Ozark Renegades follows a trick riding rodeo team in Missouri as they dangle “inches above the dust”

Stella Blackmon and Joe Ramos capture a summer of grit, compassion and makeup done in the back of rear view mirrors, in their portrait of America’s midwest.

24 June 2024


“Our friend Mason took us to the Ozark Rodeo a few summers ago and pointed out the team. They took our breath away — it was this team of teenage girls dangling off a horse running 40 mph, their head inches above the dust as they performed these wild gymnastic tricks”, Stella Blackmon tells It’s Nice That. “Once we talked to the team about documenting them, we started filming right away.” So mesmerised by the rodeo scene in her home state of Missouri, Stella embarked on the making of Ozark Renegades, a raw and honest short of Ozark’s trick riding rodeo team, co-directed with fellow filmmaker Joe Ramos.

Both from the midwest, and with Joe’s start as an action sports filmmaker, the duo were the perfect pair to document a behind-the-scenes perspective on Ozark’s rodeo riding rituals. “Joe initially made the brilliant decision of shooting with a prime lens, so we started out filming them very close up — like inches away at times. It sort of forced an immediate intimacy, and I’m so grateful they were open to it,” says Stella. Capturing moments in their micro approach to film-making, the pair zoom in on glittery makeup routines and squeaky saddles, adding a softness to the grit of the extreme sport. Through this intimate lens they focus on “tiny unnoticed things that make up the whole of the human experience”, as Joe puts it.


Joe Ramos and Stella Blackmon: Ozark Renegades (Copyright © Cowboy TV, 2024)

Contrasting the thrill and danger of ‘dragging the dirt’ with touching moments of the riders’ family lives (in which mothers wear t-shirts that read, ‘We’re not just family, we’re rodeo family’), you could say that the film was a result of Stella and Joe being let into the more personal, and private corners of the community. This familiar process of documenting allowed them to learn a lot from the trick riding team: “Each of the members had experienced so much grief, sorrow and hardships, and yet their hope and compassion never wavered, and they got up each day to do it all again. It was the perfect example of how I see people from my hometown that isn’t often depicted in the media,” says Stella.

Over a long summer of filming, Stella and Joe’s beautiful film reveals what it is that trick riders really do, and more importantly why they do it. “It really is an honour for people to welcome you into their lives, their stories, their homes — that privilege will never be lost on me,” Stella concludes.

GalleryJoe Ramos and Stella Blackmon: Ozark Renegades (Copyright © Cowboy TV, 2024)

Hero Header

Joe Ramos and Stella Blackmon: Ozark Renegades (Copyright © Cowboy TV, 2024)

Share Article

About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.