Stallion of a Dream: California & the Camarillo White Horse

Ojai, California | Film Feature

Documentary, History

Sophie Dia Pegrum

2 Campaigns | California, United States

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This campaign raised $8,150 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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STALLION OF A DREAM spotlights a rare horse breed forged in the history & mythology of the Golden State. Now extremely endangered, the Camarillo White Horse embodies the collective dream of California and a cultural beacon of hope for a new generation of Californians trying to save them.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
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Mission Statement

As women filmmakers, we represent gender equality in film. In a current climate in which Hispanic-Americans are under cultural attack, our film celebrates California’s Hispanic roots, creating positive role models for identity and sparking cross-cultural recognition of our origins as Californians.

The Story

STALLION OF A DREAM: California and the Camarillo White Horse is a feature documentary film (56 minutes) that tells the story of the rare Camarillo White Horse. It is the quintessential California story of immigration and empire-building, and of the roots of cultural and social change, told through the Camarillo family who came from Mexico in the 1830s in a quest to realize their dream.


Into the cauldron of desire, possibility and the alchemy of transformation that was early California, came the aristocratic Spanish colonists known as the Californios, among them the Camarillos. The pastoral era of Rancho life was steeped in romantic Spanish traditions and all things equine.  In this early California landscape horses were more than a conveyance or a tool for work— the horse was, like the car a century later, a deep reflection and expression of personal identity.  Nowhere was the connection with one’s horse and incredible and daring riding skills more appreciated than by the gallant and bold Californios.

In California the horse has been singularly central to our early history, tradition and cultural identity. In STALLION OF A DREAM we spotlight a genetically and historically unique rare breed forged deep in the history and shifting mythology of the Golden State. Beginning with the Camarillo's arrival in California with the Hijar expedition in 1834 aboard a ship that may or may not have contained Napoleon's doom within its planks, our film tells the story of one family's rise to prominence. The Camarillo family eventually settled in Ventura County, purchasing the original Ruiz Spanish land grant and transforming the wild landscape of the California pastoral era of the Rancheros. Despite his critics, Camarillo was a visionary and drove the shift from the booming cattle trade toward a managed, agricultural paradise, which is reflected  in the transformation of Rancho Camarillo. Adolfo Camarillo's progress and embrace of the vanguard mirrored California's own spirited ethos and march toward modernization. California’s very name is a fiction of an exotic and fantastical Utopia. California embodies the bold tension held at the western edge of a vast continent,  the lure of whatever comes next. We boldly exclaim ourselves in our state of mind and in our state motto “Eureka!”, meaning “I have found it!” , but what is it Californians have found? Gold? The next freeway exit? A dreamer’s Paradise? For the Camarillo family, the dream began with a horse.


Adolfo Camarillo was a California visionary and his greatest vision would arrive, most appropriately, on the back of a horse. In the 1920’s he created a new breed of horse to bear his name: The Camarillo White Horse. Adolfo, with his stallion Sultan, embarked on an equine journey that would become more than a personal identity or brand. The White Horse would become his family legacy; their gift to California and the world. An icon of Adolfo’s forward, revolutionary thinking, Sultan not only gave Adolfo considerable physical stature, together they became ambassadors for the Camarillo family and for California at large. One is hard-pressed to find an animal so synonymous with one place. Everyone who encountered the rare white horse and the Spanish horseman astride him had the same passionate reaction— with a presence evocative of both California’s storied past and bright white future,  Adolfo and Sultan ignited a spark in spectators everywhere, embodying all that was good in the collectivdream of California. 


Adolfo Camarillo was an astute businessman with a great grasp of the value of PR and over the next fifty years the Camarillo White Horses were paraded hundreds if not thousands of times locally, nationally and even internationally with many broadcasts of their rides in the Rose Parade, the Opening of the Oakland Bay Bridge and an appearance in the Opening Ceremonies of the 1932 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The Camarillo White Horses because synonymous with old California values, a fact not lost on politicians who borrowed their magnificence to their own ends in political campaigns of every ilk. In a pre-televisionworld, dignitaries and mayors clamored to beseen riding the Camarillo Whites where they could make a splash in the press. Political hopefuls of every stripe, from President Harding to Governor Ronald Reagan rode the horses in parade, keenly aware that Adolfo Camarillo’s stellar reputation across the Golden State was tantamount to an endorsement  of political virtue. They were quite literally playing the part of the hero on the white horse.


