Perhaps the most immediate and apparent change in my film coverage is that I have gone more international even as I now strive to balance that coverage with regional coverage through a new sidebar here on The Evening Class entitled "Sagebrush", which will cover the unique regionality of film culture in Idaho. I first experienced this regional filmmaking when I accepted filmbud Bruce Fletcher's invitation to attend the 2007 Idaho International Film Festival (IIFF), which he was programming at the time. It was an eye opener to experience firsthand an enthused film scene off the beaten path. No press junkets here! Just a refreshingly collaborative ethos between aspiring filmmakers crafting films on shoestring budgets and audiences supporting them. I wrote up IIFF 2007's opening night feature The Walker, incorporated earlier coverage on Rolf De Heer's Ten Canoes, and interviewed A.J. Eaton for his short The Mix-Up and Ernesto Livon-Grosman for his documentary Cartoneros, and drafted a festival overview, all of which will be incorporated into the Sagebrush sidebar, as will my interview with Seth Randal whose film The Fall of '55 crossed state lines to screen at San Francisco's Frameline31.
But my first true interview for the new Sagebrush sidebar at The Evening Class was conducted earlier this Summer at a benefit screening of Cindy Meehl's Sundance winner Buck at Boise's art house cinema The Flicks. The benefit was for the Idaho Buckaroo Project spearheaded by photographer Andrea Scott and I felt that my conversation with her would be the perfect way to launch an ongoing series of entries on regional film production and cultural practice in Idaho. She was a genuine sweetheart in taking time from that sold-out event to sit down for a few minutes to talk to me. When I mentioned to her that I was a transplanted San Francisco journalist, she made me laugh by saying, "I've been waiting for someone sophisticated to interview me!" "Now don't get carried away," I countered.
Andrea Scott is an Idaho native who grew up on a large cattle ranch. The ranching tradition in her family dates back to the 1800s. She is currently creating a photography documentary of the West. She is known as the "Cowboy's Photographer" because she does not pose or recreate scenes, but captures them naturally as they appear. Andrea feels blessed by her friendships with the people who keep the western tradition alive and is honored to be able to capture this lifestyle in timeless images. Recently, Andrea won a photography award from Range Magazine and her other work, "Women with Scars", has been exhibited at DIA Art Foundation's Printed Matter in New York. Her photographs have also appeared in magazines and newspapers throughout the Northwest.
I'm timing the transcript of our conversation from earlier this Summer to coordinate with the unveiling of the Idaho Buckaroo Project Exhibit at the Stewart Gallery, 1100 W. Jefferson St., Boise, ID., this coming Thursday, October 6, 2011, 5:00PM to 9:00PM as part of Boise's First Thursday art walks.
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Michael Guillén: Andrea, how did the Idaho Buckaroo Project develop?
Andrea Scott: About a year ago I took one photo that started this all. It got published in a magazine and the response was amazing. The response ranged from Florida to California. I come from a ranch background. I grew up for part of my life on a big cattle ranch in Montana and now have a small place outside of Boise; but, I'm urban as well. I have a Masters degree in writing and photography and have made my living as a photojournalist.
I started photographing Idaho's buckaroos and doors started opening. People from the city would look at these photographs and become excited and enthused. I received a small grant from the Humanities to continue the project. The Idaho Commission on the Arts also gave me a small grant to start studying some of the more traditional arts. As you know, a lot of money for the arts is drying up. It's very hard to travel the distances I have to travel and everything costs a lot of money. So veering away from what most writers or photographers would do, I started asking people to sponsor this project. A lot of people jumped on. They were enthused. I only heard "no" a couple of times. I remember a five-year-old boy give me 20¢ out of his pocket because his daddy was a cowboy and he wanted to be a cowboy too. The project has captured the public imagination.
I have a friend who likes to play devil's advocate with me who said, "Andrea, what folly in this time of economic depression that you're trying to generate this project." I said, "It is an uncertain time but what better time for our heroes?" Cowboys, cowgirls and buckaroos have long been the western heroes of our culture. So I started meeting buckaroo families and their generosity in letting me into their lives to document their daily work has been amazing.
