Local Director ‘Camping’ it Up with Western Comedy Series

by Blake Herzog

Prescott film director Patrick Ball is hoping his new TV series will help to promote the city’s Old West vibe while giving viewers some comedic, escapist fun. 

“I haven’t done a TV comedy series before, I was going to do a war film around here,” Ball says. “But I decided you know what, there’s so much drama and, you know, violence and ugliness in the world. Let me do something that’s nice. Let me do something that makes people laugh and puts a smile on people’s faces.

“So a comedy just poured out of me. I clearly had it working and bottled up subconsciously.” 

The result is Horse Camp; he and co-writer Joseph Carver finished writing eight 30-minute episodes in about a month. It’s set on a dude ranch in fictional Cane County, Arizona, but has been filmed almost entirely in Prescott, the bulk of it on a ranch in Williamson Valley.

The Prescott Kiwanis Club makes an appearance, as do Watson Lake and the Granite Dells. Production was about halfway complete before it was shut down by pandemic restrictions, during which Ball wrote Seasons 2 and 3. 

Filming resumed in September beginning with some small shoots as the crew and cast worked with new guidelines being adopted by the film industry. It’s scheduled to wrap up by the end of October, then goes into post-production. 

Ball says he plans to license the first season to streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix for release starting Jan. 1, 2021 and hopes to produce up to six more seasons. He’s seeking local investors and sponsorships for Horse Camp.

Ball, who moved into Prescott this summer after two years living outside Chino Valley, says, “Prescott’s one of the best places to make a movie. That’s why I stuck around here to do it. Working with the city’s easy. It’s insanely beautiful. This used to be the western capital of the world. Hey, I’m trying to get that back the way it used to be,” he says. 

Ball has worked with horses since he was a kid, and they remain one of his two passions alongside filmmaking. His latest project brings the two together. 

He said much of the material is drawn from his experiences during the five years he worked at a dude ranch. “A lot of the stuff in the script was stuff that happened to me in real life or inspired by,” he says. 

The pecking order that tends to develop among dude ranch staff inspired some of the humor, while other gags are just gags, like a turtle being outfitted with a very obvious camera to spy on a rival camp. 

“It’s a goofy, silly comedy,” he says. Trailers and scenes from Horse Camp, some TV-MA-rated, have been released on YouTube.

Horse Camp’s stars include Nicole Zuelke, who has been featured in many outdoors-oriented ad campaigns and projects, and Sean Dillingham, whose credits include Better Call Saul and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. 

While a few of his cast and crew members came from as far away as New York, Ball says the majority are local or from Phoenix. Heather Swaim and Laine Murphy lead the list of Greater Prescott performers featured in Horse Camp.

Ball says Prescott Center for the Arts was a “huge help” in holding auditions to find young actors for the 10 child roles in the script. 

He has spent more than a decade in the industry and through his production company, Patrick Ball Media, is getting ready to release a TV movie, Tick Tock, early this fall. He also directed C-Bar, an hourlong outlaw-themed Western available on Amazon Prime. 

Patrick Ball Media also offers video production services to outside clients.

Once Horse Camp is completed, Ball says he may well go back to ranching, as he often does between projects.

“You rebuild your spirit and your strength back. And in those downtimes I’ll usually do a lot of ranch work. It’s healthy. It’s fun. It’s therapeutic. You know, keeps you in shape.”