EQUUS Film Festival Camden – More Than Just a Tour Stop
The third annual EQUUS Film Festival Tour Stop in Camden, SC, hosted by the Marley Project, was a mixture of educational classes, a family fun fest, chances to mix and mingle, horse training opportunities, interviews, and, of course, a collection of films. Camden Film Week, organized by Julianne Neal with the help of Bruce Anderson and a host of volunteers, was a huge success in more ways than one.
While driving into the city of Camden you began by getting a taste of what was to come with the three different billboards showcasing the week of activities. One of those billboards included the amazing horse design of artist Tanner Jensen, the official visiting tour stop artist. The colors of her artwork helped you feel the vibrant week that was about to begin.
Inside the headquarters at 1050 Broad Street, that artistry continued with umbrellas painted by local school students. This was part of a traveling art exhibit provided by the SC Arts Commission and the ABC Project titled, “April Showers.” Both the Kershaw County School District and the neighboring Fairfield County School District were part of this Project. There was also artwork on display created by students in Amy Faulk’s visual art program at Doby’s Mill Elementary School and Kimi Daly’s program at Fairfield Magnet School for Math and Science.
Days before the films were screened a variety of activities were already taking place. EQUUS Film Festival Co-Director Diana De Rosa came in early to spend class time with Neal’s students to teach them how to market themselves and create the perfect head shot. Heather Reichel, organizer of the EQUUS Film Festival Meadville Tour Stop, which will take place April 21-23 in Pennsylvania, demonstrated working with commercial drones.
Drones and Horses
Watching Bruce Anderson in Action
What was extra special and different about this year’s Camden Film Festival was that it was more than just a tour stop. Those who came early had a unique opportunity to watch Anderson in action either training horses or working with clients on his Nature’s View training techniques.
The motivation behind the week of EQUUS Film Festival movies and learning more about Camden was The Edge – Bruce Anderson Natural Humanship, produced by Neal and directed by James O’Connor and Dylan Quesnel. This film gives the viewer a chance to witness the impact that horses have had on Anderson’s life and how he uses a 1000 pound animal to send the message that we are merely a steward of this earth. This film was the winner of the 2016 EQUUS Film Festival Equestrian Environmental Awareness WINNIE Award.
While training horses, Anderson focuses on a similar technique to what he does when working with people, which is the use of pressure. When Anderson first started working with horses, his goal was to fix the horses, but he soon learned that horses weren’t the problem, we humans are the problem.
This led him to working with people, where he saw a similar situation in that it’s not us that have the problems but rather the pressure put on us over the years by other people and situations that has framed who we are. As a result, instead of staying focused on the present we react or get caught up with what has happened to us in the past.
It could be something simple, like being made fun of at school because of the way we dressed, or something more complex like being abused as a child. Anderson uses the horse to help us understand how our reactions are often a result of what has happened to us in the past, rather than us solving or focusing on the present problem.
While this is a simplification of his training techniques for both humans and horses, he is very focused on sending out his message that we humans need to get back to nature, to the basics of human kindness and understanding and recognize that we are the key to doing that.
Painting, Tasting and Pouring
A Week of Mixing and Mingling
In addition to having a bird’s eye view of Anderson in action, there were a number of fun activities arranged. On Wednesday night, February 21, 25 people joined an EQ-Wine & Design, Paint & Pour Party taught by Christy Buchanan and each learned how to draw their favorite horse. Those taking part soon learned that with a little guidance, a few drinks and snacks, laughter, and lots of paint, they could produce artwork worthy of displaying in their home or barn.
On Thursday, February 22, the EQUUS Film Festival portion of Camden Film Week began with the Tapas Trot tasting throughout the town of Camden where the following restaurants offered a taste of their signature dish: Hifalutin, Sam Kendall’s, Steeplechase, and Sweet Lili’s.
That evening the Tapas Trot ended at Camden Mercantile for the Meet & Greet where filmmakers, artists, authors, politicians and local folk had a chance to socialize and not only share but learn from each other. The Camden Mercantile, a vintage downtown building, was originally the town’s livery stable.
