John Carter and his swimming horses

 

As an American Rancher in the Brazilian Amazon, John and his wife Kika raised a family on the edge of one of the world’s last great frontiers. I visited them in their home in Mato Grosso, and during one of our script meetings, John asked to take a break. His daughters wanted to take their horses across the river. Luckily I always carry a camera and fortunately was quick enough to captured what happened next.  An extraordinary back story emerge which I’ve worked into the movie about their experiences.

21st Century Cowboy; Meet John Carter

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Based on a true story, Frontier shows us a slice of Amazonian life, as well as the causes and impact of deforestation. I saw this first hand when I was in Mato Grosso in 2007, filming the series ‘Jimmy’s Global Harvest’ for the BBC. While there I witnessed one key moment which inspired me to bring this story to a wider audience.

The presenter was Jimmy Doherty and the premise of the program was how Brazil was going to feed the world. Through this production I met John Carter, a charismatic American livestock farmer. John was fed up with corruption and bribery, and had mobilized a 200,000 strong alliance of landowners and ranchers, determined to make a change in Brazil.

John had squatters camped out on his land, and invited us to see the problem first hand. I didn’t expect him to pull a gun out of his attaché case and proceed to arm up. Myself and the crew all suddenly realised this was far more serious than it looked. My mind started running  through BBC guidelines on how to manage a potential shootout.

Through this experience I saw the nuances behind Amazon deforestation and the chain of desperation that leads to it. Normally the squatter is some homeless destitute, who has nothing, and is etching out a living. What’s behind the squatter is something far more sinister. The squatter has been put there by land grabbers; what in effect is Mafioso organized crime. Most landowners are intimidated by this and pay squatters to leave their property. The squatter has nothing to lose – if he wins he gains some land, if he doesn’t the land grabbers will move in anyway and sell off the rest of the property.

Behind the squatter and his tethered pig is a procession of corrupt officials, police and judges, all in on the land grab. It’s commonly cloaked in a veneer of Marxists ideals, how the poor have no place to live, how the landowners are colonialists lording it over everyone else. But really it’s a scheme to exhort money from ranchers and farmers – and it’s been going for years. It’s no surprise that many landowners have hired gunmen to patrol their boundaries. What’s more, it discourages ranchers from being responsible and sustainable in their farming. Leaving forest, though sensible farming practice, can encourage squatters and illegal loggers to move in. Clearing land is one way farmers can protect themselves.

So then the big question is how to turn this into a drama. Ultimately the drama comes out of struggle that takes place between the hero and the circumstances that sooner or later he has to confront. I decided to focus the film on the true story of John and his wife Kika; who returned to her home country Brazil to live the Frontier life. They embark on what many see as the ultimate dream; to live off the grid in paradise. This paradise soon turns into a living hell, and their relationship is pushed to breaking point. The question at the heart of the story is “do we run and have an easy life or fight to make things right?”.

Landowners in the Amazon are challenged on every side. It’s lawless world, with squatters trying to steal your land, corrupt officials looking for bribes, starving indigenous tribes stealing your cattle. Jaguar, homeless from the destruction of habitat, destroy your herd. People around the world judge Brazilian cattle ranchers, but there’s money to be made if you just pull down the forest and turn it to pasture for the cattle to roam. In such an unjust world, you can hardly blame people for trying to survive.

FRONTIER is a real crime story with an urgent message. We like to think we understand the Amazon, and damn all that harm it. We cast a simplistic morality over those who live there Rather than judging these characters, I wanted to look at the economics that drives them, the chain of desperation and corruption that ultimately leads to the loss of one of the world’s most precious resources. The reasons are much more nuanced than individual greed, and there is a workable solution. Ultimately, John’s story is one of finding hope in hell.  

Award Winning Casting Director Rose Wicksteed Joins Frontier

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We are delighted to welcome Rose Wicksteed to the Frontier team. Rose will be helping us sign star talent to the movie, and is confident that the timing is perfect to get some great names attached. 

Having started her career as a Casting Assistant, Rose worked on films including ‘Inception’, ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, and ‘Bright Star’. Since 2009 she has been a solo Casting Director, working on films such as Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’. In 2012 she was nominated for an Artios Award for Outstanding Achievement in Casting for BAFTA award-winning short film ‘Room 8’ and in 2014 she was nominated as a Screen International Star of Tomorrow. Her casting on upcoming features include James Wan’s ‘The Conjuring 2’, the BAFTA nominated and BIFA award winning ‘The Survivalist’; ‘Mine’ starring Armie Hammer, and Sci-Fi thriller ‘Redivider’ produced by FilmNation. She also cast double Emmy nominated and Golden Globe nominated TV movie ‘Nightingale’ and Season 2 of ‘Legends’.

 

South by South West Film Festival

Frontier Will be launched on 16th March 2016 at the South by South-West film festival in Austin Texas.

Hosted by Director Matthew Wortman, with John and Kika Carter, the real-life characters of Frontier.

The Dawn Of A New Era

This is my first blog, in a minute I’m about to do my first tweet…. I feel like I’ve eventually arrived in the 21st century. So here is the beginning of a series of blogs. I guess this will be the story about me making my first feature length movie – a cowboy movie with a difference! After spending a lifetime making films in TV for all the major broadcasters it was time to branch out. This has been a long held cherished dream of mine to actually make a film as an independent filmmaker. There have been a number of false starts and false prophets along the way (something you better get used to if you want to be a filmmaker) but for the first time in 7 years it does actually feels like it’s beginning to happen. And SXSW Texas film festival in Austin, is the place where it’s all going to start. It’s terrifying, exciting and awesome all at the same time – and I keep pinching myself, is this really about to happen? Or maybe I’m deluding myself or woken up in some parallel universe….

Its looking like a quarter of the budget has been raised (over $500k) and investors are lining up to meet in Texas to pull together and secure the final funding.

Lets back up a second…. the movie is called FRONTIER…. my name is Matthew Wortman and I’m it’s Director/Producer. FRONTIER is a Cowboy film for the 21st Century, a modern day, REAL life Western. And it’s an intense true story

Watch this space because what’s about to happen is explosive – there’s this rocket on the launch pad all fired up, the engines are hissing all ready to go – who was it that said when you get offered a seat on the rocket you don’t’ ask where’s my seat?

Where’s the idea come from? – From a chance meeting in the Amazon over seven years ago. And in the next instalment or two I’ll tell you the extraordinary circumstances of how that came to be. A moment that changed my life forever and quite possibly changes the lives of others. …Well I hope so…That blog instalment will be called ‘Meeting John Carter’

But for the moment I have to prepare myself for SXSW, Texas film festival – now regarded as one of the most important festivals on the circuit. SXSW is listed by many Producers in their top ten, and also attracts a large delegation of Brazilians Producers/Distributors. I’m meeting a number of high profile members of the Brazilian trade and export office (APEX-Brasil) some of Brazil’s top entrepreneurs.

That’s all for now, Best Matt

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