It was not just the advent of the automobile which would push these horses to the brink of extinction.  Just when history was cementing these icons into California history, controversial family decisions and bitter strife pushed the horses towards an almost inevitable and unceremonious end.  Long held by Camarillo family members only, some felt this horse was theirs and only theirs— not just by birthright, but by their identities as Californians.  The future of the horse was on a precipice.


With breed numbers floundering at a mere eleven horses left on earth, it was at a final contentious auction that outsiders swooped in 28 years ago to save the horse for future generations.   In recognizing their own personal identity as Californians and what they felt was their connection to these endangered horses, the Camarillo White Horse had transcended the domain of a single family and become the property of Californians everywhere who rejoiced in their salvation.


Today, spectators of these horses still rejoice as Camarillo family members work diligently alongside non-family to create a viable future for these beloved horses that are living vessels of history. Away from public parade however, a different view emerges.  The work of breed conservation is a constant struggle and the future of these horses is anything but secure. The next challenging reality that White Horses of Camarillo faces is how viable is their future for with little to no connection to California’s youth? The people involved in saving and perpetuating the breed are up against time itself and the burning question is how can these horses survive the next decade, let alone the next century? How can tangible intergenerational learning occur? How can California’s youth not only be made aware of their heritage but become excited enough in recognizing themselves in our collective history that it ignites their passion to continue what Adolfo Camarillo started a hundred years ago? Will they adopt his dream as their own? 

CONCEPT AND THEMES

Despite modern technology making horses obsolete for many, the debt to history remains. From the sword to the plowshare, horses are an integral part of who we are, of who we became, and though the culture of the horse is intangible and cannot be preserved in a museum, it is something we can reflect upon and explore with film narrative. Using the equine as a central focus and unusual lens on humankind's saga brings into sharp focus our agrarian and warlike histories, our spiritual connections and the ongoing battle to preserve our unique heritage in the face of rapid globalization. 


As mankind built civilizations on the backs of horses, we owe our victories, our survival, our enriched culture to the noble horse.  There are many equine breeds and cultures close to extinction, and without the help of a dedicated few, this valued bond between humankind and horse is sure to be lost.  The Camarillo White Horse is one such rare breed and this film will help highlight the precarious position and ongoing revival of these horses and the people who are trying to save them by bringing their uniquely fascinating history to the screen. 


Throughout the film’s rich narrative, we focus on broad themes of California’s transitioning personal identity as a direct correlation of the evolution from horse to automobile, shifting attitudes on race and social status in California, the disconnect of today’s youth with our collective history and the ongoing fight to halt this rampant cultural memory loss in future generations. The thread of diversity in all its forms in California— old, young, Hispanic, non-Hispanic— is prevalent throughout the film’s focus. The preservation of memory and California’s heritage and the celebration or mourning of any part of that cultural spirit is inclusive of us all, requiring us to view ourselves first as Californians. This is not just the story of the Camarillo family as the “other” but rather a film exposing one of the roots and key components of California identity, as played out in the ever-unfolding story of the Camarillo White Horse.


Unlike any other domesticated animal on earth, the horse, and mankind’s relationship with it, has changed drastically and permanently in just the last hundred years. With the advent of the automobile, it is a loss we barely even register, all but slipping into the past unnoticed.  This massive shifting of our connection with the equine and of their practical usefulness to us has profound effects on our culture and our idea of ourselves. In California, the automobile has been embraced so passionately and engrained so deeply, it is part of our cultural DNA. Nowhere else has our relationship with Horsepower undergone such a drastic sea change as in this home of car culture and the call of the open road.  From the days of the Rancheros, Californians have sought a faster, better, slicker means of locomotion, but before lowriders and hotrods, surf woodies and the LA freeway, California was the birthplace of a singularly unique breed of horse that set it apart.

CREATIVE APPROACH, STYLE AND COLLABORATORS

In making this film we are working with all of the people involved in the breed, the Camarillo White Horse Association, the Camarillo family and board of the Camarillo Ranch House.  Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning historian of the American West, Dr. Alan Taylor of UC Davis /University of Virginia and California historian and horseman, Dr. Al Hurtado of the University of Oklahoma are joining the team as Humanities advisors.

