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Because of Horses

Jul 5, 2019

Documentary filmmaker Ron Davis, whose work includes Harry and Snowman and the 2019 release Life in the Doghouse, seeks to tell inspirational true stories that are largely unscripted. Ron’s own journey to becoming a filmmaker might be worth a documentary of its own.

Ron grew up riding and competing in the hunter/jumper divisions near his home in northern New Jersey, but left the sport behind to pursue a career in publishing in New York City. He spent 10 years working his way up the ranks, ultimately managing global sales and licensing for both Simon and Schuster and Sterling Publishing, a subsidiary of Barnes and Noble.

After seeing a video celebrating a friend’s life, Ron was inspired to create a similar piece as a gift for an equestrian he knew. A filmmaker friend, a producer for the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, saw the piece and recognized that Ron had an innate talent for filmmaking. With his friend’s encouragement, Ron decided to pursue filmmaking in his spare time.

In 2009, using his background in sales to help fundraise for the project, Ron co-produced and co-directed his first full-length film, Pageant. The piece debuted on television on The Sundance Channel and played at theaters in New York City.


In 2010, Ron relocated to Wellington, Florida, to pursue filmmaking full time. He founded Docutainment Films, which has produced four full-length documentaries and has several upcoming pieces in pre-production.

The FilmRise/Netflix film Harry and Snowman tells the true story of Harry deLeyer and Snowman, a slaughter-bound horse of unknown breeding that deLeyer purchased at the New Holland Auction in Pennsylvania for just $80. Together, the pair wrote their own rags-to-riches story, winning prestigious show jumping competitions. The film premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in 2015 before opening to general release in September of 2016. It was a New York Times “Critic’s Pick” and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at both the Nantucket and Prescott Film Festivals in 2015. Harry and Snowman ultimately became one of 2016’s top-grossing theatrical documentaries.


In 2018, Ron completed Life in the Doghouse, another FilmRise/Netflix production that chronicles the work of equestrians Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta, who together have rescued over 11,000 abused, abandoned and starving dogs. Danny & Ron’s Rescue finds safe homes for the rescues through their network of horse people and attending horse shows. The film premiered on Netflix in June 2019 and was lauded by the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, who urged her fans and followers to see the film and support Danny & Ron’s Rescue.

Ron will donate all the net proceeds from his film to dog charities across the country. He is committed to producing only stories he cares about deeply and looks to craft character-driven pieces which inspire and warm the heart.


Topics of Discussion:

[:25] About today’s guest.

[1:43] Ron Davis’ high-level success in New York’s publishing world before he followed his dreams to become a filmmaker.

[6:06] How Ron’s first film, Pageant, served as an affirmation that he was on the right path.

[7:49] Why Ron’s cinematographer for his first film, Pageant, Clay Westervelt, ultimately decided to work with him as a first-time filmmaker.

[9:27] Ron discusses making tough decisions based on instincts, how he gets through stressful situations, and the challenges inherent in filming a documentary.

[17:50] Prior to interviewing someone on film, how does Ron help them to relax and speak naturally on-camera about their story?

[21:24] Ron reflects on HBO’s decision to not produce Harry and Snowman.

[22:42] Ron speaks about the importance of embracing hard work and trusting your instincts.

[24:22] Ron speaks about the crucial role of a director in the filmmaking process.

[28:40] What keeps Ron motivated?

[32:01] Ron shares some of his memories from creating his huge success, Harry and Snowman.

[36:05] How did Ron help Harry to open up for the film?

[40:48] What compelled Ron to create Miss You Can Do It? 

[43:18] Ron discusses his perspective on pitching film projects and hearing “not now” or “no.”

[44:51] What it was like filming Life in the Doghouse and capturing some of the incredibly emotional moments.

[48:45] About next week’s episode of Because of Horses.

[50:06] How does Ron define success? What does he hope to accomplish when he looks back at his body of work later in life?

[52:50] Ron gives advice to aspiring filmmakers!

[56:17] Where to learn more about Ron, his films, and follow him online!


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Mentioned in this Episode:

Docutainment Films

Harry and Snowman (Film, 2016)

Simon & Schuster

Sterling Publishing

New York Film Academy

Pageant (Film, 2008)

Miss You Can Do It (Film, 2013)

Clay Westervelt

EquestFile (Use coupon code: BOH10 to receive a 10% discount for two months off your subscription)

Life in the Doghouse (Film, 2018)

A Parent’s Guide to Riding Lessons: Everything You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive with a Horse-Loving Kid, by Elise Gaston Chand

Stacy Westfall

Abbey Curran

Next week’s episode of Because of Horses


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