Private Project

Buckin' Bulls: The Story of Ty Rinaldo

Ty Rinaldo is a former PRCA ranked bull rider. After a wreck with a bull ended his career, he turned his attention to becoming a stock contractor, providing elite bucking bull athletes for the PBR World Finals, the National Finals Rodeo and many events in the Rocky Mountain region. He produces many of his own events and teaches bull riding to the next generation of riders at his TZ Ranch in Larkspur, Colorado. A retired firefighter captain, Ty gives us a glimpse of his life behind the chutes, as well as the injuries and loss he suffered in this dangerous sport, his love for these massive animal athletes and the passion he has for helping people appreciate what bull riding is all about. With appearances by PRCA World Champion bull rider and PBR Founding Father Cody Custer, NFR Champion, PBR Ring of Honor & coach Lyle Sankey, and PBR bull rider Chase Outlaw.

  • Don Cardona
  • Don Cardona
  • Don Cardona
  • Ty Rinaldo
    Key Cast
  • Cody Custer
    Key Cast
  • Lyle Sankey
    Key Cast
  • Chase Outlaw
    Key Cast
  • Jaison Trece
    Key Cast
  • Erin L. Cardona
    Associate Producer
  • Alex Cardona
    Associate Producer
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 45 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 28, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • The 6th Annual Wild Bunch Film Festival
    Willcox, Arizona
    United States
    October 2, 2021
    World Premiere
    Winner: Best Documentary, Best Cinematography (Doc), Best Colorado Film, Best Rodeo Documentary, Best 1st Time Filmmaker (Doc), Festival Director's Choice: Best Director & Best Produced Film
Director Biography - Don Cardona

Don Cardona is an award-winning director, producer, writer and documentarian based in Parker, Colorado. He was born and raised in western Colorado (Grand Junction) and while in high school used his dad’s video camera to shoot and direct his first short film, “The Two Bandidos”, a western, in lieu of writing his final assignment in creative writing class. From that day, he was hooked on storytelling.

He attended Arizona State University studying broadcasting and his first career job was as a weekend sports reporter/anchor at KJCT-TV8 in his hometown. Don returned to Phoenix to work as a camera operator on major sporting events, and produced/directed his second short film, “Crescendos,” an abstract film set in the Arizona desert. He performed as Jerry in Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story” on stage in downtown Phoenix.

He later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a filmmaking and acting career, and directed/produced his third short film, “Car Lot,” a comedy about the struggles to get a car fixed. While his filmmaking and acting career was progressing, Don was lured back to sports broadcasting and was brought on as director for TVG Network covering thoroughbred horse racing.

Bristol, Connecticut was the next stop for Don as he became producer at ESPN working many sporting events in the US and Latin America, mainly Major League Baseball. Don returned to his home state a few years later to produce and oversee the day-to-day production for both Universal Sports Network and NBC Sports Group Denver, covering Olympic and endurance sports.

In 2018, Don directed and produced the short film, “Punishment” about bull riding school and won Best Documentary in the MyRødeReel International Short Film Competition and later directed and produced “First Runway,” a short film about a pre-teen who walks the fashion runway for the first time.

Don’s first feature length documentary, “Buckin’ Bulls” follows stock contractor and former bull rider Ty Rinaldo who has been in rodeo his entire life.

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Director Statement

What makes a person jump on nearly 2,000 pounds of muscle and risk their lives trying to ride it for 8-seconds? This was a question I had growing up in a western Colorado town but never thought much about it until I worked as a camera operator on a network tv sports broadcast covering bull riding. Watching these cowboys hyped up in the bucking chute was amazing to see — the intensity, the grit, and at the time what I thought was the stupidity or craziness of it all. And how did they make the bulls buck? In those moments of being up close, it sparked a casual interest and I watched bull riding on tv over the years and I always wondered about the details of the sport.

Many years later I reconnected with a high school friend, Ty Rinaldo, who was a Colorado high school bull riding champion. He has continued in the industry as a stock contractor, or owner of the bucking bulls. I attended one of his events in Castle Rock, Colorado and another friend had his theories on how and why the bulls bucked so hard. That re-ignited my interest into how it works and I re-introduced myself to Ty.

After talking with him and asking a ton of questions about what he does, and how there are many perceptions about this exciting sport, I asked if I could follow him around with a camera to see what goes into it, both from a rider’s perspective and how the animals are treated with the main question, “what do you do to make them buck? What I discovered gave me a different perspective about the entire process and I felt compelled to document all that I could about the cowboy culture, and more specifically, bull riding, one of the fastest growing sports around the world.

I also discovered that my high school friend was a top ranked bull rider who’s promising career was cut short by a head-on collision with a bull during competition. He was on the pro circuit when legendary bull rider Lane Frost was killed in competition and was later memorialized in the motion picture, “8 Seconds.”

Ty turned his love from riding bulls to owning them, producing some of the best stock in the business and also coaching bull riders at his TZ Ranch in Larkspur, Colorado, where much of this film was shot. It was there that I learned that bulls decide whether they want to buck or not and how much effort goes into developing them as athletes for competition and all of the hard work it takes to be a stock contractor. I also saw students of all ages and backgrounds attend bull riding school, either crossing it off their bucket lists or attempting to make a living out of it.

I was granted “all access” at Ty’s ranch and at all of his events. Because of the risks involved I shot and directed this without assistance, and while shooting I crashed into steel gates, pinched fingers, tripped inside the rodeo arena, strained muscles and was up close for many a cowboy’s injuries. In one instance I was the unfortunate recipient of a bull’s horn slamming into my hip when I didn’t get out of the arena quick enough, being flung like a rag doll over the fences with camera in-hand. On another occasion I had to climb onto the gates and slipped, cracking a couple of ribs while avoiding a bull’s charge. But the most challenging part of making this film was documenting the cowboy lifestyle and showing all of the expertise and hard work that it takes to make a living in this industry.

After two years of covering Ty, my hope is that the audience walks away knowing more about what bull riding is about, how one of the most dangerous sports in the world is not just a bunch of crazy cowboys accepting a dare (although that happens too), giving a glimpse of a bull’s personality and desire to buck, and showing how much love and passion Ty has for this sport.