FARMINGTON — Filmmaker Justin Hunt was in Farmington this week filming footage for his newest project, "The Speed of Orange." The movie, Hunt's third, is expected to be released early next year and tells the story of an ordinary family living in an extraordinary world.
"That's really what it is," Hunt said. "The public perceived this family one way because they dominated the sport for about 15 years, but behind the scenes, it was so different."
"The Speed of Orange" gets its name from the fact that Glen Hunt, Hunt's father, always wore orange goggles while riding as a jockey. Hunt's mother Linda was a trainer, and the pair raced under the name GHL racing. The pair was recently inducted into the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Hall of Fame together as a team, GHL.
While shooting horse races at SunRay Park on Wednesday, Hunt discussed the film and why fans of horse racing will appreciate it — but also why non-aficianados should see it as well.
"You've got this wonderful element of horse racing that aesthetically makes this a fun movie to watch, but aside from that you don't have to be a horse racing fan to understand or appreciate the film because we all have things that happen in our lives, good and bad, birth and death, successes and failures, and anybody can relate to that," Hunt said.
"You will know more about horse racing when it's over," he said. "It's not a how-to of horse racing. It's more of a story of those people who live horse racing day-to-day and who care for the animals the sport itself, the camaraderie."
The documentary, which includes original footage from races that took place in the 1970s and 80s during the height of GHL's racing career, also includes commentary from those who lived their lives on and off the track. It's not a drama, it's a narrative, although emotions do run high and there are moments that seem to put life into perspective.
"Every family is off center just a little bit. We all want to see the redemptive part of our own story play out," he said.
That's what was so upsetting for Hunt and for others about the recent loss of Johnny Tapia, who was featured in Hunt's film, "Absent."
"That was the sad part because there wasn't the redemptive part to his story yet," Hunt said. "So we're fortunate that in The Speed of Orange' it does happen. There's gain through loss. And I think that's valuable in the art of storytelling."
A turning point, Hunt said, was when his mother Linda passed away from cancer during the filming of the movie, bringing the family closer together.
"The movie's not all peaches and cream," Hunt said. "There is some bad stuff in there. But in the end, if you can overcome the tumultuous times and get back to a good place, that's the lesson to be learned."
The filming of "The Speed of Orange" took two years to complete and is in the editing stages now. While production is finished, Hunt said there are still a few holes he would like to fill, and that's what he has been doing every day at Sunray.
Scenes were also shot at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and across Albuquerque.
In regard to the recent happenings in the world of horse racing regulations and the stance being taken by the New Mexico Horse Racing Commission, Hunt said he thinks horse racing has a serious black eye right now and that "The Speed of Orange" is the ice pack.
"This movie endears you to not only the sport but to the people involved, those who live and die for the sport. This movie is so much more than beyond the confines of the race track and the oval. It's about the human condition," he said. "Horse racing is in need of something positive and valuable right now."
Intertrack host and track handicapper at SunRay Park & Casino, Steve Bortstein also writes a weekly column for The Daily Times about what's going on in the world of horse racing. As a professional in the horse racing world, Bortstein said the movie's significance will come from word of mouth, promotion and wide distribution from racetracks and "racinos" from across the country.
"Unfortunately, that's something the people who promote racing are not very good at," he said. "The industry needs a louder, more expressive voice. This film does more for racing and for families than any other film of its kind, which makes it unique and timely."
As just a fan of horse racing, Bortstein said the film will speak to people from all walks about every day problems.
"As opposed to the homogenized, sanitary storytelling of Secretariat,' which was a farce of a movie, The Speed of Orange' is raw, it's emotional and tells the story of the family that struggles and fights and survives, not just with each other, but with the business that has kept them together," he said.
A special screening will be held at SunRay Park & Casino on Saturday, June 23. For $20, folks can view the film and take part in a silent auction to raise funds to support the film. Tickets for the screening can be purchased at Boot Barn in Farmington and at the door.
"Locals should see the movie because they have a chance to see a side of the racetrack that is both fabled and labeled," Bortstein added. "The backstretch is either a place where horses are housed, fed, looked after and treated like royalty, or for those who know nothing about the sport, it's a hostel and a wretched place to be. This film dispels the idea that the backstretch, and the people who work there, are to be looked down upon. Because the great reality is, they are quite like all of us. They care about their work, their families, and their devotion to each is unshakeable."
With a new book coming out at the end of June and two new screenplays being developed, Hunt has no plans of slowing down.
"I want to spend a lot of time with this film," he said. "I want it to go places."
For more information on the film, find "The Speed of Orange" on Facebook.
And the story of Hunt's family saga isn't over just because production is finished. At the June 23 screening, Hunt said his entire family, including father Glen, sister Kelly, and brothers Lonnie and Devlin, will be together for the first time in 30 years — it was the "The Speed of Orange" that made the reunion possible. He .
"It wasn't that all the sudden we came together and had a Kumbaya' moment," he said. "We just realized what was important, and that is family."