‘Western Sol’ will be a cinematic first when it’s live-streamed on August 21st.
When the Moon completely covers the Sun on August 21, cameras will be rolling across the US. But newsreels and Snapchat stories aren’t going to be the only graphic evidence of this year’s total eclipse: Slackline Films and filmmakers Austin Glass and Ben Strickland are taking full advantage of this rare phenomenon, having timed the filming of their new live short, Western Sol, so that it will take place during the exact moment the stunning natural wonder will occur.
Since this rare event will be virtually unobservable outside the US, it’s only right that (as hinted in its title) the short will take the form of that quintessentially American genre: the Western. The eclipse’s path will actually only be visible in 15 states, but the team behind Western Sol want to make the event a universally inclusive, instantly shareable moment for people around the world — hence the live-streaming.
As expected, the moment the sun goes dark will play a pivotal role in the film. When a band of outlaws intimidate an honest rancher into robbing a bank on their behalf, everything looks set to go the bad guys’ way — until a mysterious “opportunity” presents a chance for the innocent man to “turn the tables on the outlaws”. No prizes for guessing what that might be.
Although Western Sol is the first to use an eclipse in a live-streamed movie, the filmmakers behind the 1961 Biblical movie Barabbas made use of that year’s solar eclipse in Italy for the filming of its crucifixion scene. If the vibe of Barabbas’ usage of the eclipse is anything to go by, I think the moment Western Sol’s day turns black will feel more than a little eerie.
Taking advantage of real-life events is an inspired creative move, since it capitalizes on the ready-made atmospheric feel of the moment. This doesn’t always have to be celestially related, though. When Jack Nicholson heard about a protest at a college campus near the Oregon set of his directorial debut, Drive, He Said, the filming of a riot scene in the movie was moved to the actual site of the demonstration, bolstering the ‘70s counterculture energy of the film (ethically, this move was iffy, since Nicholson shot without permission).
Similarly, for Medium Cool, Haskell Wexler actually orchestrated the movie’s filming schedule so that it would coincide with the 1968 Democratic National Convention (which was also the actual backdrop of the movie’s plot), because it was deemed likely to inspire a riot. The prediction came true, and the movie’s climax owes much of its frantic feel and sense of documentary to its backdrop of a real protest. Western Sol is taking less of a gamble, since the eclipse comes complete with a NASA guarantee. In fact, in the movie’s filming location of north-eastern Wyoming, the spectacle will be visible for close to the maximum time of 2 minutes and 40 seconds, making it the perfect place for Western Sol’s filmmakers to take full advantage of the phenomenon’s cinematic potential.
Of course, filming a scene during a real event has another advantage: it saves on production expenses. Slackline Films is already financing Western Sol “out of pocket,” so filming a natural eclipse is the logical solution to avoiding hefty CGI costs.
Economic motivations have been inspiring filmmakers to take advantage of things that were going to happen anyway for years. Countless movies have used real sports events as the stage for their action, coopting the tension of the match and saving thousands on extras, for example. The final game of Jerry Maguire was filmed during a real matchup between the Cardinals and the Cowboys, My Best Friend’s Wedding filmed at an actual Comiskey Park game, and Ferris Bueller and friends watched real baseball at Wrigley Field in 1985. Chicago’s Von Steuben Day parade of the same year was also partly used as the backdrop for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s memorable parade scenes, while the filming of The Day of the Jackal’s attempted assassination scene caused mass confusion during the real Bastille Day celebration it was filmed in when some members of the public mistook actors in costume for actual gendarmes and attempted to assist in their fictional arrests.
Western Sol is being filmed in an imitation ghost town with a skeleton crew, though, so filming should be free from gaffes of this nature. The authentic event at its heart is also much more visually striking and historically rare than a sports game, making this innovative production the standout of its crop.
Western Sol will be live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook at approximately 12:25pm EDT on August 21st and will also be available to view online after the eclipse.
Related Topics: Westerns