We take a look at the Western Genre. Learn the steps to creating your very own western video as we examine how to shoot it, edit it and stylize it.
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The good old wild, Wild West is the type of genre that combines elements of everything else out there: drama, action, and even comedy. And this time we’re gonna show you how to make your very own Western-themed video. First we’ll dive into the history and define the Western. Well also take a look at the unique aspects of the style and Western feel. Then we will example some Western POV shooting techniques. And last we’ll look at the editing and making scenes feel more dramatic.
The Western is a genre that centers around stories that play out primarily in the later half of the 19th century in what became the Western United States, also known as the American Old West. The story is often built around characters defending a town from outlaws and bandits, or characters entering a town to free it from the bad guys. Western characters are often depicted as semi-nomadic wanderers who wear a common costume and ride between dusty towns and cattle ranches on faithful steeds and attempt to save the day.
Since the first actual narrative film ever made, The Great Train Robbery in 1903, the Western is the first true genre that caught fire since the birth of film in the early 1900s, combining elements of action, drama, and adventure to enthrall the audience. By the late 1930s its popularity skyrocketed due to the many films of John Ford, who primarily used John Wayne as his main star.
When it comes to creating Westerns there are many different ways to tell your story to the audience. Some of the many subgenres include classical Westerns, which generally follows the original blueprint of Westerns created during the silent film era and the late 1930s, usually featuring characters in the role of nomadic-style warriors that would defend the honor and residence of a town, leading up to a final duel that came in the form of an action-based shootout.
Contemporary Westerns center around the typical Old West themes to tell their stories, such as the rebellious antihero, gunfights, and deserted landscapes, but they generally use more contemporary American settings. They can still take place in the American West and center around the same progression of the Old West mentality.
The spaghetti Western is a type of Western that features more action than contemporary and classical Westerns and usually moves its story through the violence that plays out onscreen rather than the characters’ dialogue. This genre emerged during the 1960s and 1970s in Italy and was originally titled ItaloWesterns. The protagonists are generally more steeped in motivations for revenged and developed around more selfish means than the typical classical Western.
The style of the common Western usually revolves around the protagonist either defending the town against the antagonist and a group of outlaws or entering a town to eliminate the antagonist and the major threats to the town. Now this means that there is a lot of shooting that happens outdoors. Two problems generally occur when shooting outside. First off, the sun can create a silhouette of your subject which can ruin the shot, and number two, the sun can also wash out the subject because of how bright it is. The simple solutions here are to use reflectors and diffusors. A reflector will catch the light and bounce it to an area that is buried in shadows, while a diffusor can be used to dampen the light and take away the levels of brightness to eliminate the washing out of important facial feature of the actors in the scene. If you do not have these tools, you can always use a sunshade for a car window as a reflector, and as far as a diffusor, a thin bed sheet can do just fine. If all else fails, shoot close to the shade to block out the power of the sun.
Shooting Westerns is defined by how many intense moments pass to build the anticipation for the violence to come. This means it’s a good idea to grab long shots that play out over a period of time to feel more dramatic to the audience. This adds intensity to the final moments of the shootout by setting up how the characters engage beforehand. For example, the better the stare down, the better the shootout feels because the audience’s anticipation levels are raised.
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Another ideal way to shoot a scene for a Western is taking the point of view of the characters or weapons during the action.
One of the primary aspects of the Western is the duel or final showdown between the sheriff and the outlaw or the main character and the bad guys. This is where the intensity of the moment comes into play and builds the anticipation for the audience. Take the shots that were used to add the intensity and let them play out. There’s no need for quick cutting here. You want to draw out the time because in the end, this is what’s going to draw out the anticipation.
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Westerns have been around using elements of drama, action, and adventure since the birth of film. Now it’s up to all of you to combine all these elements when creating your very own Westerns from the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is go out and shoot it.
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