Jonty and Art: the film — a ‘story of love and determination’

Jonty and Art could become stars of the big screen if a film project currently in the early stages comes to fruition.

A film company is interested in the story of the Irish eventer and his crowd-funded Olympic horse Cooley Rorkes Drift, and those behind the project have set up a crowdfunding page to raise the initial budget.

The idea came about after a post in the Art’s Amazing Family Facebook group, members of which are those who contributed to Jonty’s securing Art in 2017, in April, suggesting a film be made.

Jan Birley, who has worked closely with a film company on an adaptation of a book she wrote about eventing, saw the post.

“I’ve done quite a bit with the film company so I put up a post saying it was possible, and what would need to happen,” she told H&H.

“Jonty and Steve Nesbit, of the film company Studio KS1, met to make sure they were on the same page and could work together – and it’s gone on from there.”

The crowdfunding page is now live, aiming to raise the £100,000 development funding needed for aspects such as writing the script and editing.

Should the film go forward, this money would be returned, and Jan said it would be split between the David Foster Injured Riders Fund, the Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund, Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity and the Nichols Spinal Injury Foundation, in the name of former eventer Claire Lomas.

“So it’s not guaranteed to come back but they wouldn’t pick up a project they didn’t think would go to completion,” Jan said.

As soon as the fund starts to build, Steve will start writing the script, and there will be 55 days to raise the money from yesterday (Tuesday).

Donors will be given rewards depending on the amount contributed, from a personalised, signed thank-you to their names included in the film, to meeting Jonty and Steve.

The film will cover the crowdfunding and Jonty’s injury and recovery, while events in his personal life will be dramatised to minimise intrusion.

“The story is the epitome of someone who was about to have his life force taken away; he lived for that horse and loved him,” Jan said. “It’s a story of pure love and determination and to show that having that, you can overcome anything.”

It is not clear whether the film would be released in cinemas, go straight to DVD or possibly be commissioned by a company such as Amazon or Netflix.

And Jan thinks although it will be an equestrian story, it will have a wider appeal.

“Not many people will have had that level of struggle to get back on track, but parts of the story will resonate with and inspire others facing difficult times,” she said.

“It’s a story about an equestrian but the challenges he’s faced aren’t about that, it’s very much mainstream.”

Jonty told H&H he “can’t really believe it’s going to happen”.

“I can’t really think anyone would be interested in making a film about my life!” he said. “But when I asked Jan for a percentage on how likely it would happen, she said without hesitation, 85%, I was expecting her to say 25%.

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“But it’ll be good for the sport. Ultimately, I’d hope it would reach a bigger audience if it goes ahead, and it’s about getting horses and the sport on the screen.”

Jonty said he hoped Art would appear in the film – and joked that he would have to appear on the red carpet and that all of Art’s Amazing Family would be invited to the premiere.

And asked who he thought might play him?

“George Clooney, obviously!” he said. Who else?

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