When I got out into the buckaroo community, I saw a greater need. For one thing, medical services. A lot of these folks do not have medical insurance and if they're hurt on a horse—which is very apt to happen—they could be injured in serious ways and temporarily or permanently disabled. It could be the end of their careers. Then what kind of means do they have to generate income? I decided that one of my goals through the Idaho Buckaroo Project is to bring medical services to these smaller communities. We're talking Bruno, Grandview, Oreana, wherever Buckaroo families are.
I was familiar with the Idaho Commission on the Arts who do some limited apprenticeships with traditional artists. These are brilliant master artists who work in silvercraft, saddlemaking and leatherwork; arts which should not be lost. I want to create more slots through the Idaho Buckaroo Project to create opportunities for supplemental income. I pray that no one in these buckaroo families get hurt, but if they do, they will have something to fall back on if they're not able to get back on a horse again. I want to go into the schools and educate children about how important cowboys and cowgirls are to the very fabric of Idaho. We have a great resource here. We have a state horse. We have a state gem.
Guillén: So why not a state hero?
Scott: Right! I've been trying to promote that. I don't know if people are hearing that but they're going to keep hearing that. I think if you look at the range of items contributed to our silent auction tonight—everything ranging from a chichi spa gift to a discount on hay—you see the diversity of support. I want to create an understanding between rural and urban cultures. I'm fascinated by that.
Guillén: My understanding is that there are plans to publish your photographs of the Idaho buckaroos into a single volume?
Scott: We're working on that. I already have some distribution channels, which I understand is very important. A lot of the publishers are drying up. I haven't seriously launched on that part of the project because I've been so busy conducting interviews and taking photographs; but, I don't think I'm going to have any problems with publishing. There's already been so much interest.
Guillén: This specific event at The Flicks to promote The Idaho Buckaroo Project through a benefit screening of Buck, how did that come about?
Scott: I've known Carole Skinner forever from the day The Flicks opened their doors so I just said, "Hey, any chance of doing a benefit sometime down the road?" All of a sudden Carole goes, "Oh my gosh, Buck's coming!" We could call it universal synchronicity, but hey perhaps a better term would be to simply say, "It was meant to happen." I could tell a bunch of stories about how stuff is just happening. I didn't end up here because I thought, "I'm going to do anything I see." I ended up here because people opened their hearts and these are people from all wakes of life.
The other day I said to some friends, "You know what we need for the Flicks benefit? We need a fiddle player. I want a young man or woman to play the fiddle." I had a booth for the day as a bellringer at the Saturday market and this young man shows up with a case. I thought, "Oh great, with my luck he'll be playing violin." Well, Kyle Pogue is an awesome fiddler! I talked to his mom and I said, "This is the perfect example of how this stuff works. Does your son come down to play at the Market all the time?" She said, "No. It's the weirdest thing. He came up to me the other day and he said, 'Hey Mom, I just want to go downtown and open up my case and see what happens.' " I want Kyle to always open events for the Idaho Buckaroo Project.
Guillén: I'm intrigued by your earlier comment that you're fascinated with making a connection between the rural and the urban. How does this event fulfill that?
Scott: The Flicks is an art theater. Outside of Boise, most people have never heard of The Flicks. People from the farms and the ranches look at The Flicks and they say, "Well, that's kind of a strange theater but they're bringing a film I care about" and by coming tonight to support the benefit screening, they're being exposed to a whole new world. It's magical.
One final thing I want to say is that a lot of people say, "Oh, this is a disappearing way of life." But I can tell you: it's not going to disappear as long as the Idaho Buckaroo Project is here. But it's going to take all of us working together. Even if you're not a buckaroo and not on a horse day in and day out like a lot of these families are, I think a lot of us have a little buckaroo in us. That's what I hope to bring out.
Photos courtesy of Andrea Scott and Pete Grady.