Celebrity Interview: John David Ware Talks on Making Unbridled, Eric Roberts, Human Trafficking and Equine Therapy

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Director John David Ware's unforgettable and captivating feature, Unbridled,  chronicles the journey of an abused girl who teams up with an abused horse and their journey to healing, and is inspired by a healing ranch in North Carolina.

Academy Award Nominee Eric Roberts leads an outstanding cast in one of the most powerful films of the year. Unbridled also stars T.C. Stallings, Téa Mckay, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Dey Young, Rachel Hendrix, and Rusty Martin, Sr.  

The film, due for release later this year, shines a light on human trafficking, said to be the fastest growing criminal industry at $9 billion dollars per year.

With human trafficking stories usually focused on international abduction and the horrors of child slavery throughout the world, Unbridled brings the story home to the United States which is where we met Sarah, one out of the tens of thousands of girls trafficked each year and written off.


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Sarah is a 16-year-old girl who is abused, emotionally abandoned and written off as just another hopeless causality of this world. Her mother's boyfriend, Roger, secretly involves Sarah in a sex traffic ring, and her mother, Karen, unsure of what to do, is afraid to stand up for her.

Sarah thinks she is beyond redemption and unworthy of love and is sent away from the house that defined her horrors to a place where she is not the only victim, or the only one fighting to get her life back, a ranch called Unbridled.

At Unbridled, Sarah meets Dreamer, a horse who has also suffered abuse, a horse who no longer trusts humans... That is, until he meets his girl, Sarah. Together, Sarah and Dreamer walk a difficult road and learn that family doesn't just happen, it's made with hard work.

They face many hardships and overcome terrifying obstacles, but in the end, Sarah experiences redemption and learns that love is the most powerful thing on earth. Together, they all learn to live Unbridled.

Q. It would seem you've relied a lot on your own smarts, resources and, likely, finances to make things happen for yourself?

A. I am an entrepreneur and the spirit of that is extremely necessary for the heart of the filmmaker as well as someone who has founded a non-profit to assist filmmakers. When we started in 2003, 168 Film was a dream and now 15 years later, we are producing our first feature length film after having made well over 1000 short films. Yes you could say I have been used to make a lot of things happen. See 168Film.com.

Q. I also imagine it's a game of 'who you know, too'.  How much have some of those contacts, and influential mentors, played a part?

A. Those whom you know can be a big help in making things happens. However, even more important than those relationships is your own work ethic and the ability to never quit on the dream. Many quit and go back to the mid-west and they're done. But the people that stay eventually get their break and then at some point the doors will open and the critical relationships will start to seek you. As I always say they can't ignore you forever if you are continually improving your craft.

Q. What part of this story intrigued you so much you had to bring it to film?

A. There was an existing script very loosely based on stories from an equine therapy ranch called Corral in Raleigh. I served as Script Doctor for the film, fixing it where needed. The girls that are healed at Equine Therapy Facilities are assisted greatly by their work with horses and other animals. Many of them are involved in all kinds of abuse, including prostitution.

Q. Can you relate to it? How close do you feel to the source material?

A. I can relate to those I love and how I would feel if they were to fall into the web of slavery. Human trafficking is an enormous problem in this world. There are more slaves today than there have been at any time and that is disgusting, wrong, perverted and horrible. If we can shine a light onto this ignominious practice and save just one person or make the awareness enough to recognize it by a policeman for a emergency room doctor, then we will have done our job.  We are currently working with the Salvation Army and many in the human trafficking warrior ranks. What I want to do is to make this available for awareness and for exciting the troops. At its core it is a horse film shows a very hopeful triumph over the forces of darkness.

Q. Did you write the film with any particular actors in mind?

A. Besides being the Director on Unbridled, my other title on the film was Script Doctor. I added a lot to the script as I learned more about Dreamer, our "picture horse," trained by Lindsey Partridge. I would call her up and ask her questions like, will he do this or will he do that? The answer was always 'yes, not a problem.' So I said okay Lindsey, I'm putting it in the script and you better be able to deliver on this. He needs to play dead and to make a huge jump, sans rider.  "No problem," she said. 


Cautious optimism ruled my work, and at the end of the shoot, I was thrilled to have worked with Dreamer and Lindsay because the horse delivered. In one of our conversations Lindsay had told me that dreamer is like a movable prop. And I was duly outraged because, well, horses are magnificent amazing beautiful creatures. . But sure enough when we got to the shoot he was a movable prop like she said. 

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Q. Do you feel the location is as much a star of the movie as the actors are? Would it have worked as well somewhere else?

A. Our locations were really great and lent a lot of character and beauty to the shoot. However I think this particular story would have worked about as well elsewhere, because the girls and the story take center stage.

Q. Speaking of, How was it like working with Eric Roberts? Have you a favorite performance of his?

A. Eric was fantastic. I have nothing but good things to say about him and I would love to work with him again. He brings a level of professionalism and legitimacy to any film. He was great and the Pope of Greenwich Village and in The Dark Knight. I'd put his performance in Unbridled up there amongst his best.

Q. Tell us about his character in this film?

A. Roger is the character played by Eric Roberts. He is the abusive boyfriend of Karen, played by Dey Young. Karen is an alcoholic and will not stand up to Roger and defend her daughter Sarah, played by Tea McKay. Eric Roberts is a distinctively evil and driven sociopath. His blithe slickness and charm makes him a complex and unrelenting, villain, truly worthy of loathing and disgust.

Q. I guess the thing that's most shocking about this movie is that it's actually TRUE. How much did you know about it before doing the movie?

A. As I said, the script very loosely based on stories from an equine therapy ranch called Corral in Raleigh. But, the fact is that these girls do find healing by interaction with the horses.  That is a beautiful and magical thing.

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