Taming Mustangs is an intentional effort to redefine the term, "Wild Boys," that will shed new light on the rebellious boy's value and rightful place in American culture, while also serving as a witness to the power of male mentorship, and the impact this form of guidance can have on the future of rebellious young men in this country.
There are just some people who can't be broken. Such is the case with Ryan Miller. As a teenager, his strong will kept him in constant conflict with a world that didn't respect young men with straight-laced values, and “the church culture” that didn't know how to make room for a kid who refused to conform to the rules. A baseball coach once made the observation that Ryan's rebellious spirit reminded him of a wild Mustang — a powerful force that can't be broken, but instead needs to be tamed.
Ryan eventually learned to channel his wild impulses with the help of his coaches and male mentors, but the real turning point in his life happened after he recognized that familiar Mustang spirit in a young man named Matt Schmidt.
Matt was a "lost boy" who was on a "bad path," but instead of seeing a troubled kid that needed to be saved, Ryan saw a Mustang who needed to be set free. Matt had only just begun to live and thrive inside of his newfound freedom when a horrific accident took his life and left Ryan searching for meaning in such a senseless loss. In his grief, the only comfort he could find came in the form of a single sentence he often shared with Matt: I'd rather tame a Mustang than inspire a mule.
The unbreakable spirit that Ryan and Matt share lives on in the documentary, Taming Mustangs
In the documentary, Taming Mustangs, Ryan Miller will endeavor to help three very diverse, but similarly "lost boys" find their way out of rebellion against themselves in the same way that he helped his first wild Mustang, Matt Schmidt — only this time, he'll have some help. Ryan's research into the Mustang metaphor gave him an honest understanding of the parallels that exist between a wild horse, and a wild boy. Without purpose or working value, the overpopulation of wild American Mustangs are being rounded up and put out to pasture. In the same way, misguided and under-valued American boys are losing their personal worth and place in a culture that has no use for their nonconformist ways. So with the help of real-life Mustang tamer, Byron Hogan, these two men will take everything they understand about the power of wild hearts to create an open space for discovery and understanding. Over the course of 60-days, Ryan and Byron will first gain the trust of the six unpredictable souls in their care, and then start to tame these wild wills toward a greater purpose.
problem + Relevancy + Solution
problem + Relevancy + Solution
Ryan Miller has to believe that "bad boys" are actually "good." His own life is a reflection of this Truth, as is the life of Matt Schmidt — the lost-boy-turned-found that truly gives this documentary its heart and soul. In a society that doesn't know what to do with the kid who can't help but challenge the status quo, the gifting of a strong will often brand a wild boy with a life-altering label as a “bad kid.”
1. By age 21, boys have spent an average of 10,000 hours playing video games with 2/3 of those 10,000 hours spent playing in isolation.
2. Today, boys as young as 6-8 are already developing issues with their body image because of things they have seen through social media, television and even from offline experiences.
3. Boys are also negatively affected by social media when it comes to being influenced to partake in bad activities. For example, they may be more likely to begin drinking or taking drugs because people that they admire on social media sites are doing the same.
4. The average boy in America watches 50 porn video clips a week.
5. Research posted by non-profit pornography watchdog group, Fight the New Drug, showed that “most boys seek out pornographic material by the age of 10, when they are most sexually curious, [and this] lines up with other research that estimates 90% of young men under the age of 18 have seen porn.”
1. On average, a boy talks to his father for only 30 minutes a week while spending 44 hours a week in front of a screen.
2. Half of teens report infrequent family dinners (less than 3x a week). These teens are 4x more likely to use tobacco, 2.5x more likely to use marijuana, 2x more likely to use alcohol, and 4x more likely to engage in future illegal drug use. We don't have a drug problem in America, we have a manhood problem in America!
3. Recent psychological studies show that children growing up without fathers are more likely to be aggressive and quick to anger.
4. This same physiological study found that quiet anger is more insidious and volatile. Silent anger doesn't have a proper release valve, it just builds up like a growing monster, maturing right along with you.
