It’s not the sort of eye contact one often gets. Or would want, for that matter.
The stare of a 2,000 pound, anxious, would-rather-be-elsewhere, trying-to-leap-over-the-fence-and-get-the-hell-out-of-there bull – yup, BULL!! – complete with horns, an attitude, and an imposing, take-no-prisoners glare.
But that’s the situation in which I found myself at the Professional Bull Riders championship in Winnipeg a couple of months ago.
Backstage — back-cage, really — to help shoot live-action segments for my patchworks 2 episode “The Bullfighter,” I ended up in a locale that was at the same time thrilling and chilling.
But I was there only once, surrounded by a phalanx of experienced bull-riding cowboys, feeling somewhat secure behind a chute, and reasonably well protected. However, the subject of my documentary, Brandonite Scott Byrne, is out there in FRONT of the bulls for about a hundred shows a year, with only the protection of his gear, his guts, and the glory that comes from doing his job well. And that job is to protect the lives of the cowboys who choose to straddle those monster bulls for a fistful of dollars, and a moment of trial and, hopefully, triumph. When the riders come off the bulls, Byrne is ON — his hands on the head, his face in front, his body between those ballistic — bullistic? — big bulls and the boys who have been bucked off, or who have been lucky or skilled enough, to withstand the longest cowboy-culture eight seconds known to humankind.
Adrenalin is the name of the game. And danger detection, which equals rider protection, is the aim of the same. That’s when bullfighting is elevated from a sport to an art. And that’s what Scott Byrne does every day, in every way. It’s a treat to be able to give viewers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of the wild world of bullfighting as seen through the eyes of the best in the business. Scott Byrne: The Bullfighter. Coming soon to a stadium — and a screen — near you.