Shooting the beach scene that director Ashley Avis first envisioned when she was developing the Black Beauty screenplay presented a logistical puzzle. Given the tight production schedule, both predawn and sunset shoots would have to happen the same day.
“The day we decided to shoot the beach at dawn and dusk required two units, but we only had one horse team,” Avis says. “The opening of the film is Beauty running on the beach. In my mind, I wanted it to be before the sun rose. It’s light enough to have some ambience, but before the sun crests.”
Avis left for the set at 3 a.m.; horse trainer Cody Rawson-Harris and the horse team had gotten there an hour earlier. “I remember the southwest wind coming off the Atlantic Ocean,” Rawson-Harris says. “We had to get out on the beach and start doing the runs. We already had it set up with the horse running and the drone when Ashley arrived.”
The day’s agenda also included a sunset scene. “I really wanted to get Mackenzie [Foy] with her arms outstretched as if she could fly [riding Black Beauty] with the sun as that molten ball,” Avis says. “South African sunsets are so spectacular. At the same time, I wanted to capture the big drone shots. You can’t shoot that all at once. What we did in sunset, in theory, we should have done at the beginning of the day too.”
There were two portions of the beach — one public, one private — roughly 20 minutes apart due to the terrain. “The private beach had more curvature to it and was really picturesque,” Avis says. “It was very sequestered. You can feel the ancient energy of it. We had one unit there at sunset with the drone. We had our stunt-double actress, Cheyenne de Beer, who was brilliant, riding Spirit.”