They say imitation is flattery, but what happens when the imitation takes on a life of its own?
That’s what happened with Untethered, a spoof of Unbranded. The latter is the award-winning documentary of a border-to-border trek across public lands with four guys and their team of adopted BLM horses. The former is a clever, seven-minute parody with more than 9,000 views and an invitation to the Equus Film Festival in New York City.
In fact, Untethered was first and foremost a marketing vehicle for Tevis Talks, an annual gathering of endurance crazies, in Auburn, California. (Ok, according to the Tevis Cup website, it’s an annual event to “promote awareness of the Western States Trail Foundation and to raise money for the trail’s preservation and maintenance.”
Matt Scribner had invited Unbranded’s Ben Masters to speak and wanted a way to promote Masters and Tevis Talks while also celebrating the historic trail that starts near Lake Tahoe and ends in Auburn.
Scribner recruited his brother-in-law, Dave Losko (who just happens to run Sun River Films) and his friends: Shawn Bowling, John ‘Cowboy John’ Brain, John ‘Gypsy John’ Jarnagen along with the eternally youthful Potato Richardson, who, at age 72 won the hundred mile Tevis Cup last year. (Scribner said he and his mates saw him coming out of a bar on New Year’s Day and asked Richardson if he’d like to join the project. It was a moment and an addition Scribner described as “too perfect.”)
“Every scene was a first take which is rare in the movie business,” said Losko, who collaborated with Scribner to “write as we went along,” he added.
There are references to Brokeback Mountain and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
There are donuts, whiskey, a talking dog named Earl, an Arabian pack horse, farts, a stunning athletic feat (Jarnagen pressing into a handstand while horseback) and stunning takes of No Hands Bridge and other mileposts of the famous trail.
Amid the fun and follies, you might not guess these guys are, in fact, accomplished endurance riders. Bowling, the baby-faced 40-something, has ridden the Pony Express Trail (an 1,840-mile trek from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California). Twice.
I reached Scribner as he and the men were en route to Death Valley for two back-to-back 50 mile rides. No big deal.
Scribner enjoyed visiting with Masters and Lanny Leach, the horseman who gentled the Unbranded mustangs and who joined the gathering at the Tevis Talks.
“He reminded me of Tom Dorrance,” said Scribner, who followed Dorrance decades ago, of Leach. “In his horsemanship, in his mannerism, and the way he delivered his message. I got the same kind of goosebumps.”
Scribner’s developing an Odyssey-esque humor flick. Said the 50 year old, “You can go have fun on your horse. The horses, they feel it. There is so much ‘disengage the hind, engage the blah, blah, blah.’ We train horses but we also have a great time.”
Keep us posted, Matt!