Rogue One Thoughts

Rogue One is the movie I wanted to see in 1977 after I saw Star Wars. As a twelve year old kid, I was more attracted to the war in Star Wars than the Force in Star Wars. I wanted to see a war picture, instead of mystical Jedi Knights. I believe that director, Gareth Edwards wanted that movie too and it took him thirty years to grow up and make it. If you felt the same way about Star Wars, you’ll love Rogue One. It’s all that an then some.

If you prefer the numbered films with their lighter fair and their Skywalker family angst, you might not like Rogue One as much. This film is dirty, cruel and many of the stars die. Just like any good war movie, sometimes the hero’s sacrifice means more than a happily ever after ending. I loved the grit, the rain, the new planets and the confusion of battles. Set in the Star Wars universe with laser guns and starships, this kind of action is what I live for. I liked it so much, I’ve written an entire SF series of novels about military members in a galactic war. So yes, Gareth Edwards and I were on the same page for this one.

If you’ve never seen a Star Wars picture, don’t start here. This is a story set in that universe but it’s not the main story. Watch the numbered movies for that. If you don’t like war pictures, you might not care for this one either.

This movie featured more than one bad guy too. In fact two of them play each other to the death and I loved that plot aspect in Rogue One. In fact I used a similar bit of plotting in my novel, Starforgers. The two villains who are fighting each other as much as the Rebels are Krennic and Tarkin. I wasn’t bothered by the CGI for Tarkin. My mind knew it was fake, but I was vested in the characters enough to just go with it. I can’t say that for Leia though. Her CGI cameo was a bit Uncanny Valley but it was her smile that I found out of place. Knowing how many people just died to get her those plans and all she can do is smirk? She should have been pissed. That look she had suggested she knew how it would end in the next film.

I loved the Marvin inspired K2SO android too. It has all the best lines without stooping to the tomfoolery of C-3PO in the prequels. That droid’s outcome moved me more than the human’s outcome. Which is saying a lot. Probably that I’m a Vulcan.

I loved the diverse cast because once again, war movie. What foxhole doesn’t have a mix of people from all walks of life in it? I also liked that the lead was not a super likable kid coming to grips with her maturity. Again, this is not about or for kids, this is an adult Star Wars movie.

As for the battle scenes in space, I loved them. I wanted more starfighter action but this film is not about pilots it’s about special ops and ground teams, so I’ll let that slide. Loved the inclusion of Red and Gold Leaders. As for the new ships, I liked the Imperial transport better than the U-Wing. But both ship designs fit the universe. Oh, and the starship smash ’em up derby was awesome. Something they just couldn’t do with models very easily. For all the hype about the new TIE fighter, we see it in the film for like five seconds. Pity. Once again I’m showing my bias for starfighters.

Speaking of starfighters. WARNING: NERD OUT TIME – Did you see the black camouflage on the Partisan X-Wings at Saw’s fortress? They are in the Art of Rogue One book and I dearly wished we could have seen them fly. If I were modeling an X-Wing, I’d do one of those.


With only having seen this film once to this writing, I couldn’t find any gaping plot holes or things that didn’t make any sense and took me out of the movie. Solid screenwriting. I’m looking forward to more viewings over the holidays to take in more details. I’m well aware of the huge discrepancies in the footage used for the trailers not appearing in the final film and all the re-shoots that took place. All I can say is that what they wound up with was good, whatever they were going to do, would be nice to know in the Director’s Commentary track for the DVD.




The Alien Minute Podcast

If you’ve been following this blog you may already be aware that I used to be a film maker. I studied film in college and worked on numerous commercial spots and low budget features. Whenever I find a podcast that looks at a film from a technical creation aspect, I dig into it. Lately I’ve been enjoying the hell out of The Alien Minute Podcast. The hosts are both working film makers and they bring on industry guests to help analyze the movie Alien, one minute at a time.


The format of this podcast is freely lifted from The Star Wars Minute, but the hosts talk more about the art and craft of filming more than just fan boy gushing. Each episode they look at one minute of the film. They talk about character motivations and dialogue and music and camera angles and lighting – all the stuff. The best way to follow their podcast is to have a copy of Alien handy and watch the minute they talk about right before listening to their podcast. That way the film is fresh in your mind and you can recall what they are talking about when they explain the director’s genius.

