Joe Camp, film writer, producer, director, author, passionate speaker, and the man behind the canine superstar Benji believes that anything is possible if you work hard enough and trust in yourself. He was told by industry “experts” not to bother with the original Benji film; that it wouldn’t work. He proved the experts wrong and now, after five Benji movies, he’s at it again with his best selling books that are turning the traditional thinking about horses on its head. The Soul of a Horse – Life Lessons from the Herd is a National Best Seller in its seventeenth printing. Its sequel Born Wild is an Amazon #1 Best Seller and was a #1 Hot New Release.
Camp ignored industry “experts” who said the original Benji movie would never work. He raised the money from private sources to produce the film, but, when completed, the movie was turned down by every major film distributor in Hollywood. Camp and his partner Ed Vanston had to form their own distribution company and release the picture themselves worldwide from their offices in Dallas, with Camp personally developing the marketing strategy, writing advertising copy and press releases, and supervising each and every booking. In spite of the many obstacles, Variety reported the picture was the #3 grossing movie of the year.
“Many have called The Soul of a Horse the ultimate love story,” Joe says, “because we were six months into horses before I discovered that Kathleen – my lawyer wife – had been deathly afraid of them from the beginning. Her prior experience with horses, before us, was, in her own words: “from the ground looking up.” Four trail rides as a teenager, on a horse named Jack. She was dumped all four times. Unbeknown to her at the time, Jack had also dumped a jet fighter pilot. Those were her last times on a horse until she gave me a surprise birthday trail ride. I had no idea that she was petrified throughout the entire six hours. And the next six months. This truly became a story of supreme sacrifice driven by unconditional love.”
Monty Roberts, author of the New York Times #1 Bestseller The Man Who Listens to Horses , and world renowned clinician, said, “Imagine how inadequate it makes me feel to realize how recently Joe came into horses. The man is a natural when it comes to understanding how animals tick and a genius at telling us their story. The Soul of a Horse is a must read for those who love animals of any species.”
Camp has written, produced and directed seven theatrical motion pictures (including all of the Benji movies) cumulatively grossing well over the equivalent of $600 million in today’s dollars, making him one of the most successful independent filmmakers of all time.
In addition to The Soul of a Horse – Life Lessons from the Herd and Born Wild – The Journey Continues, Joe has written 11 additional books about horses, three novels from his own screenplays, the inspirational non-fiction book God Only Knows, a dog training book, and several children’s books.
In advance of release of the 2004 film Benji Off the Leash, Joe and his floppy-eared star traveled the nation for months, appearing on television, radio, in newspapers and magazines, promoting the film while passionately making a case for Hollywood to “clean up” their family films, and extolling the values of adopting pets from shelters. “This time around,” Joe says, “it’s all about proving that you can put food on the table and, at the same time, make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. It’s about living life with purpose, on purpose.”
When Camp struck out across the country in the Fall of 2001 to find the new Benji in an animal shelter, media flocked to follow him around (See The Search for Benji Video). The American Humane Association had reported that the original Benji’s rescue from a shelter had caused more than one million adoptions. Camp wanted to recreate that model. Local and network television, radio and newspapers covered the search, with the ultimate selection being a feature on ABC’s Primetime Thursday . The search and Benji’s new movie generated more than one billion media exposures for the efforts of shelters and rescue groups all across the nation.
One of Joe’s favorite pastimes is working with the Piney Woods School in Mississippi. This historically black boarding school educates mostly high-risk kids from families below the poverty level, yet usually sends 100% of its graduates to college, many to some of the best colleges and universities in the country. “We are very proud of the things we’ve accomplished for these kids. And the rewards are the greatest.”
Joe is also on the board of trustees of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. “Mike Arms, the Center’s president is the most amazing animal advocate I’ve ever met,” Joe says.
Even with all the accomplishments and media exposure, Camp is still in awe of his own success. “Inside, I’m still a kid sitting in a dark theater in Little Rock, Arkansas, watching Disney’s ‘Song of the South’ or reading books like the Black Stallion with happy tears rolling down my cheeks,” he says. “To be able to bring that kind of happiness to others is very special.”
About his new book God Only Knows Joe says, “My fondest hope is that what you find here might inspire you to follow your own dreams; to strike out against the odds; to adventure into uncharted waters with passion, honesty, and integrity; and to leave the world a better place for the effort. This, then, would be my most treasured achievement.”