Down The Fence

Filmmaker: MJ Isakson
AFS Film Representatives: MJ Isakson (Director, Producer, Co-Writer), Lori Adamski-Peek (Executive Producer, Director of Photography)
Runtime: 94 min

Each year, horse trainers journey to Reno, Nevada to compete for one of the most challenging equestrian championships in the world. For the trainers, winning means putting food on the table and hay in the barn for another year; but it also means another year of survival for a culture of horsemanship that dates back to the early Spanish mission days of California. Down the Fence evokes a deep and universal love for horses as it chronicles how cowboy culture has evolved and is thriving thanks to the little-known sport of reined cow horse. Reined cow horse—a discipline of horsemanship—was born out of a practical need for partnership, but the bond between horse and human and the community that grew around that bond is so strong that, defying the odds, it remains unbroken in the modern world. Down The Fence profiles horse trainers on their journey to compete for the national championship, revealing their challenges and a rare glimpse into their unique lifestyle along the way. It is a documentary about passion, perseverance, community, and the enduring power of the human-animal connection.

About The Filmmaker

MJ Isakson is a filmmaker from Washington State. She has a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Computer Science. Her first documentary feature and directorial debut, Down The Fence, premiered at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival and won Audience Award for Best Documentary. She was drawn to the equestrian culture profiled in the film for myriad reasons, including its indifference to gender—horsewomen compete side-by-side with horsemen; it’s skill with horses that matters most—and its rich, multinational history. To create the film, MJ and her partner in the project, Lori Adamski-Peek, formed a production company, had two successful Kickstarter campaigns, and were generously supported by the worldwide equestrian community. The film’s Facebook page has over 150,000 followers. MJ is proud to be among the growing numbers of women in film. In addition to independent filmmaking, she has a successful career in the tech industry.