Achingly beautiful, yet still and quiet, THE RIDER is a semi-autobiographical docu-drama about Brady Jandreau (acting here as Brady Blackburn), a horse whisperer from South Dakota who is thrown violently from a bucking horse during a rodeo competition.
This part of the film is taken from an actual event in Jandreau’s life in the not so distant past ( 2016) where the horse stepped on his head and he had to be hospitalized, sustained a seizure, put into an induced coma for three days and underwent surgery. Footage from the actual accident is inserted into the film, and that scar on Brady’s head is real. The fact that Brady is acting alongside his actual father and sister as well as friends contributes to the poignancy and stunning effect, which is skillfully brought to life by Director Chloe Zhaou.
THE RIDER is an invitation into the world of the Lakota ranching lifestyle, a harsh yet breathtaking landscape where unapologetic spirituality is a day-to-day reality.
Interview by Christine Thompson
AMFM: How much of this film is autobiographical?
Brady: I helped some, but I didn’t ever sit down and write the script. Chloe asked a lot of questions, I told her lots of stories, and I’d say about 60 percent of it is based on my actual life. About 40 percent is complete fiction for dramatic effect.
AMFM: You’re not really acting in some of those scenes are you, because you really are a horse trainer…so the scenes between you and the horses were real?
Brady: Yes, I’m much more of a horse trainer than I am an actor, and I’m much more of a horse trainer than I am a rodeo cowboy, even. I’ve been starting untrained colts since I was about eight years old…so I’ve been doing it for about 15 years now.
AMFM: What I saw in the film you just can’t fake, those interactions with the horses were amazing…especially the scene in which you were breaking a horse…that was actually happening in that moment, wasn’t it?
Brady: That was completely in real time, that horse had never been touched by a human being before that. We just shot that out of impulse, because we were shooting a scene where I had an agreement to train a horse, and instead I said “Chloe, we need a horse in this scene.”
AMFM: There was another scene with a horse named Apollo that took my breath away, I was a little shocked, I don’t know how you filmed it. Without giving too much away it involves a horse being injured…how in the world did you film that without hurting the horse?
Brady: That was a shoelace and wax. You just tie it in a square knot, take the ends and put wax on it, and make them look sharp like barbs, then add fake blood and makeup. Actually, the real Apollo that the scene was based on had injuries that were much more extensive than what we portrayed in the film. It was higher and in a much worse location.
AMFM: So Apollo was a real horse.
Brady: Yes, he was big Palomino. A big gentle horse. He did pass away, the story is true.
AMFM: Oh, gosh. Well, there is deep, quiet spirituality that comes out of this film. There are some beautiful, very touching parts of this film, but I have a question. You have a unique “sign of the cross” that I’ve never seen before, and it was scattered throughout the film.
Brady: It’s something that I do for me. It’s like a handshake with the Lord.
AMFM: Can you talk about the different spiritual issues and the Lakota lifestyle?
Brady: Sure. When you’re around a 2000 pound animal, you’ve got to have faith in something. And where I live, it’s faith in Jesus Christ.
AMFM: I know how hard it is to get those moments spontaneously with a horse, we’re filmmakers too here in Texas. You guys did a wonderful, wonderful job with that. So what would you like people to take away from this film?
Brady: To not take things for granted, simply. Also, don’t be set in your ways and so sure about what you want in life, because it’s never too late to find out something new about yourself.
AMFM: What are you going to be doing as this film is hitting theaters?
Brady: My wife and I have just started a breeding program and we’re going to be raising American Quarter Horses registered through the AQHA, Jandreau Performance Horses.
AMFM: Can you expand on the quote you gave the reporter at Vanity Fair about being in actor is like being a horse trainer?
Brady: With a horse you have to keep it’s attention, keep it’s eye. If there is nothing interesting about you it turns and walks away from you. Or it will injure you to get away from you, if necessary. If you keep that connection, and keep the horse hooked up with you. It’s the same way you keep the crowd, the audience or the camera hooked up with you. That’s an attribute that goes along with acting as well.