Kenyon’s film buffs were captivated last Friday night when film editor Alex O’Flinn ’03 returned to campus. CineArts and the Department of Film co-hosted a screening of “The Rider” (2017), which O’Flinn edited.
Directed by Chloé Zhao, “The Rider” is a contemporary Western drama about a South Dakotan rodeo star Brady Blackburn, played by Brady Jandreau, who falls off a horse and suffers a severe brain injury. Blackburn’s dream is to be able to ride again, and he struggles to search for a new purpose.
The film underscores the false promises of the American West. Far from the gleaming images of John Wayne, Blackburn lives in poverty and occassionaly finds work at a supermarket. Ultimately, he learns to take control of his circumstances and finds a new balance between his love of horses and his commitment to his family.
The work takes a neo-realist approach to the Western genre: the actors are not professionals, but rather the real people whose stories are being portrayed on screen. Zhao constructed the narrative as they filmed, using a loose shooting agenda and structure that, according to O’Flinn, was developed as the project progressed.
For example, the first horse training scene was unscripted, as training horses was actually part of Jandreau’s job, and he continued to work throughout the filming process. Instead of a tightly structured narrative, Zhao wanted her shots to reflect the daily life of the actors, and filmed them at work and at home to maintain the authenticity of their daily life and struggles.
In his post-film Q&A, moderated by Instructor of Film Martha Gregory ’10, O’Flinn described the small crew that worked on the low-budget set during the production process. O’Flinn, like many others, was hired on a later on once the film received additional funding. O’Flinn normally only reads a script once in order to visually translate the story, so the independent narrative structure of “The Rider” made this project unique for him.
“The part I hate about editing is the first assembly is never good and extremely painful to watch with the director,” O’Flinn said during the Q&A. “However, you have to see the road map in order to create the artistic direction … I am kind of like Hansel and Gretel following the bread crumb trail getting to the house … while also trying to remain one step ahead.”
“The Rider” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017 and was purchased for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics. “I knew that this was a good movie and special to be a part of from the beginning, and seeing the audience’s reaction to it at the premiere confirmed that feeling” O’Flinn wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Every time I screen this film I say to myself that I will never watch it again because I have already seen it so many times.” In Gambier, however, O’Flinn could not resist the opportunity to see his highly acclaimed work for another time,watching as if he were an audience member seeing his work come alive for the first time.