I saw Alien in the theater with my best friend when we were 14. We had both read the novelization before seeing the film because we were Alan Dean Foster fans, and we wanted to know when to duck behind our seats. I spent most of that first viewing behind the seat in front of me. It wasn’t until I was in film school that I really looked at the whole movie and realized how completely awesome it is.

If you’re into how films are made, and really love the movie Alien, you need to be following this podcast. It’s top notch.

download    download-1

John Ingle and Mitch Brian from The Alien Minute Podcast.

Bike Race Shoot, Day One

Our third short film started shooting today at the local grade school. We shot for about two hours and then broke for ice cream. We managed to complete three scenes from our movie titled: Bike Race.

In a nod to J.J. Abrams, we sent out a G+ post of our slate and billed it the first picture from the set of Bike Race.

But the truth is, we’re far less secretive than the Star Wars 7 folks. Below is the slate in action being held by my AC – Spencer.

Here’s the world famous DP doing his camera stuff. We shot on the Canon 60D with our two prime lenses – 28 mm and 50 mm Olympus and went with ND4 and a T stop of 11. The footage came out pretty clear and crisp considering the nice, sunny day we had to work with.

Below is a close up of the camera set up for the opening shot. I was using our French Flag to shield the view screen as the sun was behind my back. The camera is mounted on a pair of offset rods and a cage. We did not use the follow focus for any of the shots as the one we have, won’t work with our short lenses.

The trickiest shot of the day was a hand held tracking shot through the green bars of a fence. I just ran along the fence letting the low, tight shot create the needed tension of a close race.

Our shot list was done a week before using my phone camera and Celtx software. We just printed it out and followed it as closely as possible.

The final picture from the shoot is a screenshot from the film. Both racers are framed by the overhang of the school.

When your crew and talent are all under age 14, there is only so much you can do in one day. We endured fractured egos, inattentiveness, water sprinklers and rain clouds to get our first four scenes filmed. As the only adult on set, I had to be more councilor than director.

Still Lens to Cine Lens

I have two older still camera lenses left over from my SLR days. I proudly used Olympus cameras and lenses back then. These days, I use a Canon DSLR principally because it has really awesome video capabilities for the money. But I only have one kit lens for the Canon 60D, an 18-135mm zoom. It’s perfect for taking pics of my son playing baseball or at a band concert but it’s not really set up for using as a film lens.

Never one to let things go to waste, I decided to convert my old Olympus primes into cinema lenses giving them new life and my Canon some great new glass. When it comes to making movies, I’m a really old school film guy. Which means I shot with 8mm, Super-8, 16mm and even 35mm film cameras back in the day. So I know a think or two about filmmaking in general and the camera department in particular.

Cinema lenses are basically the same glass as their still camera friends, they just have modifications that make them easier to use with movie cameras. There are four things that need to be changed or modified on a regular prime lens to make it useful for cinema work. Common mount, follow focus ring, declicked f-stop ring and a common filter adapter and lens cap size.

I first ordered an Olympus OM to Canon mount ring for each lens. You can just get the one adapter but then you have to have OM lens butt caps and Canon ones in your bag. If you make all your lenses have the same caps then you save some space and make things easier to find in a rush. Same thing goes for the talent facing side of the lens but we’ll get to that. So order up some Canon lens butt caps while your at it.

The next thing we need to do is de-click the iris. Most still lenses will make a clicking sound when you change the f-stop setting on them. This is not useful for film work because sometimes you need to change the iris on the fly during a shot. The sound recorder will pick up the clicking noise and it can ruin a take. So we open up the lens and remove the tiny ball, in Olympus lenses and then put it back together again. Now the f-stop ring works smoothly and won’t be heard by anyone. Here is a not so easy to see video describing how to de-click an OM lens.

Cinema camera kits all have a follow focus wheel on them to allow for steady, repeatable shifts in focus during a take. These follow focus devices have common gears on them that mesh with a gear on the lens barrel and allow for smooth focus pulling. Because my primes were so tiny, I decided to go with flexible rubber rings that are attached to the lens barrel with zip ties.

The gear fits over the normal focus knobby area of the lens and keeps the barrel nice and sleek so it can be slid back in your lens bag with ease. The one draw back with this approach is that the distance scale on the lens is covered up. I’ll be looking into ways to adjust the gear so that this scale can be still be read because that is required when you measure out the distance from your lens to the talent. If I didn’t have any prime lenses and was going to have to purchase some older glass, I might choose to go with Nikkor lenses as I think they might be easier to convert.

