Paradise Valley, Montana - 2023
48” x 102” Unframed 63” x 117” Framed Edition of 12
37” x 79” Unframed 52” x 94” Framed Edition of 12
This was always a risky idea, largely because film days with 250 extras must be planned long before the weather forecast is known. In the mountains of the American West, I don’t think locals look any more than 72 hours ahead for
an accurate forecast and that is simply too small a window to put together a production like this. On this occasion, there was a month of planning - all looking towards a specific day in mid-January.
I had a demanding wish list for that weather: fresh snow in the mountains and in the frontier town, but not snowfall on the day of the shoot; decent flat light, rather than a cloudless day with all the starkness and nasty shadows that would give.
As it turned out, the weather was ideal and that allowed for detail and the depth of field that is integral to the idea. The days either side were sunny and bright and that would have cut available film hours by 80%.
I knew my composition ahead of shooting, but the extras all had to be on their game for the scene to be without tension points. They all did me proud across the board and helped frame the shootout.
I don’t ever try to be too earnest in my revisionism, I would rather be playful and add my own interpretation, just as the Coen Brothers did so masterfully in the Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Equally, I wanted to convey that the Wild West was a tough place where an early death was accepted as part of daily life and deadly confrontations drew crowds as opposed to outrage.
~ David Yarrow