The first Kentucky-related documentary funded by a $2.25 million endowment to Kentucky Educational Television was announced at an Oct. 18 ceremony at Keeneland.
The documentary, called "Thoroughbred," will be the first in a series of Kentucky productions and is slated to premier nationwide by March 2010, in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
"This film isn't just for people in Kentucky, and it's certainly not just for people in the horse industry," said Academy Award-winner Paul Wagner, who will direct the one-hour program. "We hope to tell (the story of the Thoroughbred) so it captures the imagination and welcomes the people who thought they had no connection to that inside world. We'll be successful if we can communicate that power of the relationship between the human and the horse."
Wagner, who grew up near the backside of Churchill Downs, attended the University of Kentucky and spent many afternoons watching races at Keeneland. Before working on the "Thoroughbred" project, he directed a number of films surrounding the subject of American folklore.
"This is the combination of my professional experience and my connections and passion for Kentucky horse racing," said Wagner of the documentary, which will include digital high-definition segments on the history of Kentucky's land, the science and experience of breeding and foaling, the high-paced nature of sales, the thrill of racing, and the serenity of a retired champion.
Also present at the Oct. 18 ceremony were Paula Kerger, president of PBS, which directs the operations of 348 national member stations (including KET); Malcolm Wall, executive director of KET; and Nick Nicholson, president of Keeneland.
"KET has never had a better story to tell than the Thoroughbred," said Nicholson, who added that this was Keeneland's first endowment for a local production. "Paul's challenge will to create a documentary worthy of this wonderful creature--the Thoroughbred--that has charmed and captivated people's lives for centuries."
"(The Thoroughbred) is literally the fabric of the commonwealth…(the history of the industry) is a remarkable story," said Wall, explaining how he hoped the film would help people understand the industry on a different, more complex level.
"We couldn't do this documentary justice without the association of Keeneland," he added of the organization, which will offer its library and other resources for the background and research of the program.
Among the other contributors toward the endowment, which guarantees support for KET's Kentucky-related programs in perpetuity, were Alltech, the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, Humana Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities.
"I'm most excited about the fact that millions of others are going to be able to share the story that we all know is so special," said Nicholson. "It's easy to take it for granted when you're here."