1. 89.3% of adolescents ages 15-17 in correctional facilities are boys.
2. 80.6% of children who commit suicide ages 10-19 are boys.
Wild, free-roaming horses can be found on public lands across the 10 western states. The overpopulation of wild horses on federal land is creating such environmental damage that drastic measures are being considered to control the population of wild Mustangs in this country. The Federal Board of Land Management (BLM) allotments can only sustain 26,715 wild horses and burros. As of March 1, 2017, the total number of animals ranging in these designated areas is 72,674 — which amounts to nearly 47,000 animals over the Appropriate Management Level (or AML). This number does not include the horses and burros that have already been gathered and placed in off-range holding facilities. As of August of 2017, the total off-range population is 44,640 animals. At the end of 2016, year-end fiscal reports showed the BLM wild horse budget cost about $80 million dollars, with nearly $50 million of that budget used solely to take care of horses and burros in off-range corrals. Private organizations and foundations are working earnestly to find homes for these iconic symbols of power and freedom that have already been gathered off the rangeland, but the vastness of the issue is much more critical than most people fully comprehend. With herds still out on the range — and doubling in size every four years — there is trouble brewing for the American Mustang.
We believe that in order to help combat "the boy crisis," we need to model innovative youth discipleship/mentoring in a raw and authentic way. We need to better understand the various components in our culture that marginalize young men and learn more about how neglect and isolation are damaging American boys. Through this documentary, it is our belief that we can offer up an example of how important it is to tame a wild spirit, but not break it. This 60-day endeavor won't be easy for the mentors, the boys or the wild Mustangs; however, capturing the unpredictable taming process will reveal potentially life-altering possibilities for all involved.
Matt Schmidt: Catalyst
Matt Schmidt grew up in Green Bay, into a loving conservative Christian family, but frequently found himself pushing the boundaries. He was what you might call a Mustang – he was a wild, spirited kid who was often called a troublemaker, but who was also deeply loyal and compassionate. Matt often felt restrained by fear and anxiety, and so at one point, he turned to drugs and alcohol to help him cope. Eventually he found freedom from the shame of his choices, and he discovered a new direction to focus his wild and unbridled passion. Matt's struggle fueled his desire for helping and encouraging young men who, like him, were wild and misunderstood, too. Matt eventually volunteered at local ministries with the intent to find the ”bad kids" and reach out to other overlooked Mustangs in his midst. Matt tragically died in a car accident on his way to share God's love with other lost people on the Appalachian Trail. This film continues his legacy of Taming Mustangs.
Ryan Miller: Mentor
At 29-years-old, Ryan Miller is a reformed rebel with a specific kind of understanding for boys with wild hearts.
Ryan was "that kid" in school — the one that the teacher dreaded having in the classroom; and, even though his heart was often in the right place, there was always something about Ryan that made him a challenge. Luckily, baseball gave Ryan a place to run hard at life, and it also provided quality male mentoring in his life. Over time, Ryan developed a deep empathy for boys with the same combination of fight and spirit that he struggled to channel as a kid. As the Youth and Discipleship Pastor at Existence Church, Ryan is provoked by the complications that church culture and the confusion of the world both present to young men who were created to be strong-willed, just like Ryan. But it was the passing of Matt Schmidt — the first Mustang Ryan helped to tame — that gave Ryan his greatest calling. Ryan knew that the only way to carry on the legacy that had only just started to form in Matt's life was to rally his own willful spirit to help more “wild Mustangs” find real hope.
Byron Hogan: Wise Cowboy & Mustang Expert
For Byron Hogan, the strong wills of a wild horse and a wild boy are mirror images reflecting back a desire to be seen, respected and trusted.
As the product of a broken home, Byron Hogan grew up somewhat detached and isolated. As a strong boy with a tender heart, it wasn't always easy for Byron to find an authentic connection with other people; but, he could always find unconditional understanding when he was around Mustangs. The process of taming a horse that has its guard up all the time takes a willingness to keep trying — even when the horse seems determined to break you. But when you share the same dogged will as the horse you are taming, a breakthrough is inevitable. As a result of his tenaciousness, Byron has become a renowned Mustang tamer, and a multi-time finalist in the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge, as well as the Reserve Champion of the premier event known as the Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover. For five years, Byron has worked for the Mustang Heritage Foundation — a non-profit organization created to promote and protect the American wild Mustang from abuse and neglect.
