Eventing Nation: Is Eventing Due For a New ‘Sylvester’?

Screenwriter/producer Rick Hansberry has his sights set on creating a film that captures the excitement of modern-day eventing.

Top: Screenshot from the 1985 eventing movie “Sylvester” via IMDB.

From Eventing Nation:

Is eventing due for a new “Sylvester”? Rick Hansberry thinks so. A screenwriter/producer from Lancaster, Pa., Rick isn’t a rider himself, but his wife and daughter compete in hunter/jumpers. Last year for his wife’s 50th birthday, he planned a trip to Rolex, as she had never been and it was on her “bucket list.” The weekend was everything they had hoped for and more — a colorful pastiche of grace, athleticism and grit.


Rick’s wife (and avid EN reader!) Christin and her horse Oscar, after whom Rick named his production company Oscar’s Trailer, LLC.

Rick, always thinking through the lens of a camera, explains, “I was absolutely blown away by the Rolex experience, and I was astounded that there aren’t any eventing movies at all to promote the sport and its competitors.” While at Rolex, he had the opportunity to meet and talk with Will Faudree, who went on to finish sixth on Pawlow. Rick says, “Will had mentioned watching a film called “Sylvester” when he was 8 and living in Texas and that it got him hooked. I checked out the film but was disappointed that not only did it not capture the essence of the sport, it was the only representative of eventing in film.”

While many eventers have a soft spot in their heart for “Sylvester,” the 1985 film about a scrappy cowgirl-turned-Rolex competitor …

.. .we can also all agree that it’s about as representative of modern-day eventing as “Chariots of Fire” is of modern-day track and field. So Rick went home and wrote a new script: a present-day underdog triumph story about eventing culminating — not unlike “Sylvester” — at the Kentucky Horse Park. Throughout the process, he sought out input from Will and Caitlin Silliman, with whom he’d also connected at Rolex, who were helpful in creating the narrative and providing insight into the world of upper-level eventing. The first draft of the script earned favorable marks on The Black List, a professional screenplay feedback tool. An excerpt from the professional coverage of the script:

“The strongest element of the piece is the world, which is unique and specific, and peppered with authentic detail that both clearly demonstrates the author’s knowledge of the subject matter, and creates a compelling setting that is rarely explored in film — the competitive world of equestrian sports, along with rival teams and the multitude of characters from all walks of life it draws, is full of rich potential for drama and conflict that is centered around an iconic American pastime.”

Rick has a history of success with his filmmaking projects, including “Chemistry” (2008), a romantic comedy about speed-dating; “Chasing Forever” (2009), a drama starring Brody Hutzler (“Days of Our Lives”); “Branches” (2010), narrated by Daniel Stern (“Wonder Years” and “Home Alone”); and his latest film “Alienate,” which is set for a 2014 release. Bringing an eventing movie to life is his next goal, and he’s now looking to our community for help.


Screenshot from a news interview about Rick’s award-winning film “Branches.”

“As you can see from the script’s coverage, I will be approaching not only upper-level riders, syndicates and owners but also actual two- and three-star venues to gain their support,” Rick says. “The script references Jersey Fresh and Plantation as well as Rolex, but finalizing those venues are a big part of pre-production when actual filming locations are budgeted and scouted for availability.”

We wish Rick the best and he promises to keep us updated on the project’s progress in coming months.

Interested in getting involved? Contact Rick at [email protected].


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