The next think you want to do is look at having a common screw in filter size for all your cine lenses. I went with the biggest diameter lens I had, the Canon zoom and it had a 67mm diameter filter. Later on I realized that what I really needed was perhaps an 80mm common filter adapter. The reason for that is because the matte box that I’m hoping to get has a clamp that works with 80mm instead of using rods. So both of my primes have 67mm filter adapters for my ND filters of that diameter and then another adapter to get them out to 80mm for the Genus Tech Matte Box Lite kit.

I followed Caleb Pike’s lead and went with some cheap binocular covers in the 80mm size. I have five of them, enough for all of my lenses and a spare. Because lens caps grow legs and disappear.

Parts list:

1 Cordvision 67-80mm adapter ring

1 49mm to 67mm adapter ring

1 Canon Rear Lens Cap

1 OM to Canon EOS lens adapter ring

1 Wide Open lens gear with zip ties

1 Cheap rubber slip on lens cap from binoculars.

Do it yourself de-clicking or get someone to do it for you.

In the future I will get either 80mm filters or just use the matte box filter. I have no UV lens on the 28mm lens seen in the pictures so if you don’t have one, pick one of those up because accidents happen.


My Filming Kit

Since I’ve gotten back into filming with my kids, I’ve been slowly building up a kit to make that job easier. Some folks have wondered exactly what I have now and what I would recommend to someone who wants to put together their own filming kit. So this post is a show and tell for the equipment I now own or intend to own in the near future.

I don’t make money on the films that I make. Filming is a hobby for me. I don’t pour lots of money into my hobbies because I don’t get anything in return. Knowing this about me lets you understand where I’m coming from when I recommend a piece of equipment. I’m not going to get the best things money can buy, because I don’t make movies for a living. Knowing that, if you intend to go into this as a business and make money with your camera there are much better references for you out on the web. Some of my favorite people to keep tabs on are Caleb Pike and Dave Dugdale.


Why did I chose the Canon 60D? It was the best DSLR for filming that I could afford. You can still pick up a body and an 18-135mm kit lens for just under a grand. My intention is to use this as a still camera for documenting my life and a film camera for teaching my kids how to make movies. Their interest in film making may eventually go away, but it is something I went to school to learn and I will probably continue to make short films long after they leave the nest. I like the feel of the 60D and I like that it is widely supported in the accessory world of DSLR filming. Once again, there are better cameras and there are cheaper cameras. If I hadn’t found this model, I’d have settled for a Rebel T3i.


The camera cage is a foundation for building your film camera kit. It protects the sensor in your camera and it provides a mounting system that you can add to your basic camera to make it more functional. Usually they come with rods for mounting follow focus gears and matte boxes. I purchased the Neewer cage and it seems to be just fine for protecting the camera, but the rod mount is too close to the cage bottom. This means that the tightening lugs for the rods block the hole where the camera’s battery door drops down. When you have all this gear loaded up, the last thing you want to do is tear it apart to change a battery. So I’m going to be getting this rod supporter to add separation between the cage bottom and the rails. DP500 15mm Rail Rod Support

Follow Focus

In film, there are many times when you need to follow action by changing focus on the go. This is very hard to do when you are also operating the camera. Touching the lens barrel to guess focus is not an option. So you mount a gear box on the rails that put a knob off to the side of the rig. On bigger films, the Assistant Camera person pulls the focus during a take so the operator can focus on panning and tilting or what have you. Most follow focus kits are start at a hundred bucks and go up. When you get the cheaper ones you risk getting poorer quality in materials and lots of play in the gears. The one I have is pretty well made but does have some play that I don’t think I can lock down. So this is one area I should have spent a bit more money. The model I have is the Morros Follow Focus.

Matte Box

I have not purchased a matte box yet. It’s one of those things that would be nice to have, but you can get by without it or make due with simpler setups. Right now I use an articulated arm and an old piece of hard plastic for a French Flag. I mount the arm on top of the cage and I can adjust it as necessary to reduce lens flare. The box I’d like to get someday is this one from Red Star.

Battery Pack

The camera battery will last several hours but to get a backup battery will set you back $60. Get two and you’ve already spent what you might have spent in getting a battery system that will last all day. The Catclaw Dslr Rig Np-f970 mounts on rails behind your camera and with two, $20 batteries will give you power all day long. This baby is on my wish list for when I do longer shoots. So far, I’ve not had this need yet.

