In The Shadows of the Backstretch Part II

Click here if you missed Part I

Editing a full length documentary is almost as hard as sitting through Changing Lanes (2002) with Mr. Jennifer Garner and Samuel L. "I'm the same character in every movie" Jackson.

Trainer Carlos Martin and PromiseMeACat

From March to November of 2012 we followed trainer Carlos Martin through the Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga track meets. We spent time with him at the track, at his home, in a rented house in Saratoga, and at a local restaurant where we ate far too many wings. We even took a side trip to Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts and Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue in Pawling, NY.

After production was finished, we were left with roughly 45 hours of footage to sort through and find our story. Having never made a documentary before, we aimed to capture as much footage as possible of our subject and subject matter, and piece together a story in post. 

Carlos Martin

During production, we were constantly thinking of possible storylines, but in reality those stories don't always appear. In the Shadows of the Backstretch was always the story of Carlos Martin, but the name of the film inferred a deeper meaning. 

A monster of a horse, Holiday's Jewel

At a racetrack, the backstretch is the area where the horses are stabled and workout. At Belmont, the backstretch consists of roughly 60 barns (or stables) a large practice track and a smaller pony track. There are dorms for the backstretch workers, a cafeteria, and even a school called Anna House for children of the backstretch workers.

Unless you work on the backstretch or own a racehorse or a piece of one, the backstretch is a place you'll never visit and that's a shame. The backstretch is like a whole other world that exists behind barred fences. After spending time on the backstretch and learning a lot about horse racing (we knew nothing of the subject beforehand) we wanted to tell the stories that took place in the shadows of the backstretch. The stories of the workers who get to the barn at 5am each day, make less than minimum wage, but do it for the love of these gentle four legged beasts they care for. We also wanted to tell the stories of the horses themselves. Each a different background, a different story, and different personality.

Here I am with the horse I fell in love with, Marvelous Margaret.

For one reason or another we didn't quite get to tell those stories. Sure, you'll meet a few different horses in our film, but for the most part, the story I'm beginning to tell through my editing, is that of a man whose dedicated his life to training horses, just as his father and grandfather did.

We were lucky enough to tell the story of some amazing retired thoroughbreds when we visited the Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue. What was to be a part of our small documentary became a story and film of it's own.

We were also able to tell the story of Anna House, the backstretch school for the children of it's workers.

In the Shadows of the Backstretch may not be the story we set out to tell. In fact, by the time I'm done editing, it may have a brand new name. The only thing I can guarantee is that it won't be called Changing Lanes, because on a racetrack, there are no lanes.