This is an in-progress feature documentary about Western folklife, cowboy poets, and the American frontier. Pushing boundaries of documentary style, the film complements spoken poetry with artfully devised tableaus and landscapes that visualize the narrative themes of the poems, evincing stories of hardship and perseverance in today’s ranch culture. Surrounding this, interviews with folklorists, musicians, ranchers, and the cowboy poets themselves create an educational and historical context for this exploration, forming insightful ruminations on the West: not just a place or a moment in history, but a state of mind. Among all that seriousness, the cowboy’s lighter side will manifest in live performances and profiles from famous Western musicians like Don Edwards and Ian Tyson, and comedic monologues from legends in Western folklore like Baxter Black.
Before the current post-production stage of development, things kicked off in late 2012, when renowned historian and author Michael Wallis sat for an interview to give his insights on the West, laying a foundation for the West as “not just a place, but a state of mind.” Principal photography began around the annual occasion of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko, Nevada in January 2013, and continued at the 2014 Gathering. Icons of this culture, like Temple Grandin, Wallace McRae, Joel Nelson, John Dofflemyer, Baxter Black, Paul Zarzyski, Henry Real Bird, Amy Hale Auker, Don Edwards, The Quebe Sisters Band, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger and many more are now in-the-can, with more footage to come. Release is planned for sometime in 2021.
In the meantime, a module from the feature-length documentary, of Joel Nelson's reading of his poem “Equus Caballus” combined with footage from the ranch of John Dofflemyer, has been an Official Selection in numerous film festivals, and won top awards at the 2015 Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival in Worcester, Massachussetts, and the 2015 Equus Film Festival in New York City. It was curated into “The Horse” exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art, looping March-July 2016. Similarly, as another module, "Mining the Mother Lode" was an Official Selection in over 20 film festivals worldwide. Finally, "Not the Stars" (also this film's trailer) won the Best Overall Film award at the 2016 Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival in Worcester, Massachusetts.
To follow the production with only occasional updates, please "Like" the Facebook page, follow the Twitter feed @westdocumentary, and/or sign up using your email address. Thank you for your interest in this project!
H. Paul Moon, director
H. Paul Moon (zenviolence.com) is a filmmaker whose works include short and feature-length documentaries, poetry and dance films, and experimental cinema, featured and awarded at over two hundred film festival live screenings worldwide. He teaches documentary editing at Docs In Progress as an Adobe Certified Expert, and serves as adjunct professor at George Mason University's Film and Video Studies program. He also manages a network of online communities at focuspulling.com that keeps pace with new camera technologies. He worked as a small camera specialist for a Paramount feature film starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and as cinematographer for director Josephine Decker’s film in "collective:unconscious." Recent works include "Sitka: A Piano Documentary" (sitkadoc.com) about the craftsmanship of Steinway pianos, and "Quartet for the End of Time" (quatuor.xyz) about Olivier Messiaen’s transcendent WWII composition, that premiered on the commemorative date and at the place where the imprisoned composer first debuted his work. Moon's first feature, an award-winning documentary about the life and music of American composer Samuel Barber (samuelbarberfilm.com), recently premiered on PBS, and he is currently finishing another documentary feature about Western folklife, cowboy poetry, and the American frontier (westdocumentary.com). Excerpted poetry films from that project have appeared in museum exhibitions, and numerous film festivals, leading up to the feature film's completion. His ongoing centenary multimedia works on the poet Walt Whitman are featured at whitmanonfilm.com. Moon's latest film is an operatic adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (scroogeopera.com), awarded "Critic's Choice" by Opera News as a "thoroughly enjoyable film version, insightfully conceived and directed" with "first-rate and remarkably illustrative storytelling." Ongoing projects include "95 Theses" about the Protestant Reformation, and music concert films — but from time to time, he heads back West to a family home in Elko, Nevada, home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, to get away from it all.
Bradley Winegar is a Utah-based filmmaker who combines elegant cinematography with emotional storytelling in his event-oriented work. For this project, Winegar expands his repertoire into the feature documentary genre to include lyrical visions of the American frontier, lively performances, and character studies. He is a graduate of the film program at the University of Utah.
Josh Coffey is a composer, producer, multi-instumentalist and music educator from western Kentucky. Incredibly varied in his musical capacities, Coffey is easily at home in orchestral settings, string quartets, string bands, jazz ensembles, and rock-and-roll bands. Regularly performing in theaters, at bluegrass & folk festivals, on the country western stage, in rockabilly honky tonks and on paddlewheel riverboats keeps Coffey untethered to any specific genre, allowing him the versatility a musician of his caliber requires to thrive.
A home grown string player that learned at the knee of older musicians, Josh Coffey has spent most of his life creating: singing, playing, performing and writing. Having begun performing at just five years of age, Coffey's music career already spans two and a half decades. In 2005 Coffey became a graduate of Murray State University with a Bachelor of Science in Music, where he studied violin and viola as well as tuba.
Most commonly known as a founding member of Bawn in the Mash, a "Genre-bending, progressive bluegrass band....stretching the boundaries of string music to new levels," Coffey has been an integral part of the band's musical progression into other genres. Bawn in the Mash have four self-produced albums to their credit. Coffey has helped not only arrange the music for but also produced, recorded, and engineered the fourth album.
He is currently working with a variety of great musicians and bands. In addition to Bawn in the Mash, he is regularly performing with the Wheelhouse Rousters and the Solid Rockit Boosters as well as performing solo. He composed and performed the original music score to the film LowerTown Paducah by director H. Paul Moon.
Shang Ik Moon brings a specialty of artistic composition and landscapes to this cinematic project from his years of experience as a still photographer, after documenting the West for most of his creative life. He lives part of each year near Elko, Nevada, where the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering meets annually. Paul just calls him Dad.
Temple Grandin: www.templegrandin.com
Baxter Black: www.baxterblack.com
John Dofflemyer: www.drycrikjournal.com
Paul Zarzyski: www.paulzarzyski.com
Amy Hale Auker: www.amyhaleauker.com
Don Edwards: www.donedwardsmusic.com
Dave Stamey: www.davestamey.com
The Quebe Sisters Band: www.quebesistersband.com
and more to come...