Ethan: Wild Boy #1
On the surface, Ethan has always had a lot to work with: he's attractive, and his family has plenty of money... But inside, Ethan is isolated and angry.
When nineteen-year-old Ethan was a kid, he seemed happy; but, after high school, something shifted. The normally amiable Ethan is now easily outraged by things he believes are "unfair" or "controlling.” Ethan has trouble holding a job, too — which is a real source of stress between Ethan and his father. But Ethan doesn't want to work. He doesn’t see the point. The truth is, Ethan would love to be out from under his family’s expectations; but for now, Ethan has pressured his mom to convince his dad to let him stay in the garage apartment. But Ethan's parents do hold that place over his head a lot. They always threaten to "kick him out" if he doesn't toe the line. But their threats are just BS. Ethan's favorite way to avoid his family is to sleep all day, and then stay up all night watching porn, or to sneak out to smoke pot with friends. He hates his life, and if you caught him on a talkative day, Ethan might even tell you he hates himself.
*Ethan’s story is a composite bio of the type of character we will choose for the documentary.
Alejandro: Wild Boy #2
His flimsy bedroom door does very little to muffle the angry words his mother constantly shouts at him. Alejandro sometimes dreams of screaming back at her…but he just can’t.
Twenty-year-old Alejandro has lived his life in fear. His father disappeared before he could remember him, and his mother has been in a rage ever since. She often verbally berates her son, but Alejandro can’t fight back. She’s his mother. And even though the hate he has for the way she treats him overwhelms him at times, all he can do is shove it down deep inside. Lately, Alejandro only comes home to sleep for an hour or two — which only angers his mother more. But he can take her wrath in small doses now that he has an out. He just started a “job.” It’s drug related, but that’s no big deal. He’s only delivering the stuff, not forcing people to use it. And the money he’s making is going to change his life. Even though he doesn’t like to think about the fact that the drugs he’s running are linked to a known and very dangerous cartel, he already knows what it feels like to be in danger. His mother taught him that kind of fear before he could even walk.
*Alejandro’s story is a composite bio of the type of character we will choose for the documentary.
Dev: Wild Boy #3
There are no words inside of Dev anymore. Just the vibrations of the angry bullets from a digital gun that makes hollow, thud-like sounds through the speakers of his headphones.
English isn’t twenty-one-year-old Dev’s first language, although he’s spent most of his life trying to deny that fact. When he first moved to this country at age seven, kids made fun of his accent and his odd clothing. He could change the clothing, and he even got really good at hiding his accent, but the loneliness he felt never went away. So Dev just got used to it. As long as he has his video games and a dark room to hide in, Dev tells himself he's safe. His favorite video games are the ones where you get to shoot "the bad guys." Sometimes Dev will lay on the trigger button and shoot extra bullets into the enemy combatant that was foolish enough to wander in front of his weapon. It feels wrong, but at the same time, it's just a video game. Why should he care about what he does to other people? No one seems to care about what they do or say to him — especially his dad. He left a long time ago. And even though Dev sometimes blames his mom for not doing more to make his dad stay, the person he blames the most is himself.
*Dev’s story is a composite bio of the type of character we will choose for the documentary.
Francis Chan: Author, Preacher & Guest Mentor
Francis Chan is a world-renowned pastor, evangelist, church planter, and author. He has authored three books that have been on the best-sellers list - Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, You and Me Forever: Marriage In Light of Eternity, and Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. He has also written on the topic of discipleship in his 2012 book, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples. Francis also has a DVD series that has been used to support countless Bible studies globally.