Hand Held Rigs

When you have to get off the sticks and go hand held you need a platform for holding all this gear comfortably. The best rig for that is the one from Cowboy Studio. I will be getting this shoulder mount sooner than later.

Sound Recording

I already had a decent digital sound recorder and mic combo in the Zoom H2. But I’d like to get the mic closer and leave the recorder near my camera. This means getting a shotgun microphone with all the trimmings. The Vidpro XM-88 looks like a great kit for the money. I can see this being a purchase sooner than later too. Plus you can just mount it to your cage and plug it into the camera for a run and gun portable solution. If you don’t have a digital audio recording device, add that to your list for recording stereo sound. The camera’s mic is mono and worthless. The Zoom H4 seems to be a good device or this TASCAM DR DR-60D Linear PCM Recorder.


Most cinematographers prefer a good set of prime lenses over zooms. I had some decent old SLR lenses from Olympus so I decided to use them for my primes. You can refit older lenses for cine use by adding things like mount adapters, filter step up rings and follow focus gears to them. I have some of this on order for my primes and when they come in I’ll show you what it all looks like. In the meantime you can see how to do this by watching Caleb Pike’s excellent video on converting older lenses.


I purchased a decent tripod early in my DSLR adventure. Davis and Sanford fluid head tripod. It’s solid and sturdy and not too big or too small for video work.  FM18 Fluid Video Head and the Davis & Sanford ProVista 7518 Tripod.

Below is my current setup. I have the Nexus 7 tablet mounted on a hot shoe gimble to the top of the cage. It has a mounting bracket with a tripod screw mount point on it. My French Flag is just an old piece of sturdy plastic.




Weekend Practice Film Syncing Sound

Syncing Sound is not easy, but it’s an essential film making skill. This Saturday we shot a few minutes of video of my two sons reading dialogue from one of my books. (Use what you have laying around, right?) We did a simple two light setup and had them sit at a card table in the garage/studio. Nothing fancy. We didn’t care about the “acting” or the lighting or really even what the shots looked like. The exercise was more editing than filming. But it turned out to be just as much of a learning experience to film as it no doubt will be to edit.

This was our first try at shooting with an external sound recorder. I used a Zoom X2 digital microphone/recording device. It was attached to a PVC tube which was mounted to a tripod with some clamps. A long headphone cord allowed someone to monitor the sound. We didn’t have any extra helpers for this, so we all pitched in where possible.

Screenshot at 08-41-00

You basically need three things to do this: a camera, a sound recorder/mic and a clapper board. We had all three and so why not see if we could do this? It only took about an hour to shoot, given how simple we kept things. Each boy recited some lines and we would cut them together in post. It all seems so simple when you start but things quickly got out of control.

I put together a shot list based on who was talking. So Spencer started, said a few lines and then Jack would say a few lines, back and forth for about seven shots. I decided to throw a curve into the plan and shoot all of Jack’s lines first and then change camera setups and do all of Spencer’s lines. This is how things are normally done because it reduces the amount of times you change camera setups. In TV production, each actor has his own camera and they are recorded at the same time. But on a movie set, you do one at a time.

Screenshot at 08-39-50

Even though I had a shooting script with the scenes marked per person talking, we forgot about it when we started shooting and marked our slate sequential and not in the order we shot it. This was our biggest mess up during filming. Aside from me forgetting to turn on the camera for our only wide angle shot at the beginning. *slaps forehead.

It took us a while to get used to the mechanics or process of recording sync sound. The director needs to be in control and call out each piece to make sure everyone executes in order. What we ended up with was something like this:

DIRECTOR: Roll Sound.
SOUND: Speed.
DIRECTOR: Roll Camera.
CAMERA: Rolling.
DIRECTOR: Mark it.
AC: Scene One, Take two *claps slate

This seemed to keep everyone on task and doing things in the right order. It took us all about three or four scenes to get this down pat. A couple of things we learned while shooting were as follows. First thing, the AC or clapper person must remain still after the slate is out of the scene. He can’t walk around or otherwise make sound of any kind. The second thing we learned was that whoever is monitoring the sound, has the power to call “Cut!” if he hears a car roll by or an airplane taking off.

Screenshot at 08-42-15

Technical specs of the shoot were as follows:  Camera – Canon 60D, ISO 400, 50mm 1.8 lens (which equates to something like 80mm with our cropped sensor), I was shooting at f 2.8. The camera was set for daylight, so the color was more yellow than it should have. I always forget to white balance before shooting. (old school film guy problems) We shot at 24 fps with the shutter at 180.

