Nathan Ward and his Emmy Award

Nathan Ward with his coveted Emmy Award for his independent film “The Rider and the Wolf.” The award was presented by the Heartland Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Salidan Nathan Ward recently added the coveted Emmy statuette to his collection of awards for his independent film “The Rider and the Wolf.” The film was about Mike Rust, a former Salidan, and his role in the sport of mountain biking.

Rust, 55, was a mountain bike pioneer and former co-owner of Colorado Cyclery in Salida and is listed in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

Rust was living in Saguache when he disappeared in April 2009. His remains were found in January 2017, and his killer, Charles Gonzales, was sentenced to life without parole in December 2017.

Salidans may also remember Rust for his “Ordinary” bicycles, which were also made locally in the late 1980s.

Ordinaries were the old-fashioned high-wheel bicycles so named because they were the “ordinary” bicycle used in the late 1800s. They had a very large front wheel and a small back wheel.

“We started working on the film in 2015 and it was a multiyear process,” Ward said. “The final film came out in 2020 on Rocky Mountain PBS.”

Prior to that it was shown at a few film festivals, but that was an incomplete version before Rust’s body was discovered. After those showings, tips came in to the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office that helped them find his body and solve the murder.

“The final version talked a lot about the solution of the case and the conviction of the killer,” Ward said.

The Emmy award was in the topical documentary category. To get an Emmy a film must air on a major TV network. Once that happens the filmmaker becomes eligible for membership in the Heartland Emmy Chapter and can commit to the competition process. Nine hundred entries were received with 315 becoming nominees, and finally 90 were submitted for the coveted Emmy statuette.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has 19 regional chapters, and the Heartland Chapter includes Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Ironically, Ward was in Yellowstone this year when the awards were announced on July 17 and he forgot to watch.

“When I remembered, I checked and found out I had won,” he said. “I was nominated twice before for the Indys in cinematography.

“The first time we attended a big fun gala in downtown Denver and awards were handed out there. Because of COVID-19 the presentation the last two years has been virtual.”

Ward is owner of Grit and Thistle Film Company and credits winning the Emmy to the many helpers who worked with him on the film.

“By the time we finished, probably 100 people had worked on the film in some way,” Ward said.

The core film crew consisted of Claude Demoss, Carlin Walsh and Lyman Smith, all living in Salida. Many others helped with shots, bike riding stunt scenes, funding, distribution and other aspects of the complicated filmmaking process.

“A piece of the award goes to all those people,” Ward said. “Especially to the Rust family, Mike’s extended group of family and friends who made this possible.”

Ward is a 1990 graduate of Salida High School and earned a degree in public policy and environmental science from the University of Chicago. He was a writer and photographer for magazines for 20 years, working around the world in about 40 countries, but Salida has always been his home base.

He got into filmmaking a bit by chance, though he had always planned to start making films at some point.

“One day a guy I worked with asked if I could shoot a film for him. I said no problem. “He said he needed to film Browns Canyon area to get support for the wilderness study area. I went on YouTube, got specs on how to shoot a video camera and shot it. That film was commissioned by the Friends of Browns Canyon. It was a pretty simple transition from still photos to video, and I’ve been doing it full time for several years now.”

Ward has had several other films in about 50 different festivals around the world, his most recent being a film about the archeology behind the Durango 550 Rerouting near Durango. The rerouting went through a number of 1,200-plus-year-old Native American sites and involved working with three native tribes, Colorado Department of Transportation and Alpine Archaeology Consultants.

“I was really pleased to win the Emmy for ‘The Rider and the Wolf,’” he said. “That has been one of my goals. I was nominated twice and the third time was a charm. However, while they gave me the statue, I couldn’t have done it without Claude, Carlin and Lyman. Their names should be on it too.”

Audrey Elling, executive director of Heartland Chapter, said, “Entries that are honored with the regional Emmy award have received the highest scores on Content, Creativity and Execution from peer judges outside the Heartland Chapter who review each entry according to a standard of excellence. We are pleased to be the home base for so many talented production people, doing such outstanding work.”

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