Remi Adeleke: Actor, Navy Seal & Guest Mentor
Growing up without a father, Remi Adeleke tried to find purpose and meaning in all the wrong places. Going from being a bronx gang-banger, to a Marine, and then a Navy SEAL, Remi still couldn’t find what he was looking for. He was a lost boy in a lost world, and nothing seemed to change that feeling. Then, when he finally started a relationship with Jesus, everything changed. He began to trust God fully. Now he’s found the most profound sense of purpose by serving the Lord, and he’s been given the opportunity to influence millions of people as a Hollywood actor, preacher and evangelist.
Deer Valley Ranch is one of Colorado’s premier dude ranches located in Nathrop, Colorado. It sits beneath the 14,000 foot peak of Mt. Princeton, and is nestled between the Chalk River and the beautiful limestone Chalk Cliffs. This location is the perfect venue for showcasing the beauty of the awe-inspiring Colorado landscape, and it will offer the filmmakers three of the four seasons as a backdrop during the two months of filming. See Imagery Here
Using a true cinematic style, Taming Mustangs will be a visually moving documentary that tells a story through the unscripted, raw experiences and interactions of five-on-camera “characters” (Ryan Miller, Byron Hogan, Wild Boy #1, Wild Boy #2 and Wild Boy #3), and three unbroken and untamed wild American Mustangs. More than the filming of an unscripted narrative, this documentary film will be produced in a style that allows for a true, 60-day, non-stop shooting schedule that includes real-time, ongoing, onsite film-editing and post-production capabilities complete with a professional around-the-clock onsite team. This creative approach to filming, editing and turn-key storytelling will completely engage every contributor on the project — the people in front of, and behind the camera, as well as those who will ultimately be assembling the story for the world to consume.
Matt Katsolis: Director
As the founder of Interpret Studios, Matt is a prominent award-winning director and cinematographer. His specialty is in creating inventive and diverse films, documentaries, commercials, television shows, and branded content. Matt was awarded the Grand Prize of Panasonic’s International Film Competition for “Moving On”. Two years later he won the 45th Annual Dove Awards Movie of the Year for "Fading West", as well as numerous film festival awards and nominations for his documentaries. Matt has worked as both a director and a director of photography on national ad campaigns and branding campaigns for Red Bull Media House, Nike, Universal, numerous ad agencies, and for number of mainstream artists.
Allison Wilmarth: Producer
Allison believes in creating high quality films that inspire hope through truth. With 20 years in the film industry, Allison has worn many hats and is truly a master of her trade. Trained as a film director at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Allison was the assistant director on the short film, “Two Soldiers,” which received the 2004 Best Live Action Short, Academy Award®. Allison’s approach to her role as a documentary producer utilizes her full skill set, along with her incredible attention to detail and unwavering commitment to always doing what’s best to protect the story. Allison has won 21 film and television industry awards for the various films, documentaries and television content she’s either directed or produced.
Wade Yamaguchi: Director of Cinematography /DP
Growing up Wade traveled around the world with his family which sparked a deep sense for adventure and imagination. His journey to becoming a cinematographer combined his love for different cultures, beautiful places and storytelling. Wade's hard work and dedication has opened up numerous opportunities for him to work on projects across the globe. His ability to be highly adaptable has given him a very diverse experience in numerous genres. Within the collaborative process of each project Wade takes an innovative approach to creating stunning images.
Jesse Schluntz: Editor
Hailing from San Diego, CA, Jesse is an obsessed digital storyteller who’s imagination extends far beyond the editing room. His passion is to work with honest subjects and tell stories that matter. Jesse loves building productions from the ground up, and can often be found on location aiding the crew, assisting direction, and capturing images — which make him the perfect editor for the Taming Mustangs film. Whether it’s a commercial, television show or documentary, Jesse believes that story is king, and strives to keep every project as compelling, authentic, and relevant as possible.
