Saturday, September 27, 2008

Director reacts to riders' comments

It has been an honor to read ALL of the comments (both hurtful and hopeful) that have been posted so far at the Chronicle of the Horse about Trip and the documentary “Trip to Hell and Back.” Clearly his story has shocked many people but also seems to be creating the awareness that Trip had hoped for. I wish he could be here to answer them personally.

As I was reading through these posts, I felt like I should be a steward of the facts.

Some posts make the wrong assumption that Trip used and even dealt drugs while judging or at clinics. He states in the film that he never used drugs when he was around horses. As a journalist with more than 20 years of experience interviewing people I believe this to be the case. But, I encourage you to view his response for yourself in the first 10 minutes of the extended cut and draw your own conclusion.

There are also posts that incorrectly assume why he made the film. Some say for money others say that he knew he was dieing and wanted to atone for his wrong doings.

He did not know or suspect that he was terminally ill until the week of the film's premiere. For two years we had been shooting. He was scheduled to attend the premiere but was in the hospital undergoing tests. In fact, he was under a great deal of stress about revealing his secret to the horse world for fear it was seriously damaging his career. But he felt that if helped others avoid his mistakes it was worth it. That may seem unbelievable to many who have never faced addiction but this level of service to others and of faith is a hallmark of many who have had a prolonged recovery.

Someone else posted that his motivation for revealing his story must be for money. Trip had no equity stake in the film nor was he paid any fee. MAD STU Media has fronted about $50,000 of in kind services and $10,000 in hard costs to create the documentary. Trips motivation was to save someone else from the same pain. My goals for making the film are to help others, to further my career goal of making documentaries that help people and to recoup my costs over the life of the film- in that order.

Another post reads, “I can say with a 90% assurance that Trip's money helped keep him out of jail. A poorer person caught doing the same thing would not be able to afford the really good lawyers that can work a deal.”

I think this is one of the miracles of Trip’s story: his attorney was actually court-appointed. He had no money at the time of his arrest and was forced to borrow from others to keep his utilities paid while he sat in jail. How could this be? Because he spent as much as he made each month, His spending was part of his addiction. While we state that he was “born a rich kid with a shot at the Olympics,” he had already spent his family’s inheritance as a young man.

Trips court-appointed attorney, Elita Amato, is interviewed in the film. I think she comes across as the truly hard-working, compassionate person that she is: a remarkable woman. But it’s my belief that something greater than either Elita or Trip brought these two people together. Trip said many times in our interviews that people within his drug circle who faced similar charges paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to powerful attorneys who could only reduce their sentence slightly.

Ultimately, it was Trip’s final words to the judge that decided his fate. Trip never remembered what it was that he said until we showed him the transcript again on camera.

These inaccuracies and others throughout the posts are only natural and I provide this information to help fill in the gaps for people. I’m confident that the record will be set straight when people have a chance to see the DVD later in October.

In the meantime, if anyone has questions or comments I sincerely welcome them here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Riders debate Harting's morals addiction/drug dealing

A heated debate is underway on one of the leading message boards for horse riding between horse people who forgive Trip and those who condemn his actions. The exchange has grown into a discussion about addiction: More than 4-thousand people have visited so far: Chronicle of the Horse.

"...the man was not just a drug addict, he was a major dealer, a busted felon, and a
mule for the FBI. God knows how many people he personally introduced to a drug infested hell. Or killed. He actually brags about how much drugs he sold. Unbelievable.
So, he was a dressage judge, and that forgives it all?"


"... In the end he did the hard thing, to own up to his mistakes, share his personal struggles and failings with his family, friends, peers, and perfect strangers. I was impressed with his reason in the documentary for sharing all the "dirt" in his earlier be at peace with his higher power.
He could not have known at the time of his documentary that he would pass on at such a young age. That each of us would have such an meet our higher power with a clean conscience ...'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone...' "


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Trip to Hell and Back" is slated for Chicago fest

Chicago Filmmakers has selected Trip to Hell and Back for this year's Reeling film festival. Dates and times are TBA. Reeling Chicago is one of the largest LGBT festivals in the United States and the second oldest LGBT film festival in the world. The complete line-up of films will be officially announced the week of September 22st. "It's a great honor to be chosen and I'm sure Trip Harting would have been pleased to hear that his message will have such a large audience," says the film's director, Stu Maddux

Monday, September 8, 2008

Harting's memorial set for October 26th in LA

Friends of Trip Harting have announced a memorial service to be held October 26th in Los Angeles. The event will be held at
The Village at Ed Gould Plaza in Hollywood and will be followed by a gathering for food and drink in the courtyard and a screening of the film documenting his life, "Trip to Hell and Back."
The hope is to celebrate Trip's life the way he asked: with a gathering of friends and colleagues across the span of his life and in the many different areas that were so important to him be it professionally as a horseman, with family and friends and in recovery.

Those who cannot make the memorial service at 1pm please feel free to join us outside afterwards at 1:45 in the courtyard for food and conversation and the screening that will follow at 2:30.

Please come to see how much one man did to help others.

Date: Sunday October 26th, 2008 Time: 1pm-
The Village at Ed Gould Plaza 1125 N. McCadden Pl. Los Angeles, CA 90038

Monday, September 1, 2008

Photos Show Harting's love for his animals

Friend and well known photographer Tim Courtney took some of the last photos of Trip Harting. He has just released them on his website and is inviting us to take a look. Not surprisingly, Trip wanted to be photographed with his dogs, Phantom, Gidget and Eidel. They have each found wonderful new homes since his passing on August 22.

I'm sure that one of these photos will be the centerpiece for the memorial service. We are very close to choosing a date for the memorial sometime in late October here in Los Angeles. The blog will have details in the next few days.