 

Synthesizing visual beauty and academic scope, the film will feature our signature acclaimed cinematic visual style, blending breathtaking footage of larger- than-life horses that leap from the screen, adept re-creations of key historical moments, in-depth interviews, authoritative and compelling script, lush score and a treasury of archival materials including vintage never-before-seen film, photographs, newspapers, paintings and the private family diaries. As well as the current oral histories uncovered in interviews, we are amassing a body of rich, diverse archival materials from repositories as disparate as the International Olympic Committee, the Smithsonian's Autry National Center, the Camarillo family, wax cylinder music recordings by Charles Lummis and the Tournament of Roses Rose Parade, in order to creatively tell the compelling story of these horses and their enormous  ongoing cultural impact and relevance in California.

WHY US?

This film will be the sixth film in our series of documentaries of the Horsefly Films’ Rare Equine Trust, an ongoing cinematic library dedicated to exploring diverse cultures, rare equine breeds and unique stories and cultural histories centered around the horse.  We are experts in telling these kinds of stories and our films are not only screening worldwide, but are fulfilling our mission to effect change and raise awareness. 

WHY YOU?

We've already done a LOT on this film. In fact, we're about halfway. We write, shoot edit and wear as many hats as possible for 2 people to wear. But to get this film completed, there are some things we can't do-- and that's why we need your help! We  still need to pay for things like:

  • Our Composer
  • Our Narrator
  • Archival photos & footage
  • Sound mix
  • Historical Picture Car
    Location fees

 

 

 

 

Wishlist

Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Score Composer

Costs $3,000

We want to hire an award-winning composer to create our score!

Archival Footage & Photos

Costs $1,500

We need to license historic footage and photos from many archives and museums.

Historic Car rental

Costs $400

We need a historic car to film an important sequence of the film.

Drone rental & Operator

Costs $1,200

We need to film several epic shots with a professional drone camera and operator.

Costume rental

Costs $300

We need to rent historic costumes for filming of several key re-enactment scenes.

Professional Sound Mix

Costs $1,500

To make this film truly sing, it needs a professional sound mix & sweetening with pro engineers!

Location rental

Costs $600

We need permits for a couple of our key filming locations!

Voiceover Actor

Costs $1,500

Help us bring our script and story to life using hire the best professional narrator we can!

About This Team

Hailed as the "Ken Burns' of the Equine World", Horsefly Films' Jen Miller and Sophie Pegrum launched the Rare Equine Trust to preserve endangered equines and equine cultures around the world through their acclaimed films including Path to Glory, Of Gods And Kings, Tarpan and Talking To The Air. The films capture the beauty, history and fragile position of rare breeds and the work of those trying to preserve them, establishing a necessary and compelling film folio for equine enthusiasts, social historians and general audiences while archiving these breeds and related cultures for posterity. 

"Our passion as filmmakers is to create documentaries that showcase the horse as a reminder of man’s loftier connection to nature. The history of man is the history of the horse. Our films explore the underlying and utterly unique relationship between man and horse. As mankind built civilizations on the backs of horses through transport, warfare and agriculture, we owe our victories, our survival, our culture to the noble horse". 

 

JEN MILLER  Writer/Director

Third generation Californian Jen Miller’s passion for storytelling and film lured her to Los Angeles where her first Hollywood gig was working on Forrest Gump.  She then moved into writing, producing & directing, producing Isn’t It Romantic, a feature film for MGM on which she also served as Music Supervisor and Creative Director for the publicity campaign. She was nominated for a Key Art Award as Copywriter and Creative Director for her efforts.  Over the next five years, Jen directed and produced several music videos for MTV through her own production company. As a music supervisor and music producer she put together the soundtracks for several feature films for Miramax and MGM.  Ever the passionate writer, Jen’s screenplays have been optioned and produced by such companies as Columbia Tristar and Stormworks Entertainment. Her first novel Billy Bones was a semifinalist in the 2011 Amazon Next Great Novel contest. She is partnered with Sophie Pegrum in their company Horsefly Films and the Horsefly Films Rare Equine Trust, an independent film production company specializing in equine subject matter and their award-winning series of documentaries. 


