Jake Allyn Helps Celebrate, Preserve Cowboy Culture

The actor and Jesuit Dallas grad makes his directorial debut with a rodeo drama set in Texas

He was raised in Dallas, but actor and filmmaker Jake Allyn has always been enamored with life away from the big city — from working ranches to dusty prairies.

“Growing up in Texas, the cowboy looms large,” Allyn said. “I always thought there weren’t enough rodeo films in the world.”

He hopes to remedy that with Ride, a character-driven drama immersed in small-town rodeo culture that had its world premiere in April at the Dallas International Film Festival. It’s now playing in theaters.

The story is set in Stephenville, and chronicles a fractured family steeped in rodeo traditions, including an alcoholic ex-con (Allyn) seeking redemption for a tragic past by returning to bull riding, and his estranged father (C. Thomas Howell), who’s desperate to pay for cancer treatments for his young daughter. Meanwhile, the local sheriff (Annabeth Gish) becomes conflicted about the town’s criminal element stemming from widespread addiction.

“It’s not an outsider movie,” said Allyn, who references Lane Frost biopic Eight Seconds as one of his favorite films as a youngster. “When I drove into Stephenville for the first time, the town welcome sign was bent over. It looks like a bull rider desperate to hang on.”

Allyn’s film career has spanned more than a decade and includes many collaborations with his filmmaker brother, Conor (No Man’s Land). The siblings, who graduated from Jesuit Dallas, established production company Margate House Films with their father, Dallas-based author and political consultant Rob Allyn.

After writing several scripts and appearing in front of the camera, Jake Allyn also chose to make his directorial debut with Ride, a passion project he’s been developing for about eight years.

Although much of the film was shot in Nashville, real-life cowboys fill out some of the periphery roles. Throughout the process, authenticity remained at the forefront, which is why Allyn insisted on filming live rodeo action despite its logistical challenges.

“The way we got it right was by not trying to plan it out too much, and not trying to force anything. But there was a lot of preparation,” he said. “All of the rodeo stuff you see in the movie was shot in three days.”

Allyn, who co-wrote the screenplay with actor Josh Plasse, hopes the film will bring the tight-knit legacy of rodeo culture to a wider audience, while also helping to preserve it for future generations.

“We were trying to tell a very specific story, but we were not trying to tell it with specific words,” Allyn said. “My heart was so in it. I knew that what I might lack in experience behind the camera, with the technical side of things, I could make up for it with pounds and pounds of heart and sweat equity.”

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