I thought it would be fun to do a quick little post about some of the Westerns I love the most and how they are influencing me. To start off with perhaps my favorite (non-Leone) Spaghetti western is Sergio Corbucci’s “Navajo Joe” (1966).
Despite having only 6/10 stars on IMDb, Navajo Joe (1966), I think is a B-Movie masterpiece, staring Burt Reynolds. This is a violent and vengeful daydream of a movie that at times doesn’t make very much sense, except for when Joe is jumping off of things raining death from above. There is a certain sense of fun to this film, it’s a quality I want imbued in my piece. I think if you’re too serious all the time tension isn’t elevated and it just becomes monotonous. Where I sorta wanna swing the pendulum from fun to depressing, Navajo Joe kinda just wants to say in the fun zone of things, even during scenes which quite honestly, have the potential to be amazingly tense. For example towards the end, just when he’s being tortured and the town has been taken over – that’s the perfect place for the film to have some really suspenseful scenes. Instead you just end up kinda waiting for him to break out and save the day. Thematically too there’s a similarity in terms of Abe and Joe. Both are outsiders, living on the outskirts of town and neither has fully earned the trust of the townspeople.
I could go on about other westerns like The Hateful 8, For A Few Dollars More, Seven Men From Now and Ulzana’s Raid I think there are other things influencing my thinking right now. I wanna talk for a moment about HBO’s “The Leftovers”.
There is an emotional reality captured in the show that I think grounds it and should be the text book for all other writing in terms of grounding your story with characters who are genuinely feeling and thinking. I can only hope to achieve this, and after reviewing the script for the pilot several times and going over the show more than once I’m starting to see patterns in how they construct this and it’s a technique I’d like to work on myself. Essentially, they take about 5-10 minutes every now and then, so about 5 or ten pages, maybe more, maybe less, for one character (normally just to one other but not always) to monologue. The monologues tend to be very specific and focus on previous events. This fills in backstory, reveals character and generally provides the psychological ground work for why a character makes a decision later on in the series or episode. I’ve a technique similar to this, I’m not sure to what effect, with a scene between Anne and Tully, which justifies and informs why Tully gets so mad at Abe later on in the Bandit scene. I couldn’t say if this works very well at the moment, but the intention is there to use this type of device to give my characters more grounding. Especially considering this is a pilot and by the end of the episode, what I really need is for you to fully understand and empathize with the characters.