Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
My friends and I went to the annual Gifts that Give Back (gtgb) annual Vendor’s Market last Saturday at the Poston Manor and Event Barn, just on the edge of Logan. My first time at the Barn, I was impressed by the large space, crystal chandeliers, and the hard work that went into facilitating the event. We found amazing handmade items from two levels of vendors; handmade soaps, original art, one-of-a-kind designs in wool and wood, homemade cookies, handcrafted jewelry, and much more. It was a “looking for the perfect gift” extravagance. Here are some of my favorite vendors (click on the photo to learn more)...
Monday, December 4, 2023
Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.: June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Saturday, December 2, 2023
Finding beauty in the wild is not difficult for Ashley Avis. She is an innovative producer, wearing many hats, including writer and director. But most importantly, she is an advocate for horses and finds joy in their relationships and daily living. Residing in Los Angeles, Ashley answered my questions about horses, her endeavors, and more.
GM: When was your first encounter with a horse?
Naturally, that first day (and for many thereafter) I did not get to ride Delilah, but instead a chestnut pony called Little Red. He taught me many lessons, and my passion for horses grew. I eventually competed as a hunter/jumper through my childhood and teens and knew from early on that I wanted to write about horses. It was incredible when that journey came full circle, when I got the opportunity to write and direct Disney's BLACK BEAUTY.
GM: What are your thoughts on the BLM's current management of America's wild Mustangs?
Having spent five years working on our documentary WILD BEAUTY: MUSTANG SPIRIT OF THE WEST and now running our nonprofit, The Wild Beauty Foundation - I have now seen and experienced firsthand the shocking and antiquated practices of this federal agency, which refuses to extract itself from the past.
The methods the BLM still uses to round up wild horses are cruel, inhumane, and deeply antiquated. Somehow the BLM still considers a low flying helicopter chasing these animals at eye-level, sometimes for long periods of time in extreme heat - a "humane" method of capture.
Not only is there trauma suffered by the surviving horses, of course - but sometimes they break their legs and necks trying to escape or get back to their families. Day old foals are trampled in the melee. There is nothing humane about this. This is not management.
After these roundups, the BLM separates the families, and places the horses in government holding facilities. Some of these facilities do not even have shade, or any shelter from the elements. Some are so crowded; the horses stand in or lay in their own manure or are forced to trudge through flooded corrals. Numerous equine diseases, some resulting from the BLM simply not vaccinating the horses (as they are mandated to do) have killed hundreds due to negligence. Few people know that thousands of horses are also adopted by duplicitous kill buyers and end up in the slaughter pipeline in Canada or Mexico.
Wild horses are supposed to be federally protected by the United States government, and the Bureau of Land Management needs to start acting lawfully in what they were tasked to do - manage the horses, not destroy them in deference to special interest groups such as tax-subsidized livestock grazing.
GM: What can we do as individuals to help save our heritage, our Mustangs?
Through our work as filmmakers, as well as with our nonprofit, we have begun initiatives with children and teens to raise their voices. I love working with children, and mentorship is a big part of my life. I also think that people often pay attention to younger voices - and so we have created a national letter writing campaign called "I Stand With Wild Horses". Children and teens are encouraged to write letters to their lawmakers asking for wild horses to be protected. Future generations deserve to see these majestic creatures free on the range - just as much as they deserve to see wolves, mountain lions, and golden eagles.
We are hoping that our documentary WILD BEAUTY will become a tool to raise unprecedented awareness, in the way BLACKFISH or THE COVE did for orcas and dolphins. We are using it to support an important bill called The Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act (H.R. 3656) that if passed, would end the use of helicopters in wild horse roundups. I think that would be a first major step, though obviously there is still a long way to go in restoring the true ecological balance of our public lands.
GM: Your life is intriguing - working with horses, writing, directing. Take us through a day in your amazing life...
Perhaps this morning is a good example. I woke up at about 6am to jump into a remote online session with the editor of a movie I am in post-production on, which I directed last year in the Middle East. The film is called THE LAMB, and follows the story of an eight-year-old boy who, following the death of his mother - goes on an adventure across the Arabian desert to save the orphan lamb he loves. The film is entirely in Arabic, so it was fascinating to direct a child who did not speak English, as well as to edit the entire film in a foreign language.
I worked with our editor until about 10am, before running to the airport to board a plane from Los Angeles to South Dakota - where WILD BEAUTY is in competition at the South Dakota Film Festival. From the Uber on the way there, I did a remote session on my phone - and finished giving the editor of THE LAMB notes.
Next up in between security and boarding the plane were calls to our composer to discuss changes to the score in THE LAMB, then several WILD BEAUTY Oscar campaign strategy calls.
Now from the air, I am writing this to you, while my husband/producing partner Edward Winters and I work out the travel details for a trip we are taking next week to Yellowstone, for another movie we will hopefully be shooting in the next year. My next film projects include CITY OF ANGELS for Warner Bros., and an incredible project about wolves - hence this upcoming trip.
It's funny, we know how much we juggle at all times, but actually writing that out made me want another coffee! Ed and I are so passionate about what we do, and sometimes there isn't a spare moment in our days. However, even when that gets stressful, we try to embrace the fact that there is so much momentum going in all directions. Particularly right now, for the wild horses.
GM: When writing a screenplay, how do you maintain thoughts, characters, and scenarios?
After the first draft, I spend a great deal of time rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting yet again. The nuance really comes during that phase, particularly in the dialogue.
For me, it truly is when you begin to hear the characters you've created start talking - when you have invested so much into their world that your immersion into their story allows you to see them interact. While you're writing, they may do something in a scene that might surprise you - and when that happens (at least for me) I know the authenticity of what I'm constructing is ringing true.
GM: As a director, what is the key to creating a film that engages viewers?
With BLACK BEAUTY for example, we knew it was an elevated family film that would hopefully reach children and their parents. But my goal, and the goal of our wonderful producers, was to create a movie that transcended - that also appealed, ideally, to all ages. And that thankfully happened.
But creatively speaking, all of the elements are so important. For me, the writing has to be strong, the visuals have to be elegant and textured, the casting has to be perfect. The team has to be passionate. You are only as good as your team. And over the years I have been fortunate to find a group of amazing people that I often collaborate with.
GM: We know that you are a talented, determined force for animal rights. We are grateful for your enlightening films and hard work to educate the uninformed. What else would you like readers to know about your efforts to protect horses?
So, pick your corner of the world - and go fight for it!
GM: What horses do you currently stable?
We currently have two wild horses that are with us now, who are called Zephyra and Zion. Ed and I adopted them following the very first wild horse roundup we documented in Nevada, in 2019. Zion, a beautiful pinto - was only perhaps a month old when it happened. Thankfully, he survived and was reunited with his mother - coincidentally, a cobalt black mare, a wild "Black Beauty" in her own right.
I called them Zephyra, for 'goddess of the West wind', and Zion her 'sun'.
GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
Connect with Ashely…
Founder of WINTERSTONE & THE WILD BEAUTY FOUNDATION
WILD BEAUTY: MUSTANG SPIRIT OF THE WEST available now
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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