2015 Talking To The Air   Executive Producer

2014 Tarpan   Director/Producer/Writer/Editor

2013 Of Gods And Kings Director/Producer/Writer

2011 Path to Glory Director/Producer/Writer

2005-Present Short films for Horsefly Films Director/Producer/Writer/Editor

2000 Halloween  H20 Music Supervisor

1999 Slow Dream Music Video Director/Producer

1999 Tito & Tarantula Music Video Director/Producer

1998 Isn’t It Romantic Assoc. Producer/Music Supervisor/ Key  Art

1992 Forrest Gump Director’s Assistant

Awards: 

Best Documentary- Path To Glory, Best Short Documentary-Tarpan, Best Historical Documentary (Short)-Of Gods And Kings, Best Historical Documentary (Long)- Path To Glory 

 

SOPHIE DIA PEGRUM  Cinematographer/Producer

Born and educated in England, Sophie moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career as an independent filmmaker, where she wrote and directed an ultra-low budget, critically-acclaimed debut feature Dogstar. Her next big venture was to the Antarctic on a National Science Foundation grant as documentary filmmaker.  She directed and shot 77 Below about renowned artist Lita Albuquerque and her unprecedented sculptural installation on the Ross Ice Shelf.  Later Sophie traveled to the North Pole in the same capacity, documenting the second half of Lita’s global artistic endeavor.

Taking a camera to the foothills of the Himalaya in 2011, 2013 & 2017, Sophie filmed the documentaries Daughters of the Curved MoonTalking to the Air and Pink Tiffany. She is currently editing a new in-progress documentary film project Jorgo in Kyrgyzstan. She is partnered with Jen Miller in their company Horsefly Films and the Horsefly Films Rare Equine Trust, an independent film production company specializing in equine subject matter and their award-winning series of documentaries.

2017 Pink Tiffany  Director/Cinematographer/Editor
2015 Jorgo   Director/Cinematographer/Editor

2014 Talking To The Air Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor

2014 Tarpan Director/Producer/Cinematographer

2013 Of Gods And Kings Director/Producer/ Cinematographer/Editor

2012 Daughters of the Curved Moon Cinematographer

2011 Path to Glory Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor

2007 77 Below Director/Producer/ Cinematographer

2005-Present Short films—Horsefly Films Director/Producer/Editor/Cinematographer

2002 Dogstar Director/Producer/Writer/Editor

1999-2004 Various Commercials Producer/Editor

Awards: 

Best Documentary- Path To Glory, Best Short Documentary-Tarpan, Best Documentary-Talking To The Air, Best Historical Documentary (Short)-Of Gods And Kings, Best Historical Documentary (Long)- Path To Glory 

 

***IF we get enough money, we'll be able to hire an AMAZING composer, namely:
TODD HANNIGAN- Composer

Grammy Award-winning Composer and Music Producer Todd Hannigan’s influence as a writer, composer, performer and producer has given him international recognition. From his work on Jack Johnson’s “Thicker than Water” where he wrote and performed the title track “Thicker”, to his Grammy win for producing Mumford and Sons "Big Easy Express",  to his influence in the world of surf music and California sound, Todd Hannigan’s art is driven by elegant acoustic guitar, intricate orchestral arrangements and the influence of years of multicultural adventures around the globe. Having worked with Todd for the final mix on Talking To The Air, we are thrilled that his passion for the early California music of the Californios may be igniting the soundtrack for Stallion of A Dream.

2005-2018   Various Films & Commercials Composer/Sound Mixer/Designer/Producer

2015 Talking To The Air Sound Mixer/Sound Designer

2013 DamNation Composer

2012 Big Easy Express Sound Mixer/Music Producer *Grammy Award 

2012 In a Sense Sound Mixer/Sound Designer

2012 The Glacier Project Sound Mixer/Sound Designer

2010 Groundswell Composer

2010 Quetzal Composer

2007 Shelter Composer

2006 Eagles in the Chicken Coop Composer

2006 Flow: The True Story of a Surfing Revolution Composer/Sound Mixer

2005 The Shape of Water Composer

 

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