Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Western Sol

Western Sol (2017)
Dir: Benjamin J. Strickland
Staring S. Joe Downing, Phillip Wheeler

Rancher James Avery (Downing) is forced to rob a bank by a gang of bandits led by outlaw Davy Collins (Wheeler).

First, here's a link to the livestream of the film, which starts at around 5:00:

On August 21, 2017 there was a lunar eclipse that crossed the country. It's a rare event, and it makes a lot of sense that some enterprising filmmakers would take advantage of this occasion to make something unique. But the only one that I had heard about was the crew that was making this short film, Western Sol. 

As someone that's been on film sets before, there's any number of things that could go wrong when doing any shot, from actors forgetting a line to technical issues ranging from from small like a camera needing a new battery to something huge like a prop or costume being damaged. So when someone decides to attempt filming something where they only have one shot to get it right, is a major task. Especially one where elements beyond your control are a factor, like nature are a factor. So the fact that these filmmakers where able to create this film is an accomplishment.

There's a moment of two where someone stumbles on a line, but that's to be expected anytime you are watching a live performance. Really the biggest problem that the film has is that the back half is a black screen where people are yelling and you can’t see anything but an occasional muzzle flash. It’s unfortunate that it is this way, but it’s an example of how the gimmick of shooting during the eclipse can back fire on the production. I can understand not wanting to have lights being used off-screen, since that would defeat the purpose of filming during the actual eclipse, but at the same time it hurts the narrative since as a viewer you can’t really make sense of what is happening.

The story is a simple one, about a rancher being forced to rob a bank by a group of outlaws.  There’s something to be said about the story being about a good man being darkened by the outlaws, similar to how the sun is being darkened by the moon, but really the film is too short to go into much about it. The actors handle the material well, with Phillip Wheeler’s Davy Collins getting the bulk of the dialogue, and as the villain of the piece getting the showiest role.

Overall I’d call this an interesting failure. It’s notable that the crew accomplished their goal, but at the same time you can’t ignore that the back half of the short is incomprehensible due to the darkness during the totality of the eclipse. If they are able to brighten it a bit so you can see what’s going on it would probably help the film.

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