SANTA FE, N.M. — The way Aimée Barry Broustra looks at it, making a film is a lot like riding a horse.
“You can’t have the reins tight during the whole production,” she said. “You need to ride a horse with a firm but gentle hand.”
And so it is in film-making. Guiding, but not dictating. Being willing to listen to feedback. Trusting those you work with.
Such trust was essential in her latest documentary, “A Horseback Ride to the Soul,” which won Best Documentary at January’s New Mexico Filmmakers Showcase in Albuquerque.
The 29-minute production, which features local resident Kelly Wendorf demonstrating aspects of her horse-based EQUUS coaching in non-predatory living at Bishop’s Lodge Resort, also was shown recently at the Taos Shortz film festival and is making a few other stops before returning for the Santa Fe Film Festival in December.
“It was shot in a day and a half,” Broustra said, adding that she moved to France for a brief time after that. “I loved and trusted my crew. I gave them my visuals and my ideas, but also told them, ‘You’re free to do what you want to do.'”
The story started out as a written memoir but morphed to a video, she said. “I really do believe there’s a movement out there,” Broustra said, not only of developing a more collaborative relationship in working with a horse, but of offering horses as partners in therapy for humans.
“If we allow them, horses can be our guides,” said Broustra, who added that she started riding in her early 20s, took a break when the family moved to a more urban area and resumed when she moved to Santa Fe.
People in thrall to an old philosophy of trying to exert control over society can learn from horses how to let go, she said.
Move to film
Broustra did not aim for filmmaking as a career early on. She attended St. John’s College in Santa Fe for a while before heading back to her home ground to attend Temple University’s dance program in Philadelphia. “I loved it,” she said.
She did some theater and tried writing – “I love to tell stories” – but wasn’t always successful in selling her written work. “My literary agent said, ‘Can you write a screenplay?'”
Broustra not only wrote a screenplay, but filmed “Have You Seen My Wife?” in New York state, using friends from tae kwon do and others in the production.
After her husband bought a business in Santa Fe, they moved here and Broustra enrolled in the Graduate Institute at St. John’s – she had liked her previous experience there and wanted to make more of it.
Meanwhile, in an earlier writing class, she had been working on a screenplay, “Bring Back the Day,” for which she started researching Tewa culture. In a Santa Fe Prep newsletter, she came across an item about a mentoring program for Pueblo youths to learn their native Tewa language.
“That story really spoke to me. It’s a story of inspiration, of hope, something that needs to be highlighted and shared,” she said. “So much on the news is depressing.
“I told my husband, ‘Someone should make a movie on this,'” she said.
That “someone” turned out to be her. She made “The Young Ancestors,” which has aired on PBS and has been shown in festivals around the country. “I’ve been invited to show it at a conference in Montreal,” she added recently.
And all that was without any real background in filmmaking. But one valuable thing she learned at St. John’s, Broustra said, is that “you can teach yourself to do anything if you ask the right questions.”
In her Santa Fe-based business, Camino Vérité Films, “I’m a one-man band at this point,” she said. “I hope that changes with the features.”
She has gone back to work on “Bring Back the Day,” which tells a tale of emotional and cultural divides between a Native American teen and his non-Native father.
She’s also arranging to subtitle “A Horseback Ride to the Soul” in French, in hopes of showing it in Switzerland and perhaps Monaco.
And if there’s anything else that rouses her passion, it’s the lack of women and their point of view in the movie industry.
“It’s changing, but it’s so male-dominated and with male-dominated stories,” she said. “Our society has been too long heavily weighted to the male perspective.”
If certain people’s stories aren’t told, it’s as if they don’t exist, Broustra said.
So look for her to try to change that, telling stories of people who may not have been heard in the past.