Ghuan Featherstone, Calvin Gray, and Fatpack at DocNYC Premiere (Courtesy Photo)

Award-winning director and film maker, Brett Fallentine, is a Northern California native who dedicated more than seven years to learn, film, and connect with the rich history of the Compton Cowboys in his documentary, “Fire on the Hill: The Cowboys of South Central L.A.”

The film is being released by PBS to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday. Also, it’s a South L.A. story that highlights the area’s Black cowboys and the positive imprint this group is making on the community.

Fallentine explained that his film, “Fire on the Hill,” counters the negative impression that media has about Compton and South Central Los Angeles.

“One of the biggest reasons why this type of story is important is [because it is] a story that is positive and not about gang culture or violence, but an equestrian culture doing good for the community,” noted Fallentine, a Master’s degree graduate of USC’s Cinematic Arts Program. While earning his MFA, he served as  James Cameron’s assistant editor for the movie “Avatar.”

Related Links:

‘Fire on the Hill’ Review – The Hollywood Reporter

The Lost History of the Last Cowboys of Compton Los Angeles Magazine (

South central, LA | Burn the Breeze – American Trails (

Fire on the Hill – TV 30 – YouTube

After finishing school, Fallentine worked as a video journalist and soon heard about cowboys riding in South Central. Intensely interested, he immersed himself in the culture to educate others about the forgotten past of the African American cowboy, and the prevalence of their impact.

In 2020, Fallentine released his first feature-length documentary on Amazon Prime. The film received several awards and resulted in the founding of the non-profit organization Urban Saddles, which provides equine therapy and training to inner-city youth in the South Los Angeles community.

Fire on the Hill: The Cowboys of South Central L.A. Movie Poster (Courtesy Photo)

“Those stories don’t get a light shown on them, not only from what I saw but it’s impactful from different directions. Outsiders or people who are unfamiliar of the area avoid it. I have been a product of that growing up in the 90s,” said Fallentine, who began his career working on “Star Wars: Revenge of the Stith” while being mentored by George Lucas.

The “Fire on the Hill” documentary follows three men, Ghuan Featherstone, Calvin Gray, and Chris Byrd, in their evolutionary journey of self-discovery, redefining moments, and salvaging tradition after a structure fire destroyed The Hill Stable in 2012.

Featherstone, who wrote and performed some of the music in the film, is a veteran that embarks on a quest to find The Hill’s absentee landlord while trying to rebuild the stable. Gray’s passion for riding drives his storyline in the film. Byrd, an exceptional bull rider, is pursuing a career in the rodeo circuit in a predominately White space.

The documentary also acknowledges Charlie Sampson, the first world champion bull rider from Watts. A product of The Hill Stable, Sampson was riding 30 to 35 bulls a month at the height of his career. He established the Cowboy Charitable Foundation and in 1996, was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

South Central (Courtesy Photo)

The film also underscores how African Americans played a vital role in shaping the cowboy culture. The word cowboy initially applied only to Black people working on ranches, while their White counterparts were dubbed as cow hands. Unfortunately, Hollywood skewed the representation of the West and the cowboys that inhabited it.

Taking root decades ago in South Central, riding culture has stood the test of time. Through an outsider’s lens, unique storytelling, and impeccable camera work, Fallentine has captured the true essence of community, comradery, and the many challenges that buried this history.

The film team traveled around the country to show the documentary and during their time Fallentine recalled, “South L.A. was always a place that was shown to me as a scary place. It took an interest in this culture to breakthrough those barriers that were set up. That is very important, for outsiders and for the people living in the community who we interviewed.

Chris Byrd (Courtesy Photo)

“When we were in festivals and traveling through America, each location we reached out to organizations and schools to discuss perceptions about South L.A., western culture, rodeo culture, and compare them to people living in urban environments who think a certain way about the people and the area they live in,” he said

“We were able to use the film to have these open dialogues, and that’s why we’re excited to work with PBS to broadcast us on so many stations to open the world and the nation to these types of stories to continue the dialogue.”

“Fire on The Hill” has been used in high schools, universities, and community groups to spark conversations and explore deeper understanding in communities across the country.

View Fire on the Hill: The Cowboys of South Central L.A trailer on YouTube and tune into PBS or the WORLD Channel starting June 16, to watch the full documentary.


Chris Byrd behind the scenes (Courtesy Photo)