We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristin Atwell Ford and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kristin, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Making films is risky business – especially documentaries. The reward is telling stories that enrich our lives. I did a lot of whitewater river running in my twenties. The risk of being in the wilderness was outweighed by the joys of being together as a crew, helping each other through tough spots, and telling the stories of those adventures around the fire. River running is a model for what I set out to do each time I make a film. You need to be fully present, navigate danger with open eyes, and be there for each other if anything goes sideways. If you’re lucky, when it’s all said and done, you’ve made indelible memories and gathered people together to celebrate them. If you strike gold, those stories become legends!

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Documentary filmmaking has its share of challenges. It doesn’t always go the way you want it to, yet it is a deeply rewarding experience. Good filmmaking is good storytelling. It takes hard work, passion, and the cooperation and support of many people. Each film I’ve made has given me the opportunity to learn about a new subject in-depth, hear people’s stories, and create community. The stories we tell create common ground or divide us. I like to tell stories than unify. After seven years of production, the team at Quantum Leap Productions recently finished the feature documentary, “Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera.” In it, three American Masters, author Zane Grey (1872-1939), fine art painter Ed Mell, and composer Craig Bohmler all take inspiration from Arizona’s landscape to create art. As this collaborative new work develops from Zane Gray’s classic 1912 novel into a modern grand opera, legions of singers, musicians, and designers all pour their hearts into making Arizona Opera’s world premiere sing! I love this film because it celebrates collaboration. And that is what I love best about making films, it is a communal art form that strengthens our ties.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m old school. If you come to visit me, you get to hike Camelback Mountain and see our fair city from a 360-degree view. After a hike up Camelback, a drink at the Sanctuary to admire the lofty pursuits, and maybe catch a show at the Phoenix Theatre Company. The next day I would whisk them away to Castle Hot Springs, Arizona’s first resort, about an hour NW of the city. Castle Hot Springs is a place where legends are made. Two hundred thousand gallons of pure, warm soothing mineral water pours from the earth each day. The miracle of water in the desert has drawn humans and wildlife for centuries and the history of the resort mirrors the development of the state. It’s a fascinating, evocative place that completely embodies Arizona. Here’s a full disclosure spoiler alert! The QLP team just won the regional Emmy Award for the historical documentary, “Castle Hot Springs: Oasis of Time,” which is streaming on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shoutout goes to Billie Jo & Judd Herberger. The Herberger family has invested in Arizona’s arts and culture since the 1940s. We have a thriving arts community in Phoenix thanks to the legacy of philanthropy the Herberger family has have nourished so beautifully. Billie Jo & Judd Herberger are the Executive Producers of the opera, “Riders of the Purple Sage,” produced by Arizona Opera, with music by Craig Bohmler and libretto by Steven Mark Kohn; and our documentary film, “Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera,” produced by Quantum Leap Productions. The opera and the film have been powerful catalysts for synergy between Arizona artists, patrons, and organizations. This new opera represents over a century of artistic innovation in Arizona. The Herbergers not only made the opera and the film possible, Billie Jo & Judd elevate the entire community with their engagement. Their magic makes everything bigger, brighter, and more fun.

Website: ridersoperafilm.com
Instagram: @ridersoperafilm
Linkedin: Kristin Atwell Ford (https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristin-atwell-ford-64658b3/)
Twitter: @ridersoperafilm
Facebook: @ridersoperafilm
Other: Personal Instagram: @atwellian

Image Credits
1) Atwell by Harrison Hurwitz; 2) Ed Mell, Rose Marie Stremel Mell & Atwell by Randy Murray; 3) Riders film Production Crew; 4) Betatakin Overlook opera artistic team and film production team, Robert Pflumm/QLP; 5) Atwell as the Masked Rider, Robert Pflumm; 6) Emmy Award for “Castle Hot Springs: Oasis of Time,” Bill Davis; 7) QLP crew at Castle Hot Springs, 8) Craig Bohmler and Arizona Opera Orchestra, Bill Davis; 9) Ed Mell painting by Robert Pflumm; 10 &11) Posters for “Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera,” and “Castle Hot Springs: Oasis of Time.”

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