People came from as far away as Chicago, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York to join with local folk from the surrounding towns. It was a fun way to network, savor the local fare and learn from those in attendance.
A Trolley Tour around Camden
Historic Tours and More
On Friday, February 23, the morning began with breakfast at Aberdeen, the historic home of Jack Brantley, followed by a trolley ride around Camden with local equine expert, Hope Cooper. That tour included stops at Springdale Race Course, The Training Barn, The Blue Barn, Shadwell Stable and Camden Training Center.
At noon, the films kicked off in The Little Theater, located in the heart of downtown Camden, while guests headed off to KM Video Productions for interviews with this local TV and radio station. In between, at the headquarters, Directors Panels featured a chance to hear from the filmmakers and authors about how to produce a film or create a novel or script, along with the trials and tribulations they faced along the way.
Included in those Directors Panels was a Military Appreciation Day where Heather Reichel’s film, New Boots was shown. This film pays tribute to World War II Veteran, Private Charles E Rudler, who was a POW for five months after being captured by the Germans.
Also included was Christianna Hannum’s film, “Goodnight Ladies,” about her grandmother, Nancy Hannum. Instead of showing the film from beginning to end, Christianna would show portions of the film and then talk about each section. It was a great way to get an insider’s view of filmmaking.
Others who spoke in interviews, on panels or in the theater included, Julianne Neal for the Spotlight Rescue Series, Debbie Statton for the Spotlight Rescue film Heaven’s Gate, Susan Kelly Ash for Spotlight: SAVe the Havasupai Pack Animals, Heather Reichel for Spotlight Rescue The Hanging Barn, Bruce Anderson for Spotlight Rescue Natural Humanship, Nic and Elam Stoltzfus for The Great Florida Cattle Drive, Sandra Mendelson for Herd, Marsha Hewitt of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, Krysta Rutherford for her Girl Scout Badges film, The Colonial Spanish Mustang: The Forgotten Horses, George and Sue Sensor for The True Story of Sunshine Numbers, Margi Evans for her book The Heart of a Mustang, Sasscer Hill for Flamingo Road and Luann Chappell for Stubborn, winner of the 2017 WINNIE Screenplay award.
Family Fun Fest Activities
Marley Project Literary Roundup Family Fun Fest
On Saturday, February 24, the Town Green park was alive and well with the debut of the Marley Project Literary Roundup Family Fun Fest. Here was a chance to enjoy the talent of local school children performing scenes, songs and dances, while those in attendance enjoyed carriage rides, games, book signings, local food, and a chance to learn about or purchase gifts for their family and friends. Bruce Anderson and his real life horse, Marley, were also there along with Sunny Pony, Smarty Pants and Annie Pants, and a host of animals in the petting zoo. You could just feel the electricity buzzing through the air as everyone enjoyed a fun-filled day.
Elementary students in Daly’s Honors Art Program were on hand to showcase their latest art project, illustrations for a picture book about Marley called “The Marley Stories: Finding AlphA.” The students also had the chance to visit with YA Fiction authors MJ Evans, who was on the Green for an EQUUS Author’s Book Signing. The students created their own illustrations in the fall from photos of Marley, Bruce and his dog Curry, so this was their first opportunity to meet Marley in person.
That same afternoon the films continued in the theater, with the final films being shown on Sunday, February 25. Whenever filmmakers or talent of the film being shown were in the audience, those in attendance had a chance to ask questions and hear more about their film. This was an amazing opportunity since, in general, when you go to see a film, the chance to actually meet the filmmaker or talent is one of those things you put on your wish list.
Those chats continued in the foyer or outside the theater as guests took advantage of the opportunity to meet these celebrities in person.
More Marley Family Fun Fest Photos
Testimonials and More
Afterwards some of the visitors took the time to write their thoughts about all they experienced.