We have not started editing this footage yet as we are learning a new editing program, which I hope to do a post on sometime next week as we gain some experience with it. For the curious, the program is called Lightworks.

Shot Breakdown Film 3

This post will be very high on the film geek meter. If you don’t care about how movies are made, move along.

Shot One

Close Up of the Hero played by Spencer. The camera is mounted on a tripod and looking down at him, we are in the POV of his opponent who is taller than Spencer. The background is light colored and the lighting on his face is hard key from the left. This throws the opposite side of his face into shadow, which sets his face apart from the light background. This shot is nearly perfectly aligned. It could have slightly more headroom on Spencer. There was enough ambient light in the garage to not bother filling in the dark side of his face. The high key light adds to the drama and seriousness of the shot.


Shot Two

This is the opposing shot of the villain, played by Jack. He’s taller and more imposing, so the camera is lower looking up at him from the POV (Point Of View) of Spencer. Again we have high key from the sunlight outside. Again the background, while more interesting than with the plain wall behind Spencer, is also darker overall. Because – bad guy man! But we still give the shadowed side of his face a lighter background. This stuff is not by accident, it’s the way you light a dramatic film. The angle could be lower in this shot to accentuate his badness and greater height.

I actually was concerned you’d see the cameraman in his sunglasses, so I had Spencer stand right beside me. In the end, he’s not very visible and neither is the cameraman. Did you notice the bad guy is wearing darker colors than the good guy? That was a lucky coincidence. I didn’t plan that. But your subconscious knows it as you watch the film.


Shot Three

Two shot of the hero and the bad guy facing off. Here you see the height difference real good and there is a slight hesitation on the part of Spencer as they slide into view. Meanwhile, Jack is big and imposing and non-moving. Reinforcing the notion that he’s the heavy. The background should have been darker. This would separate their faces better from the noise of the background. Otherwise this is a pretty boring shot. The focus is on the racers and not the background, so having them in focus and the garage soft helps make them pop.


Shot Four

Now we cross over and are looking out into the glaring sun. This shot was exposed for the background, which causes the foreground to go into silhouette. Because the background is also way out of focus, we only focus on the two racers. This shot was carefully staged so that both boys would slide out of frame and I could rack focus the lens to the third boy standing in the driveway ready to flip the coin. It took us two takes to get the slide out and rack focus to work. Not too shabby. Many have pointed to this shot as the most memorable one in the film.


Shot Five

Coming out of the darkened garage, the racers blast past the camera. I went low with this shot for added dramatic flare. It would have been more awesome in wide screen! But getting the camera low, adds speed to the shot. We are thrust into the race at the start and it only gets faster as we go. Cutting as they have already started also adds to the speed of the shot.


Shot Six

About the only thing this shot has going for it is speed and intensity. The racers are dark against the light of the background. That’s good. But they are soft in focus due to my limited depth of field. I should have exposed this closer to f11 instead of f8. Especially since all the exteriors had the ND 8 filter on them. Which makes the image darker and lets you bring your f-stops up to f11 or f22. The shaky camera covers this a bit and puts the audience right in the action and intensity of the race. I was running with them, not skating. I don’t skate.


Shot Seven

This is the only tripod shot of the race and it’s also a panning shot. I went wide angle to try and catch some JJ Flare in the sun but wound up with a washed out look that only works to cause unease in the viewer. Luckily the racers go by fast enough that nobody focuses on how awful the shot looks. The bad guy pushes our hero out of the way and passes him with an evil laugh. I do like the long shadows in this shot, working to re-frame the shot.


Shot Eight

The final shot before the crash is back to a hand held camera. We want to press the gas pedal here and rocket the viewer into the big finale. I think it works well enough, but it’s not a pretty angle. This is also where the Hero starts to get the upper hand in the race by cutting inside. In this shot you can really see the color difference in their outfits.


Shot Nine

Worst shot in the film! This shot is poorly acted in that Jack didn’t really “sell” the hit to the fender and my horrible, washed out image didn’t help it one bit. Of all the shots we did that day, this is the one I’d like to re-shoot. I think I’d cut to a shot of him coming over the hood of the car to help sell the impact. Maybe add some lens flare and shaky camera. A close up of Spencer’s face as he zips past might work to, if it was quick. Maybe cut with a CU of Jack’s expression as he flies over the car.