Kyle Lane: Story Supervisor & Associate Producer
Growing up as an obsessed surfer in San Diego, CA, Kyle loves to have fun and share a good story. In an attempt to escape his coastal confines and pursue snowboarding, he travelled to school in Colorado. In an ironic fashion that only God could script, the two years he spent in Colorado were the two lowest snowpack years in the last fifty. But Kyle fell in love with the Lord while in Colorado. After returning to surfing world of San Diego to work with Walking On Water, he found his purpose in seeing youth realize their true identity and value. Kyle has been working with the Walking On Water ministry for more than 4 years — most recently as a producer, writer and star of the ministry’s newest film “Surfers and Cowboys”.
Sonja Bentley Zant: Copy Writer and Novelist
As a seasoned author, and professional writer with more than 20-years of storytelling, script-writing, and curriculum development experience, Sonja is an asset to the team as the keeper of the all-important through line of this documentary film. Her vast experience in multiple genres of writing, and her critical understanding of story development are important elements for maintaining the vision of this documentary while the team is filming and working in what promises to be a dynamic and intense production environment.
Bryan Jennings: Associate Producer
Former professional surfer and visionary evangelist, Bryan Jennings is the founder and director of the ministry Walking On Water. For the past 17 years, Walking On Water has been producing and releasing films that share the Gospel through compelling surfing oriented stories. Having released 12 films in total, 4 million viewers in more than 30 countries have seen their films globally. Their most widely viewed film – “Walking On Water” – was released on Netflix and in Red Box.
Aspiration Studios is a Nashville-based company that produces, markets and distributes “screen forward” entertainment for aspirational audiences. Through our direct relationship with Erik Lokkesmoe, Taming Mustangs is already positioned for wide-scale distribution through this channel partner. In 1998, Erik co-founded Different Drummer, which introduced the world to an unconventional marketing model that has serviced blockbuster films, breakout bands, and best-selling books. He and his team have architected marketing and distribution campaigns for hundreds of entertainment projects. Before starting his company, Erik served as the VP of Strategic Partnerships for AFG/Walden Media in LA, was the head of communications for the National Endowment, was a speechwriter for the Bush Administration, a press secretary for three members of Congress, and manager of political communication for the National Association of Broadcasters. Erik is a co-author of three books on messaging and media.
Interpret Studios (distribution) - Interpret Studios is in direct partnership with Taming Mustangs. This studio continues to push the boundaries of brand integrated storytelling for a diverse, world-wide client base in a variety of formats including: film, television, commercials, and social media. Interpret thrives at the intersection of adventure, entertainment, action sports, music, lifestyle, photography and film — which makes this a perfect partner for this documentary film project.
Using the evangelical marketing approach, the Taming Mustangs creators and contributors will utilize key access points to create event-based church showings and speaking engagements, all around the showing of the film to a collective audience of viewers. Events featuring this film will model an open invitation format — not just a church-goer-oriented format — to help maximize the reach of the message. As this documentary is expected to be a raw, unpolished look into the lives of three very lost boys, the content may not be suitable for all faith-based venues/audiences, and so the team will always be clear and sensitive to this aspect in their bookings. Additionally, by engaging with Fathom Events, it is a part of our distribution considerations to buy distribution in select viewing areas to promote and offer up this documentary to communities that could benefit from this film the most.
Leading up to, as well as during the making of the Taming Mustangs documentary film, Ryan Miller will be teaming up with writers and other contributing partners close to the project to write a book to help further the use of the wild boy/wild Mustang metaphor. (Working title: Taming Mustangs: Why God Chooses Troublemakers). This book will be faith-based, and will include testimonial content from Ryan's work as a youth discipleship leader, and will use the Bible as the foundation to further the wisdom of this taming and mentoring concept. Additionally, a resource guide will be written and produced to help support mentors who are inspired by the book and/or documentary. The guide will be designed to help men who want to help better understand the needs of boys who are falling victim to the boy crisis in America and to support the mentor as he steps into the often thankless and sometimes heartbreaking role as a Mustang Tamer of Men.
Jon Erwin is one of the most accomplished Christian filmmakers of our generation. Jon has produced three GMA Dove Award winning Music Videos, along with receiving eleven Dove nominations. He has also produced and directed several feature length documentaries including the multi-award winning 9/11 Story, “The Cross and the Towers.” In recent years, Jon has turned his attention towards directing high-budget blockbuster films, most notably, “October Baby,” “Mom’s Night Out,” “Woodlawn,” and “I Can Only Imagine.”
