Wild horses – the movie


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For centuries wild horses have been a natural part of the American landscape. But now commercial interests are driving them out as they are rounded up and taken to slaughter houses. When Stephanie Martin decided to make a movie about the issue an impressive cast of people joined her.


By Camilla Alfthan Photos Melissa Farlow


Wild Horses is the film I have always dreamt of making. It combines two things I am passionate about: filmmaking and horses,” says Stephanie Martin who directed and wrote the movie in only a few months.

Drawing from her own research,  Martin and her team recreated the world of wild horse roundups to make a visually-driven story, where the viewer embarks upon the same journey of discovery as the film’s heroine; a Los Angeles based celebrity photographer.

The film counts with an impressive cast and crew – to name a few- three time Oscar winner Robert Richardson who lensed the film, horse trainer Rex Peterson and his magnificent horses and Melissa Farlow, the National Geographic (NG) photographer whose photographs graced the National Geographic Article Mustangs: Spirits of the Shrinking West to name a few.

While Mireille Enos (who was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of detective Sarah Lund on AMC’s “The Killing”) plays the lead character, Brookes Shields agreed to a cameo in the last minute moved by the footage on Stephanie’s Kickstarter campaign. Ralph Lauren provided the costumes as they believed in the movie’s message.

Wild Horses recently screened successfully for a select few in LA in advance of its World Premiere at the Palm Springs Shorts Fest.

Martin says “one of the positive results our film is having is that people are becoming informed about the issue.  Following the screening, I received emails from people telling me that they began to research the issue as a result of having watched our film. “ 

“I personally didn’t know there were wild horses in America until ten years ago, when I first starting hearing about the subject.  It’s surprising but even within the equestrian community people are unaware. Therefore, awareness is key.  I decided to make a narrative film about wild horses rather than a documentary because a narrative film has the ability of reaching the public at large.  Documentaries are wonderful but they often reach a select few.  In order to create the sort of wide-spread awareness that this cause needs we needed to go further.   That was my reasoning behind making a narrative piece rather than a documentary”, tells Stephanie Martin when we speak via Skype.

People don’t know that there are wild horses in America ? Or that they are taken away?

”No, and it’s the American government who is responsible. They are rounding up the horses.  It is the Department of the Interior that is responsible. Specifically, the Bureau of Land Management, the very agency entrusted with the care of these horses by the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Free Roaming Act. And it’s our tax dollars that are at work. Over 80 million dollars a year are spent on wild horse removal and maintenance.


“There came a point that signing petitions and becoming informed was not enough. So I wrote Wild Horses.”


When I first became aware of the issue, I knew I needed to do something, I needed to contribute.  So I did what I knew best, I began by telling their story visually, I begain by making a documentary the subject.  I’d read about the removal of the last herd of wild horses in Southern California and traveled south to interview the people who had witnessed it. I shot several interviews and then life and its responsibilities got in the way. I remained informed, continued to receive e-mail alerts, signed every petition about the issue but deep down, I knew I needed to do more, to become involved. There came a point that signing petitions and becoming informed was not enough. So I wrote Wild Horses with my best friend, Jessica Walsh and applied to the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women with the script.  And was accepted.


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