Shot Ten

This is the POV shot of the bad guy rolling after he crashes in the grass. I did it hand held and rolling around in the grass. It ends in a tilted shot of the victor passing. This is my Dutch Angle shot for the film and I think it finishes strong on the action side.



Shot Eleven

The victory pass by the hero. I didn’t give Spencer any guidance for this except to be happy that he won the race. He instinctively raised his hands in a “V” shape as he went past and the end result is just great. You really sense his pleasure at having triumphed over the bad guy. The shot is composed well, with the subject to screen right following the rule of thirds. The background trees help balance out the frame and add a bit of interest without taking away from the main action.


Thus ends my shot by shot break down of Film 3. Every time you shoot a film, it helps to break it down afterwards and find out what worked and what didn’t. That’s how we learn from our mistakes. There were many great shots in this film and one or two bad ones. Fortunately the bad ones didn’t ruin the film for most viewers.

Lessons Learned From Short Film 3

This film was a sequel to a film we called The Race where both brothers raced each other around the court on roller blades. The first film ended in a tie, so they raced again in this movie. The first film was pretty basic and was all shot on a tripod with very few edits and only a half dozen scenes. For the sequel I wanted to step up the editing by shooting more coverage. I also wanted to increase the tension by getting the camera moving and in the thick of the action. I think we accomplished both of those goals.

I also decided to alter the camera’s settings to try and give the story a more “film” look. This also involved shooting in black and white. We shot on the Canon D60 with the 18-135 mm kit lens set to 50 mm. For the exteriors I used an ND8 filter. This was also the first use of our new fluid head tripod. Ironically enough, I went hand held for the actual race and so only used the tripod for the interior shots of the kids gearing up and the coin toss.

I used Open Shot on Ubuntu to edit this film. It was my first attempt at editing video since college. Needless to say, things have changed a bit in the last twenty years. After I got a decent cut I decided to go ahead and drop in titles and credits and then I found some fast paced music online and dropped that in. Since we shot the film in MOS or without sound, we always intended it to have a music overlay.

We shot the interior footage at 60 fps in order to facilitate slowing the scenes down in post. But I never learned how to do that so those shots look more video-like than the rest of the film which we shot at 24 fps (frames per second). Eventually I’ll get better at using Cinelerra and we can readdress those shots in a new edit. Open Shot crashed on me many times during my edits. I eventually figured out the auto save feature and then didn’t lose any cuts after that. I find the cutting tool to be very tedious and not very accurate in that program. But I have nothing to compare it to at this point. I hope to use Cinelerra for the next film, but that’s only if I get the time to go through a bunch of video tutorials. Because that program is not intuitive.

This film was shot, directed and edited all by myself. It’s not easy or ideal being a one person band on a dramatic film. Too many moving pieces to keep track of. All the shots were thought up on the spot and then I had to get the kids to execute which is a bit like herding cats. Lessons learned: Plan better, get a helper and perhaps go a bit slower so I can think things through.

Some of the hand held footage is soft, meaning out of focus. Partly that’s due to the zoom lens I was using and part of it was due to incorrect exposure which limited my depth of field. No excuse for that on such a sunny day and with using a neutral density filter. For the next film I’ll be using my prime lenses that all have measurements on them so we can set the focus better.

This film is a perfect example of what four people can do in an afternoon with a few decent film tools. Get out and make something and I guarantee you will learn things and get better at filmmaking.

Sergio Leone Films


If you want to be a filmmaker, study the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. The man was a composition genius. Turn off the sound to any of the Eastwood Man With No Name westerns and just watch the composition of the frame. Then notice the use of extreme close ups juxtapositioned with wide shots. This was part of Leone’s unique style, but it was inspired by Kurasawa and Italian opera.



American directors like John Ford and Stephen Spielberg are the only thing that come close to what Leone was doing in his westerns. The best way to watch Leone westerns is to turn off the sound and study the composition of each shot. The Rule of Thirds, negative space, lighter backgrounds and darker foregrounds, altering the frame of a shot, are all there. Lighting is mostly naturalistic but resembling classical painters. All this from simple action westerns.


Each one of these movies is like a class in filmmaking. Leone defined a look that even to this day modern filmmakers pay homage to. The films are well loved by fans of action western movies and rightly so. Great story telling framed by brilliant cinematography and direction.

A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good The Bad and The Ugly are all available on Netflix. As much as I hate the lack of westerns on Netflix, these films are gems. Watch them over and over again and learn from them.