Celebrity Interview: Directing Team Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar Talk on Making Jockey

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Clint Bentley, director, producer and co-writer of Jockey, the shockingly authentic film, from Sony Picture Classics, along with Greg Kwedar, co-writer and producer recently spoke with Haute-Lifestyle.com Publisher Janet Walker at the film’s media day.

The film, which made its theatrical debut December 29, presents the backstory of track life, from the jockey viewpoint. The harsh realities and struggles which these riders endure for a profession they love.

Jockey Review – Engaging, Authentic, Riveting

Below is my interview with Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar.

Janet Walker: Congratulations on the film. Nice to see you both today.

Clint Bentley/Greg Kwedar: Thank you for having us.

JW: You're welcome. There are so many beautiful elements about the film, and it is also intriguing and interesting. I understand it it all starts with a good script so describe your process as writers.

GK: For us, first foremost, we bring a journalistic approach to the things that we write. We come from a documentary background and so we get fascinated about worlds that are often hiding in plain sight. We want to pull the curtain behind them and step in. We like to say we build our stories from the dirt up. We start with the place and then who are the characters in that place and what's their relationship to their world, you know are they in harmony or conflict with it. Then who are these people and all of their beauty and contradictions and warts and can they, across any dividing lines, find each other and connect even just for a brief moment and show us what's possible for this sort of human experiment and that's really where it comes from. The story is really the last thing that emerges for us. It's really place, then people, and then story.

CB: The only I'd add to that is then as we're making the movie, we allow our scripts to evolve as we're finding things in the movie and the actors find things and not only just research that they do on their own but emotional aspects that they uncovered, and we really are constantly rewriting scenes up until the last day of shooting.

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JW: How did you decide on Jockey or the idea of the racetrack or this particular style of this type of story?

CB: Well, my dad was a jockey. So, when I became a film maker I was working with my dad one summer helping him out on the backside and realized that this world was one that we had seen in films before but we had always seen it from the perspective of the grandstands and hadn't really gone behind the scenes and felt it in the way that it feels and so I just wanted to bring that to the world.

On the Writing Process . . .

JW: Was this an evolving process? Did you start it by 10 years ago and it evolved overtime?

GK: We started writing of the script around 2016. We didn't start shooting till 2019 and with that amount of time with material inevitably your lives start to bleed into it. It's like the evolution of a script kind of comes from as you evolve as a human.

And part of that was we wrote this this movie for Clinton Collins, Jr., we were friends with him, and we had worked with him on our first film. As we engaged with him in the development started to bring so much of his own life you know his relationship with his father and his own grandfather is long lineage at Hollywood and it's paralleling the horse racing industry in that period of time my family adopted a son and a lot of those experiences wove its way into the narrative and so because Clint was so willing to be vulnerable with his own family it became an invitation for all of us to do so as well.

JW: There were a very small crew only about 10 people so how did you capture everything with such a small a small crew and everything that there I mean there's some magical scenes in the film that scene with the wild stallions, I mean just some of it's very magical, the time of day and things like that, so explain that?

CB: Thank you yeah it was in the architecture of once we made the decision to set the movie and shoot the movie at a live working racetrack and really fooled ourselves into that; then it was just a question of how small you can get a crew with without overtaxing people and still taking care of your crew but creating almost like a little documentary crew that's making a movie rather than this big apparatus.

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Once we did that and really stripped it down to its purest elements of a film crew, we're able to be much more nimble and so we were able to just look and go find things that you wouldn't normally be able to with a big crew that you have to schedule everyone and so you are really able to let life start to seep into the movie.

For example those wild horses were just something that I had read about on the Internet before we went to shoot in Phoenix and you can't really schedule wild horses coming up to film and so we went out and we took the crew and just kind of hiked along this river with Clifton and I felt like at the least we'd get a nice moment of Clifton’s character at a beautiful river and but then we were given much more than that when these wild horses just kind of walked out right at sunset.

On Casting . . .

JW: It’s beautiful, like I said they're beautiful moments in there. So, you've talked about Clifton so describe the casting process.

GK: I mean really Clifton had the job from from day one you know when it was just an idea and then he really, I think the casting was made so much more seamless because Molly and Moises were so game to get behind Clifton in this leading role to support an actor that they also admired. But then Molly was also someone who was far and away our first choice you know she's someone we've admired through so many fascinating films that she's done.

And the same from for Moises you know he was in a movie called “Mono Swear” he was one of the only professional actors in the Colombian jungle with a bunch of other kids from that region and the way he was able to fold into their world and their lives was a huge indicator to us and its power to be able to do that within this film as well.

On Directing . . .

JW: So, the two of you worked together as writers, worked together as producers was there a choice of how you decided? Rock, paper, scissors? Who's going to direct, or did you flip a coin?

GK: [Laughter]. Only Clint could have directed this movie. This was born from his soul you know, and it was a true joy to support him in realizing it but no we don't generally flip a coin. Usually, it's like looking for who has that seed, who has that instinct around a story, who becomes completely obsessed and drawn to it. I would say. Do you have anything to say to that, Clint?

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CB: No, that’s it.

JW: Was there ever a moment when the two of you had disagreements or conflicts in vision?

CB: No everything was great all the time. [Laughter].

No, but there is that you know it's not accidental the way we've come to work together after working together for ten years. It is really a blessing where it's decided at the beginning who's going to direct the project and that person's vision leads the project as it goes along.

Not in a maniacal like dictatorial way but just in terms of a person kind of guiding the tone and the feeling of a movie and the other person slips into the support role for that. We shift back and forth and it's one of those things that as a director you don't often get to watch another director work, you don't get to see the other director make mistakes and learn from those without you making them.

Then you also don't get to have those moments where you have something the way you think it should go in your head and the other director does it differently and does it great and you're like ‘oh wow that's better than I would have thought’ to which I had many moments watching Greg direct Trans Pecos that way.

But, yes, so there’s the disagreements are going to happen on set with with everybody with actors with the DP but we're very much in this space of the best idea should win and that's how all the decisions are made.

JW: Well, I’m being told to wrap it up I had a few more questions but you know it was very nice talking to you. The film is great, magical. So, thank you so much for your time. Have a great day.

CB: Thank you, Janet.

GK: Thank you, Janet.


Country: USA.

Language: English.

Release date: December 29, 2021.

Runtime: 94minutes.

Directed by Clint Bentley.

Written by Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar.

Producer: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar, Nancy Schafer.

Starring: Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, Moises Arias, Logan Cormier, Colleen Hartnett.

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