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Bull Ridin's A Verb

Don Cardona

Filmmaker / Director

Don Cardona is an award-winning director, producer, writer and documentarian based in Parker, Colorado. He was born and raised in western Colorado (Grand Junction) and while in high school used his dad’s video camera to shoot and direct his first short film, “The Two Bandidos”, a western, in lieu of writing his final assignment in creative writing class. From that day, he was hooked on storytelling.

Many years later I reconnected with a high school friend, Ty Rinaldo, who was a Colorado high school bull riding champion. He has continued in the industry as a stock contractor, or owner of the bucking bulls. I attended one of his events in Castle Rock, Colorado and another friend had his theories on how and why the bulls bucked so hard. That re-ignited my interest into how it works and I re-introduced myself to Ty.

After talking with him and asking a ton of questions about what he does, and how there are many perceptions about this exciting sport, I asked if I could follow him around with a camera to see what goes into it, both from a rider’s perspective and how the animals are treated with the main question, “what do you do to make them buck? What I discovered gave me a different perspective about the entire process and I felt compelled to document all that I could about the cowboy culture, and more specifically, bull riding, one of the fastest growing sports around the world.

I also discovered that my high school friend was a top ranked bull rider who’s promising career was cut short by a head-on collision with a bull during competition. He was on the pro circuit when legendary bull rider Lane Frost was killed in competition and was later memorialized in the motion picture, “8 Seconds.”

Ty turned his love from riding bulls to owning them, producing some of the best stock in the business and also coaching bull riders at his TZ Ranch in Larkspur, Colorado, where much of this film was shot. It was there that I learned that bulls decide whether they want to buck or not and how much effort goes into developing them as athletes for competition and all of the hard work it takes to be a stock contractor. I also saw students of all ages and backgrounds attend bull riding school, either crossing it off their bucket lists or attempting to make a living out of it.

I was granted “all access” at Ty’s ranch and at all of his events. Because of the risks involved I shot and directed this without assistance, and while shooting I crashed into steel gates, pinched fingers, tripped inside the rodeo arena, strained muscles and was up close for many a cowboy’s injuries. In one instance I was the unfortunate recipient of a bull’s horn slamming into my hip when I didn’t get out of the arena quick enough, being flung like a rag doll over the fences with camera in-hand. On another occasion I had to climb onto the gates and slipped, cracking a couple of ribs while avoiding a bull’s charge. But the most challenging part of making this film was documenting the cowboy lifestyle and showing all of the expertise and hard work that it takes to make a living in this industry.

After two years of covering Ty, my hope is that the audience walks away knowing more about what bull riding is about, how one of the most dangerous sports in the world is not just a bunch of crazy cowboys accepting a dare (although that happens too), giving a glimpse of a bull’s personality and desire to buck, and showing how much love and passion Ty has for this sport.