"The Equus Film Festival chronicles our love affair with the horse through film, art, and literature. I am honored to be one of the authors included in the event and have my books receive the "WINNIE Award" for Young adult and Children's Fiction," wrote author M.J. Evans.
“It was very nice to meet so many friendly people eager to share their literary experiences and have interesting conversations with them. Having recently retired from engineering, it is such a different world than the one I am familiar with, to wit: someone approaches me with a problem, I tell them how to solve it and then go sit in my office. I rarely get to speak with so many eager, friendly people wanting to know my opinion of their work and how it can be made better. It has made for an interesting transition for me,” commented Stubborn screenplay author, Luann Chappell.
“It’s such a blessing to have my business Clear Day Spa in this beautiful town of Camden, SC. I love being the hospitality host for all the people from across the country during the EQUUS Film Festival Camden Tour Stop and hearing all the great things about the people and places in this town. There is no other place like Camden and there is no other festival that is as fun,” wrote Clear Day Spa owner Roslyn Moore.
Finally, Jeanie Sabbagha took some extra time to talk about the many films she watched, noting: “I loved the variety, especially the documentaries. I enjoyed the discussion session with Christianna after the film Goodnight Ladies. I was very impressed with the Netherlands' approach to horse breeding in Golden Genes and the tormented story of The Story of Totilas, which was so heartbreaking that the rider & horse did not complete their mission together.
“After watching A Racetrack Somewhere, I decided that I must see the Birdsville Cup. Herd was the spiritual component of the entire group of films. All in all, the horses of the world benefit when everyone has an opportunity to see these fantastic films. Thank you to Lisa Diersen for creating this platform for the public to connect with horses. How Julianne was able to manage all this and still keep her composure is a testament to her professional skills, and Diana De Rosa is profound!”
Sabbagha was one of the many volunteers who helped in other ways. She sent out six emails to a list of over 700 people, keeping everyone up-to-date on the plans and encouraged them to save the date.
They Traveled from Near and Far
The week ended with a feeling of accomplishment thanks to the efforts of Julianne Neal, Bruce Anderson, EQUUS Film Festival founder Lisa Diersen and Co-Director Diana De Rosa, Neal’s volunteers, and sidekick Roslyn Moore, Suzi Sale, Kat Spadacenta and the City of Camden Tourism Partnership, the sponsors and those who came to enjoy the films and festivities.
After a week of little sleep and lots of work, Neal was overjoyed with the results and commented, “This third year of organizing and directing our local Camden Tour Stop was so rewarding, because we have seen the interest grow exponentially from the South Carolina equine and film community. Bruce and I have always tried to share the impact and power of horses, and now through film, I have been able to bring that to my own high school students in a different way. They actually worked on films with me this year that won awards in New York, so having them in Camden to see what a festival is like was really exciting.
“Seeing high school students who have never touched a horse gather around Sunny Pony, or an elementary student running to meet Marley when he arrived on the Town Green, those are things I’ll never forget! The elementary students just illustrated a short book about Marley as one of our creative writing projects, so they had seen the pictures of him, but this gave them a chance to actually meet Bruce and Marley in person. They were excited about that for weeks leading up to the event!
“Other highlights for me were listening to conversations between our visiting authors about their projects and giving thoughts about the writing process, hearing local film lovers ask questions about the Mongol Derby from Julia Fisher (who participated in the ride in 2016), seeing a trailer for an upcoming film about Danny and Ron’s Rescue and knowing the impact that the film will have on their efforts, seeing trailers about actual equine rescues right here in Camden and knowing that a film will spread the word about the powerful work they are doing and even hearing Roslyn Moore, one of the volunteers from the tour stop, describing the film that she plans to make about Tennessee Walking Horses so that she can submit for next year’s festival in New York. Those connections are the reason that we host the tour stop!”
Stay tuned to next year when Camden will continue to showcase a host of horse films and more as it carries on this tradition of being more than just a tour stop. Mark your calendar now for Camden Film Week, February 18-24 and EQUUS Film Festival Camden Tour Stop, February 22-24.