Documentaries are a great way to learn about other people and lifestyles. “American Rodeo: A Cowboy Christmas” focuses on four modern-day cowboys as they travel the professional rodeo circuit over two weeks. The movie -- which was filled in the summer of 2009 -- takes place in the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, when there are over ninety rodeos across thirty-five states. In order to capture the footage for this insightful documentary, writer-director H.D Motyl and his production crew went on the road with the cowboys and traveled more than 2000 miles to capture footage at eighteen rodeos. Recently, H.D Motyl spoke about his experiences:

Early inspiration 

Blasting News (BN) What inspired you to become a director?

H.D Motyl (HDM): I love telling stories.

Documentaries are tricky because you’re using real people and real lives. It’s challenging and exciting for a director because you get to shape the story so that it’s interesting and engaging while still maintaining the integrity of the original characters and material.

BN: Growing up, what media had the biggest impact on you? 

HDM: “Catcher in the Rye” is one of my favourite books and was the first book where I could really see myself in the main character of Holden Caulfield. TV and films like “Sense8” and “Lost” had entwining plots that influenced me.

Rodeo interest 

BN: How did you decide to base a movie on rodeos? 

HDM: I love country music and the stories being told in those songs interested me. I read about four bull riders who were on the road together for something called “Cowboy Christmas.” The name grabbed my attention and I got interested in what made the cowboys tick.

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BN: What were some of the most memorable parts of being on the road?

HDM: We had a crew of four in a van driving around Texas and the Western states. We’d be up before the cowboys and we’d go to sleep after they did. I interviewed them as they drove. The camera was mounted on a special plate that actually was stuck to the inside of the windshield. The most memorable thing was being so close to the action.

Other projects 

BN: What other TV show and/or movies have you worked on? 

HDM:  I created a children’s show called “Show & Tell.” Also, I worked on a Documentary about the process of making a digital version of “Image of An Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film” — the 26 second Super8 film that shows President Kennedy being assassinated. 

BN: What would be your “dream project”? 

HDM: I read a short story called “Leaving Madrid” about a woman who is leaving Spain and her lover of two years. It is beautifully written and totally in the style of movies I’ve made. I’d love to make that film in Madrid and around other parts of Spain.

Future goals 

BN: So far, what has been the most rewarding thing about being involved in the entertainment industry? 

HDM: Being able to tell as many kinds of stories that I want and to be able to work with other wonderfully creative people in telling those stories and then, to see and hear people reacting to the stories that we told.

BN: Career wise, where do you see yourself in ten years? 

HDM:  I’ll still be teaching—I’m a professor at Southern Illinois University—and I’ll still be making films. In ten years, I’d like to be finishing my third or fourth feature film.

BN: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention? 

HDM: I have written and am about to produce a short film called “Romeoville and Joliet," named after two adjacent cities in northern Illinois. In the film, a man and a woman who had a crush on each other in high school, re-meet at their thirtieth reunion.

BN: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become a director and/or a documentary film maker? 

HDM: Watch a lot of films, TV, documentaries, and study them. Listen to the extra tracks on DVDs when the director is talking about the decisions they made. An aspiring director should read books about film making, interviews with directors, producers and actors, and screenplays.