Cindy Meehl Buck InterviewCast: Buck Brannaman, Robert Redford
Director: Cindy Meehl
Running Time: 88 minutes
Synopsis: Buck, a richly textured and visually stunning film, follows Brannaman from his abusive childhood to his phenomenally successful approach to horses. A real-life "horse-whisperer", he eschews the violence of his upbringing and teaches people to communicate with their horses through leadership and sensitivity, not punishment. Buck possesses near magical abilities as he dramatically transforms horses - and people - with his understanding, compassion and respect. In this film, the animal-human relationship becomes a metaphor for facing the daily challenges of life. A truly inspiring story about an unsung hero, Buck is about an ordinary man who has made an extraordinary life despite tremendous odds.
Release Date: February 16, 2012
Interview with Cindy MeehlCindy Meehl met Buck Brannaman at one of his horse clinics in 2003.
His horsemanship and skills were exceptional, and once Cindy learned about Buck's life, she was inspired to make her first documentary to tell his story and share his unique approach to horses and people. She founded Cedar Creek Productions, LLC in 2008 in order to make this film.
Cindy's background is in fashion and art. She created and ran her own label, "Sasha, Cindy and Phil", as well as "Cindy Hughes Designs". She has designed couture eveningwear that sold across the country. Her clothes have been showcased in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman and featured in film and television as well as magazines and print campaigns. Cindy studied art at Marymount Manhattan College and the National Academy of Art in NYC. In the 1990s, she began fine art painting, which led to her interest in photography and film. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, writer Brian Meehl, 2 daughters, 4 dogs and 2 horses.
Question: What prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?
Cindy Meehl: I met Buck at one of his clinics about 8 years ago, and he made a profound impression on me. Coming from a different discipline entirely, I didn't think there was much I could learn from a cowboy. I was astounded to realise that no one had ever taught me as much about a horse as he did in those four days. However, there was also something even more compelling about him that was hard to explain. While his techniques are spectacular, it's the life lessons he slips into his teachings that really seep into your soul. One of his big messages is, "If it's not working, change it!" He doesn't want excuses. He doesn't let you be a victim. He makes you tougher.
I also read his book and discovered the powerful story of how he overcame his incredibly terrifying and violent childhood and now dedicates his life to helping people and horses. I had never made a film before, but it seemed the only way to share this man and his philosophy. I approached Buck at a clinic and asked him if he would be interested in making a documentary. He said he thought it was a good idea, and I said I'd like to do it. It was a brief conversation of about two minutes, and that was the beginning of well over two years of work that created Buck.
Question: Elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film.
Cindy Meehl: I started by just filming Buck at his clinics. He is a born orator and is very entertaining and amusing when he is trying to tell you about horses. I also realised there was a lot more to his story than just riding and training horses. We traveled around the country filming Buck at work and met the people who are drawn to his clinics. We also met, and interviewed, Buck's inner circle, his friends, his wife and daughters, and his remarkable foster mother. We were able to film frequently enough to gather a great deal of intimate footage.
I was well aware that in order for this story to be told, I would need to make a film about this very specific subject that would be accessible to a wide audience. It was producer Julie Goldman and our creative consultant Andrea Meditch who were able to see my vision and make it a reality. They were very brave to go the distance with me knowing I had not made a film before. The dedicated team that Julie and our Line Producer Alice Henty brought together was amazing.
Question: What were your biggest challenges in developing the project?
Cindy Meehl: The biggest challenge was taking 300 hours of footage and cutting it down to 88 minutes. We had so many wonderful interviews with amazing people and so much of Buck on the subject of life as well as horses that editing the film was a difficult process. It was extremely hard to lose great scenes and stick to our story arc. I had an incredibly gifted editor, Toby Shimin, who is a master craftswoman and was tireless in cutting and re-cutting until we got it right.
Question: What was the biggest surprise associated with the making of your movie?
Cindy Meehl: What I have found most surprising about my film Buck is how it appears to affect people in so many different ways. As I started this journey to tell Buck's story, I thought it would be about changing people's perceptions about how they treat and train horses, as well as how to deal with life's difficulties with a bit of cowboy wisdom. However, as the film was completed and we started test screening it for a wide cross-section of friends and associates, I was pleasantly surprised that we had achieved my original intention, and more. The strong reactions that I received made all of the blood, sweat and tears that it took to make Buck well worth the effort.
I had people who had no interest in horses calling and telling me that they could not stop thinking about Buck. A director of a major theater company in NYC said it made her rethink how she worked with and directed her actors. Another friend told me that the description of Buck's violent childhood really resonated with her in an intense and hopeful way, as she herself came from an abusive childhood, and was thankful for the hope that it delivered to victims of such horrific pasts. Another man said that after seeing the film he would say to himself, "How would Buck handle this?" when dealing with his two young children.
Having so many people come to me in tears after the screening has made this whole experience extremely moving and gratifying. Knowing that a subject that I had such a passion for was truly resonating with others, too, makes me feel like I achieved what I set out to do - - touch people's lives with a film about hope and inspiration. And certainly, if someone does have a horse, they will leave with a new understanding of how magnificent that creature is and how to live with them in harmony. As Buck say, "Horses and life, it's all the same to me."
Question: What do you want audiences to learn from Buck?
Cindy Meehl: I hope the audience comes away from the film with a renewed sense of hope and inspiration. I think Buck's story has a freshness that can be very moving, especially in a time when the world is looking for direction. I think that Buck has a unique way of encouraging people to do and see things that they thought were impossible. He will also make you see things in your own life that you may or may not want to see. He's pretty straightforward in a tough cowboy kind of way, but maybe that's what we all need right now. I am pretty hard to impress, so I thought if someone could inspire me that much, then they would probably inspire others, too.