McHenry County and its horses featured in upcoming film
Even people who've never worked in film can imagine the difficulty of casting just the right actor for the part.
But what about casting the perfect horse? At it turns out, that takes a lot of thinking, too, says Woodstock resident Sebastian Keck.
Keck, a 24-year-old film student at Columbia College Chicago, is directing "The Last Rider," a short film to be shot next month in McHenry County. Keck wrote the script for the class project, and is working with a crew of Columbia students and graduates.
The short is a Western — or "Midwestern" as Keck calls it — that tells a romance-and-action-packed story about a Native American who is the last to settle the last unclaimed land of the American frontier.
About 40 horses auditioned for seven roles, and Keck knew exactly what he wanted out of them.
"They had to have certain traits we were looking for. Due to the safety (concerns) and nature of the film, it's important to be particular," he said.
The horses had to have trail experience and be OK outdoors and calm around other horses, he said. In addition, the main character's horse also had to be able to be ridden bareback, and be comfortable away from the pack, he said.
"Horses are herd animals; a lot of horses have trouble being by themselves," said Keck, who's been riding since he was a kid.
Two of the horses cast in the film belong to Mark Killick of Island Lake. This will be the on-screen debut for 3-year-old Tequila and 14-year-old Wrangler, both Pinto horses, Killick said. Tequila has done Western Pleasure-style competitions, while Wrangler has done speed competitions.
"I was pretty confident they would do what needed to be done (at casting). I wasn't confident they'd be cast, because I didn't know exactly what Sebastian was looking for," he said.
As a bonus, Killick, too, was cast for a role in the film as a rider in a cavalry scene.
"I am absolutely excited," he said. "I think it's a great concept. It brings a story closer to home by doing it in McHenry County. I think a lot of people will be able to associate with the scenery and surroundings. And I think it will generate a lot of interest."
Despite offers to film in Montana and Minnesota — where a couple of crew members are from — Keck decided McHenry County was the perfect setting.
"I think McHenry County is pretty beautiful during the summer, and it doesn't get the credit it deserves. I wanted to show you can make a beautiful movie in Illinois," he said.
The 15- to 20-minute short will be filmed starting Aug. 17 over nine or 10 days at Glacial Park in Ringwood and at private locations in Bull Valley and Woodstock, Keck said. Columbia College is providing all the equipment. The crew has been fundraising since January with a goal of $12,000.
The film will be done by Christmas, Keck hopes, and then submitted to various film festivals.
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