James Kleinert Biography

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“My interest in documenting American’s wild horses began while working on my film ‘Spirit Riders’ about the birth of an American Indian peace movement, as well as learning about the removal of these beautiful wild animals while living in Wyoming,” says Kleinert. “I’m excited for the opportunity to share my five year journey on Documentary Channel, and I hope this film will not only educate viewers about the disturbing, massive removal of our horses but to inspire change to the future of these precious animals.”


James Kleinert was not your normal, everyday kid. When other kids were throwing snowballs and sledding, he was experimenting with aerial ski jumping in his back yard in rural Wisconsin. No one in his family could quite understand his drive and intent to train for this “dangerous sport” except for his grandfather, who was of Seneca American Indian heritage and understood the trials and tests of young boys. From this simple start, James Kleinert became a World Cup competitor in freestyle aerials, and a top action, environmental and Native American filmmaker.

James Kleinert the Filmmaker:

Today, James Kleinert continues to release film projects dealing with Native American, environmental and action sport themes from his company, Moving Cloud Productions. His works include:

Wild Horse Spirit, is airing on the National PBS show Natural Hero’s and recently won an Emmy. Featuring actor Viggo Mortenson (Lord of the Rings, Hidalgo) the film educates and moves audiences to take immediate action to save America’s wild horses. (7 minutes)

Spirit Riders: Riding To Mend the Sacred Hoop, an award-winning documentary that Kleinert worked on over a period of ten years. Currently showing a 15-minute clip on HBO.com, Spirit Riders is the companion documentary film to Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. Capturing the ruggedness, beauty and raw emotions of the spirit rides of the Lakota Indians as they ride in the four directions on horseback, Kleinert shares their quest to raise consciousness and spread a message of peace and unity throughout all nations on Mother Earth. The film features actor Viggo Mortenson Lord of the Rings, Hidalgo), narration by Peter Coyote and Floyd Red Crow Westerman, with a soundtrack featuring the works of Native American Grammy-winner Bill Miller, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen and singer/songwriter Lauren Monroe, Keith Secola, Robert Meribal, Stumpa, Peter Buffet, and Medicine Dream. (HBO documentary films has requested a 60 minute cut down from the 80 minutes feature film).

Athletes Profiles, created from the athletes’ perspective, this film shares the athleticism and stories of top skiing, snowboarding and disabled Olympians as they compete and talk about their sport and lives. (60 minutes)

The Michael Larson Story, tells the tragic and inspiring story of former US Freestyle Ski Team member Mike Larson, whose journey from a glamorous World Cup lifestyle lead to a life of serious drug addiction and crime (armed robbery), culminating in seven years in prison and complete rehabilitation. The film has been shot currently seeking funding to finish, have a 5-minute trailer available.

Avalanche Ski Patrol, filmed on the edge of danger, reveals the mindset and actions of the Women and Men ski patrollers at Snowbird whose harrowing job is to unleash the raw power of avalanches for the safety of the ski area’s snowboarders and skiers. (60 minutes need finishing funds).

Wyoming Wranglers, tells the aesthetic beautiful story of cowboys and cowgirls working their heart-felt craft on the Triangle X Ranch in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo. ( 80 minutes need finishing funds).

Passage to Tahiti, shares the voyage of young extreme skiers from Jackson Hole, Wyo. who are given the opportunity to sail a yacht from San Francisco to the mystical island of Tahiti, where they experience native cultures and local rites of passage. (60 minutes need finishing funds).

Currently in Production:

Horse Medicine: A documentary film exploring the profound human horse relationship. Filmed on dramatic locations throughout the American West, this film is a stunning visual masterpiece.

Carve/Life in the No Fall Zone: Carve. . . Capturing Unique Big Mountain Skiing with a focus on education and consciousness. Carve documents historic ski mountaineering descents accomplished during the record-breaking season of 2008 in spectacular Telluride Colorado. Conditions this year allowed for multiple descents of the ominous West Face of Little Wasatch Peak. This face which can be seen from downtown Telluride, has rarely been skied and requires the full compliment of mountaineering skills. When local climber and skier Joshua Geetter broke open the face for the purpose of completing a descent of "The Grandfather Couloir" which had swept his partner 800 feet in a 2003 epic, James Kleinert had the camera rolling.

Featuring top local mountaineers, extreme skiers and snowboarders with a focus on the heart and soul of ski mountaineering, Carve delivers aesthetic action driven footage combined with illuminating interviews and background story

James Kleinert the Skier:

Kleinert built his first real ski jumps at Tyrol Basin, Wis. Tyrol would let Kleinert and his friends build aerial jumps, and they would perform shows for local crowds. At age 15, he joined Tyrol’s ski school and taught skiing.

As Kleinert learned to master the icy, frigid slopes of Wisconsin, he knew in his heart that he was destined to train and pursue his dreams of World Cup freestyle skiing. At the age of 18, he packed his bags and headed to the Rockies. There, he found Park Smalley and the Great Western Freestyle Skiing Team in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

In 1984, Kleinert qualified for the US Ski Team as an Aerial Acrobatic Specialist. These were exciting times. Freestyle skiing was slowly becoming an Olympic sport, and Kleinert would travel to Europe and perform in aerial ski shows while competing in World Cup events.

Kleinert consistently finished in the top ten in World Cup competition, performing triple twisting back flips from 1984-1992. His grasp of Olympic gold slipped away after he suffered two complete joint reconstructions. However, in celebration of his skiing life, Kleinert filmed and produced Living It, and won the Best New Filmmaker of the Year at the 1994 International Ski Film Festival.

As manager of the US Aerial Training Center at Bear Hollow, Park City, Utah for a year, Kleinert produced competitions, acrobatic thrill shows and the live show The History of Freestyle Skiing. He coached for Snowbird, Deer Valley and the National Sports Foundation Freestyle Skiing Programs, and devoted many hours to teaching and training kids and young adults in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

After studying film and theater at the University of Utah, Kleinert combined it with his acrobatic skills, working as an actor and stuntman in national TV shows and feature films. He became a member of the Screen Actors Guild and moved to Los Angeles in 1995. While performing a stunt on location in 1996, he suffered a major injury and found himself back home in Wisconsin undergoing multiple surgeries and many months of rehabilitation.

During his recovery, Kleinert rediscovered his American Indian heritage, and began attending traditional American Indian ceremonies where he experienced healing and spiritual insight. Touched deeply and inspired by the few remaining Traditionalists, Kleinert began documenting contemporary American Indian life.

“We’re pleased with the opportunity to bring James Kleinert’s compelling work on the state of our diminishing wild horse population to a primetime television audience for the first time,” says Tom Neff, founder and CEO, Documentary Channel. “With the help of several talented entertainment stars, Kleinert’s film is a remarkable effort to bring this issue to the forefront of the American consciousness, and we believe our viewers will be astounded by his dramatic footage.”