‘Floating Horses: The Life of Casey Tibbs’ documentary in its early stages of production | TSLN.com

‘Floating Horses: The Life of Casey Tibbs’ documentary in its early stages of production

Cole Elshere and his cousin Donny wrestle a calf on branding day. Photo courtesy Cole Elshere

When one’s roots are in South Dakota and that’s combined with an interest in the stories that can be found there, it’s no small wonder that big things come from that combination. Midland, S.D., native son Justin Koehler of Nowlin Town Productions, Denver, Colo., says “I wanted to do the great stories here in South Dakota and bring them to the public.”

His first documentary film “The Buffalo King” is a story about Scotty Philip and will be distributed to all public stations in the U.S. and is now airing on South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Success with that and a keen interest in doing another great story lead him to his current documentary about Casey Tibbs.

Called “Floating Horses: The Life of Casey Tibbs,” the documentary is still in its early stages. “We have a built in market with professional rodeo, so interest on Casey will be there and there’s also several excellent books about him,” says Koehler, “But no one has ever done a documentary about his life.” Koehler has been doing research for two months and knows it’s going to take a lot more.

“He’s a son of South Dakota and we want to be able to showcase the beauty of South Dakota and the important people from here,” explains Koehler. “Casey was such a flamboyant character! A purple silk shirt sure set him apart and he really had to back it up with his ability,” notes Koehler.

The documentary will cover Tibbs’ life story, rodeo history, fashion firsts, his being the first person to fly to rodeos, and the Hollywood/movie years. “Casey Tibbs transcended rodeo with the doors he opened,” says Koehler. “When I talk to people on the phone who met or knew Casey, their voices change and they are like they are almost kids again. People really idolized Casey.”

Koehler explains “We want to make the horse a legend in the film. The personalities and the real danger of the broncs. We will shoot scenes at the arena there in Ft. Pierre.”

Choosing a cowboy to represent Casey Tibbs was a tough job with all of the great bronc riders in South Dakota and Koehler couldn’t be happier with the man who will do it. Cole Elshere, who grew up near Faith, S.D., will play Casey in the bronc riding and reenactment scenes. “I’m thrilled to have Cole on board with this project. He’s a rising star in pro rodeo.”

Documentaries are a great deal of work, research and expense. The team is working on research and an online fundraising campaign..

“The Buffalo King documentary being distributed to all public stations in the U.S. will help with fundraising, as well as having Lee Jeans, Charlie Daniels, Johnny Western and some other celebrities on board,” says Koehler.

“We are also doing a 60 day campaign on Kickstarter, an on-line fundraising site. We are working on a video and other materials for that campaign so it won’t be ready to go until the end of January or early February. When we get that up and going it will really jumpstart our fundraising efforts,” says Koehler, adding “We are also working on getting more sponsorship from others who want to see Casey’s story on the big screen.”

“When the Kickstarter video is launched, there will be a very rare item featured on it, but I’m not going to say what it is just yet,” Koehler says, “There will also be perks for those who make donations with donation levels starting at $1 and on up, so there’s a way for everyone to be involved.”

Funding a project like the Tibbs documentary isn’t easy and Koehler’s team needs to be able to fly to locations for filming and conducting interviews. They have set up a Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/CaseyTibbsFilm) and as soon as the Kickstarter campaign is up and running, it will be announced there.

The Casey Tibbs Foundation/ South Dakota Rodeo Center in Ft. Pierre, S.D., will be raffling off a signed Charlie Daniels fiddle at the Match of Champions in the spring, so if you would like to purchase a ticket you can contact them directly. Proceeds offset costs of producing the film and to support the Rodeo Center..

In the mean time, funding aside, Koehler works steadily making phone calls, looks at memoribilia, photos and talking to the people who knew Casey Tibbs. He wants to hear from anyone who has any items that pertain to Casey, folks who knew him, worked with him and can help tell his story.

The release date of the documentary depends on the funding that comes through and how soon the team can get the filming done. The hope is to have it done by the end of 2015 and release it soon after that. Justin Koehler can be reached at jzkoehler@hotmail.com or 303-328-7745.

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