Mike Peckham has served as the director of film production for Jesus Film Project since 2013. Prior to that, Mike held various positions with Cru, where he lead media teams in Boston and Colorado before moving on to Jesus Film Project in 2008, where he co-founded and led Broken Phonebooth Productions. Mike holds a B.S. in Film Production, and was director of photography for the miniseries, "Rivka." Throughout his career, Mike has had films selected and screened at the Orlando Film Festival, San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, Gasparilla International Film Festival, and Central Florida Film Festival.
Jeremy Casper is a writer/director/producer as well as a film instructor, lecturer, and story consultant. He currently teaches Narrative Storytelling and Professional Screenwriting at his alma mater, the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, where he has workshopped more than 2,000 short films with students and alumni. Jeremy has led screenwriting and directing seminars all over the world, in partnership with The Global Short Film Network and the Visual Story Network. Jeremy’s first feature film, “Vacant House” (which he wrote, directed, and produced) has won numerous festival awards for screenwriting, directing, acting, and best picture. He has co-authored two books on writing for short films – The Inside Out Story: Discovering Structure for Short Films, and his most recent, Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media, through world-renowned film-book publisher, Michael Wiese Productions.
Cru is the largest and most impactful missions organization in the world, having a presence in more countries than McDonalds. Cru boasts 2,300 campus ministries engaging more than 101,000 students and faculty in ministry on U.S. college campuses, a city ministry serving in over 50 cities and partners with over 2,000 churches. A family ministry reaching 4 million people in 109 countries. An athletic ministry reaching 64 countries, 225 college campuses and 46 professional sports teams in the U.S, along with sports media that touches the lives of an estimated 100 million, The Jesus Film Project, which is responsible for more than 7.7 billion exposures to the gospel and more than 530 million total estimated decisions for Christ.
Steve Douglass, the President of Cru has already agreed to platform Taming Mustangs and has offered to not only share his influence and contacts with us, but host us on his radio show. Our hope is that we can leverage Cru to host showings and pack out fathom events throughout the world.
Iamsecond is a multimedia movement and not-for-profit organization that is designed to inspire people to put Jesus Christ first. Their short testimony films have been seen by over 1.5 billion people. We are looking to partner with iamsecond to boost our Online presence, add credibility to our brand, and bolster our marketing and distribution efforts.
Family Life has impacted more than 4 million people in 109 countries have been trained at their events. Nearly 100 million people have heard Dennis and Barbara Rainey on their daily radio program “FamilyLife Today” and “Real FamilyLife,” found biblical help and hope online at familylife.com, read their books and marriage devotionals or participated in a Homebuilders bible study over more than 40 years.
KLOVE radio network, America’s most popular Christian radio station boasts an estimated listenership of 6 million people and has over 2.4 million Facebook followers. Our hope is to use our strategic partnership with them to give publicity to our film showings.
Young Life is the largest and most influential parachurch ministry targeting high school students. We hope to partner with Young Life to help train and equip their leaders in their discipleship efforts.
Walking on Water has been producing and releasing films that share the Gospel through compelling surfing oriented stories for the last seventeen years. Having released 12 films in total, 4 million viewers in more than 30 countries have seen their films globally. Their most widely viewed film – “Walking On Water” – was released on Netflix and in Red Box. We will work with Walking on Water’s expertise to show Taming Mustangs in churches all over the country.
Focus on the Family is a Christian organization dedicated to "nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide" We believe that Focus on the Family is a perfect partner to promote their mission statement through Taming Mustangs. We are looking to leverage a partnership to promote through their various radio, email, and distribution channels.
YWAM is the largest staffed Christian ministry in the world with 18,000 staff spanning 180 nations. YWAM mission fits into three main categories. Evangelism, Discipleship Training, and Mercy Ministries. We are hoping to partner with YWAM in their Discipleship Training efforts through the use of Taming Mustangs.