buck Brannaman method and I had always wanted to go there. At McGinnis, all the meals are served outside on a beautiful deck overlooking their gorgeous meadows. Buck was at a table waiting for Shayne and Jo-Anne Jackson (the ranch owners) to join him. Buck is rarely ever alone, and I saw this as a “sign”—an opportunity to go ask him if he would be interested in being the subject of a documentary. I walked over to him and asked if he had ever thought about making a documentary, and he said, “Not really.” I asked if he would like to, and he said that he thought it would be a good idea. Then I told him I would need his phone number and he jotted it down on a tiny piece of paper and handed it to me. I said thanks and that I would start working on it. Two months later I showed up in North Carolina with a camera crew. It was a two-minute conversation that started a four-and-a-half-year journey. Of course, I forgot to mention that I had never made a film before!
TSB: When did you first realize your “Buck Project” wouldn’t be over with the completion of the documentary—that in some ways, you had only just begun? After all, 7 CLINICS is on a much grander scale in terms of actual viewable footage, and has a very specific educational purpose…did you know from Day One that you wanted to create an instructional series to follow up the documentary?
CM: Originally, I thought that making a documentary about Buck would bring people to understand the value of this kind of teaching. However, as we started accumulating so much footage, I realized that it was way too vast of a concept to really teach it in the film. I wanted to make a film that would really move people and make them want to search out more of Buck’s methods of horsemanship. While in Sheridan, Montana, at Betty Staley’s clinic, I had three cameras shooting and we were running low on film. The crew was going to start cutting down on footage of the clinic. After being around Buck and his clinics I knew that you never knew what could happen next and he is always saying such profound things about the horse. No two clinics are alike. I wanted to keep shooting and have more film expressed from New York. That’s when it occurred to me that with all the great clinic footage I had, it would be wonderful to share more of it with the world so people could really see Buck in action. You really have to see everything Buck does, from groundwork on up, to grasp the concept of the how he gets horses to understand what he is asking of them.
So, what I realized was that the film BUCK would be entertaining and bring folks the idea of doing it another way, and 7 CLINICS would give them the tools to go there! 7 CLINICS is the completion of my mission to get this type of horsemanship to a much broader audience that would have no other way of finding it.