BY PEARL RUNNING DEER
For many years, I’ve enjoyed finding locations, riders, and barns for films. I’ve met so many wonderful people and made some lifelong friends.
Many barn owners have asked me what they need to do to get their barn scouted as a location site for films. Or if I could teach actors how to ride well enough to make them look believable on screen! But there’s no real secret to any of this—it’s up to the filmmaker. They let me know what they want for their film, as far as specific locations, horses, and riders who fit their story.
I wanted to take the opportunity to interview different filmmakers of equestrian films to share their insights and stories.
Lamont and Misty Fountain in Philadelphia, Pa.
Belmont Stables is one of Philadelphia’s historic properties and stables. Built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and has housed the horses for the Philadelphia Fairmount Park Guard and The Philadelphia Mounted Police. However, since 1994 it has been the home of the “Bill Pickett Riding Academy,” an organization that is dedicated to urban youth, horsemanship, and the history of the Black Cowboys.
Executive Director/Trainer Misty Godfrey-Fountain heads up the organization, along with a dedicated team including husband Lamont Fountain (filmmaker) and sister Lisa Little (competitive equestrian). Lamont and Misty also founded Twelve Gates Studios LLC, a film production company, which is also dedicated to mentoring youth in the arts of filmmaking. Their facility and students appeared in the #1 rated Netflix movie “Concrete Cowboy,” starring Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, and Method Man!
How did your students enjoy doing the film?
We were extras in the film and it was a thrilling experience for us and the kids! The film is actually about the riders of Fletcher Street stables who were featured in the film. As a former riding instructor of the one of the stars Ivannah-Mercedes (Esha), I had the pleasure of preparing both she and Caleb (Cole) for their riding parts with a pre-scene riding lesson!
Although a few of our own students appeared in the movie in a neighborhood scene without horses, they happen to be promising riders and continue to grow as equestrians to prepare for other opportunities in competition and film. The scene filmed at our stables was a big, overnight shoot. Our little sleepyheads stayed as long as they could to experience the shoot. We got to hang out with some of the actors and Method Man was so cool! He gave us a private FREESTYLE cypher between takes. One of Hip Hops greats did that for us! EPIC!!
Do you have any other upcoming projects in the works that involve horses?
Yes! We have several projects in various stages of development which involve horses! “Forged in Philly” is our documentary passion project that brings to light a part of the rich legacy of the generations of black urban cowboys and horses in Philadelphia. The youths which we mentor will play a big role in helping us to capture the story, gaining knowledge of the history and experience in the process of filmmaking.
Finally, our big budget project in its development is a period piece that we feel is important to do justice on the big screen. This dramatic feature called “Renegade Nation,” about John Horse, the Black Seminoles and the second Seminole War, is a powerful and untold part of American history.
I understand you worked on a recent documentary?
Yes! I’m co-producing and Cinematographer on a documentary titled “72 Seconds in Rittenhouse Square” directed by Tigre Hill. It’s about an encounter between two men from completely different walks of life that would leave one man dead and the other in a fight for his life.
This production has been wonderful and a life changing experience. We’ve partnered with Ark Media and finalizing a deal with a major streaming platform.
You both are so busy! Is Belmont Stable still available for lessons and for filming locations?
Our primary mission at the Bill Pickett Riding Academy is to give inner-city youths an opportunity to connect with horses, learn horsemanship, and riding skills. Growing up in an urban environment and a tech-driven world is challenging. These activities help to give children balance where they can connect with nature, and experience the quiet beauty of horses. In addition, we offer a small lesson program and workshops for the general public to further connect with horse enthusiasts in our community.
In conclusion, your stable is available for Films/location, lessons, and riders.
Yes, Belmont Stables/Bill Pickett Riding Academy is available to the film industry. In addition to being a major location for Concrete Cowboy, we recently hosted the Apple TV production “Manhunt” as well. Our stable accommodated 8 of the horses used in the production during their stay in Philadelphia. We look forward to opportunities with major studio productions and independent filmmakers. Which help to support our facility and the youths of the Bill Pickett Riding Academy.
Pearl Running Deer was the first Native American who rode on the circuit in the 80’s-2002. Her trainer was Maurice Honig from the French Equestrian team. She would follow Frank Chapot or Bert De Nemethy teachings. In the 2003-13 she was a high fashion model at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in NYC. At the same time, she was working with film directors, as a ”Girl Friday” and continues with the film industry today. Ms. Running Deer teaches riding, coaching at horse shows and gives clinics.