A documentary produced in southern Utah about the trail to glory of a national saddle bronc champion has won the “Outstanding Documentary, Contemporary” award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Born to Ride: Cody Wright and the Quest for a World Title, produced by Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, has won the prestigious Western Heritage Award.
SUU communication professor Jon Smith and Zion Natural History Association Executive Director Lyman Hafen co-produced and directed the documentary. SUTV’s Lee Byers edited the DVD. The award will be presented at a black tie event in Oklahoma City on April 16 and 17, 2010.
Previous Western Heritage Award documentary winners include Ken Burns and PBS, A&E Network, Discovery Channel, BBC TV, The History Channel, Ric Burns and The American Experience, Bill Kurtis, the Oscar-winning “The Great American Cowboy” by Kieth Merrill, The Westerns Channel, Cox Communications and other local commercial and public television affiliates.
The one-hour documentary focuses on Milford, Utah resident and saddle bronc rider Cody Wright who worked his way through over 70 rodeos in 2008 to come out as the saddle bronc world champion at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The documentary follows Cody through a year of competition and culminates in the dramatic conclusion in Las Vegas when he out rides five-time world champion and sentimental favorite Billy Etbauer. The video include stories of his passion for and gift with horses beginning at a very young age.
Producer Lyman Hafen knew Cody from his childhood and thought 2008 would be the year to document Cody’s professional rodeo career. The producers took a gamble that Cody would win the World Championship at the 2008 NFR in Las Vegas. And they were willing to tell his story whether he won or not. They began the gamble by following Cody though the entire year with a high-definition video camera at rodeos large and small.
Because SUU is located just south of Cody’s hometown of Milford, Utah, they were able to develop a close working relationship with him. The crew spent time with him in the Nevada mountains where he learned the real cowboy ways. They interviewed his parents and recorded fascinating stories of his childhood that prepared him to be the saddle bronc champion. For example, Cody rode his rocking horse until it broke and when he was very young, Cody and his horse were swept away down the flooded Virgin River. Cody survived because he stayed with his horse--something he had learned from his father and something that helps him win today. Other interviews include fellow competitors, NFR officials, and family members. After capturing Cody’s rides at many rodeos around North America, the video culminates with the dramatic conclusion at the NFR in Vegas.
Actor Wilford Brimley narrates the video and Dan Truman of Diamond Rio and Ron Saltmarsh produced the music soundtrack.
The DVD premiere on SUU campus in April 2009 and raised approximately $2,500.00 in ticket sales for local rodeo clubs. The DVD is now available at retail and internet outlets.