Blog Filmmaker Q&A

Austin Film Society Interview with Mike Plante, Director of New Wyatt Earp Doc ‘And With Him Came the West’

Part of our ongoing Doc Nights collection, AND WITH HIM CAME THE WEST screens July 17 at 7:30 PM at the AFS Cinema with director Mike Plante in individual. Purchase tickets. Plante may even be a part of us the following night time for a Moviemaker Dialogue on brief movies.

The gunfight at the OK Corral was a legend made famous by Hollywood studio westerns over many many years, from John Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) all the option to George Cosmatos’ ‘90s blockbuster, TOMBSTONE. In his provocative documentary, filmmaker Mike Plante examines the Hollywood legacy of Wyatt Earp by way of the many movies that rewrote history to immortalize him. Plante shall be in attendance for the screening on July 17 and in addition take part in a Moviemaker Dialogue at Austin Public on July 18.

Here he shares his thoughts on what impressed him to make the movie and some of the questions it poses:

What’s it about the story of Wyatt Earp that inspired you to make this film?

I grew up in western Colorado, so apart from seeing western films and reading tons of books about the “real” wild west, I used to be all the time operating round ghost towns. It was enjoyable as a kid, however unusual too. Going to a totally shaped city that was super wealthy for a number of years that had collapsed right into a shell was surreal. It was additionally lovely, and sad and damaged—a mysterious comic ebook come to life.

As an adult I noticed how insane these frontier towns have been. The immense circumstances that everybody had to overcome, the harsh places, the mountains, the deserts. The group that had to come together to survive. I additionally realized the brutal politics of manifest future. The difficult historical past of the people concerned, both good and dangerous. The truth is way extra fascinating than the mythology.

In the late ‘80s I moved to Tucson, Arizona, and lived there for a decade. Tombstone is nearby and I turned more serious about that specific town history. There were not that many duel-style gunfights in the west, most have been myths, so the OK Corral caught out much more.

After I discovered that Wyatt lived lengthy enough to go to Hollywood and go to film sets, this specific story turned much more surreal. Tons of western characters reinvented themselves in their very own lifetime—however for Earp to go to filmmakers in Hollywood and ask them to make a film about him, to help type his legacy, that’s subsequent degree.

Have been there specific films you watched rising up that influenced your understanding of the Wyatt Earp story better than others?

I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s so the western was not a well-liked genre at that second. It was western characters in outer area as an alternative. I noticed the older Earp movies on TV. I favored them however they felt like a bygone era that was utterly faraway from trendy occasions, closer to King Arthur than Al Capone.

The previous films really blended together over time—one of the ways films create American mythology. You start to assume that this many films on one subject couldn’t probably misinform you, which is absurd. And then the revisionist ​DOC is from 1971 however was never talked about, I by no means saw it on TV. One thing like ​MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER​ (1971) is unimaginable, not a few historical individual yet so sensible and deep. But I by no means saw it on TV. We didn’t have a revival movie theater on the town, and these weren’t the huge VHS tapes of the second.

There have been a couple of non-Earp westerns that basically influenced me in terms of their fashion, films that felt absolutely true and very important although they weren’t sensible. The spaghetti westerns ​ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) and ​MY NAME IS NOBODY (1973) are still superb to me. They paid off in phrases of overboard action and large story, but they’ve received complicated characters in the center of them.

In ​ONCE,​ Henry Fonda is heroic and delightful however a horrible villain. Claudia Cardinale is a robust feminine lead preventing for her land, this ain’t a 1930s western. ​NOBODY is a satire however succeeds in the similar method, with Fonda (in his final western) even stating, “there were never any good ol’ days.” It’s with these movies that I began to assume perhaps the west was far more superior, bizarre, and messy, and that folks of their day have been very trendy.

When ​THE LONG RIDERS (1980) got here out, I was obsessed with it. Again, a contemporary movie with trendy digital camera and modifying, with characters extra nuanced into a gray hat, fairly than a white-hat black-hat simplicity. But this time the characters had the names of real individuals (the James-Youthful gang). What I needed as a child was not clean propaganda, however messy realism. What did it seem like to be in the similar place as these individuals? Including all the mundane moments. That movie is nearly a musical, the soundtrack is just not booming however true to life, full with a marriage dance and characters enjoying instruments.

So then once I saw the Earp movies again as an grownup, ​GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL (1957) for example, they felt unusual. The type was great—Technicolor-delicious—but the appearing was really stilted and the story was so jumbled. There’s some fascinating stuff, like how the town had gun control and some awesome gambling scenes. But there’s rather a lot of pressured romance and no dangerous language. The fun elements have been enjoyable, but the G-rated-ness made you marvel what happened in real life.

As a movie fan doing historical analysis for years, I began to piece together the scenes and the lasting impact films have had on history. Once I began seeing unimaginable found-footage films, like Craig Baldwin’s ​TRIBULATION 99 ​(1992) and Naomi Uman’s REMOVED (1999), or even Cindy Sherman’s images, I received a blueprint for the concepts. I’m working in the vein of Thom Anderson’s LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF ​(2003), simply ‘Wyatt Earp Plays Himself.’

By the means, I don’t assume I’m anyplace close to the degree of these filmmakers! I’m just standing on shoulders.

Why do you assume Hollywood has returned repeatedly to the retelling of Earp, Tombstone, and the gunfight at the OK Corral?

Money. That’s the primary aim of studios, Hollywood is a business. Westerns fall in and out of reputation, however they will all the time relate to the present occasions in a method or another, and action movies make lots of cash. This story made cash earlier than, it will probably once more.

However you may also look to people who really believed in the story and the complexity, who then had enough pull in the business to get a movie made, like Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner. They appear to know the trendy connections between at this time and the wild west, not only in social issues however in the sort of people who reinvent themselves into legends.

And it’s in all probability a helluva lots of fun to make a western.

All through it, the movie explores the blurring of strains between reality and fiction. In the end, is that distinction essential, or does it not matter?

I feel it issues. We need to consider in historical past. I feel it starts to matter more as a result of individuals run with what they need to consider, and that’s what I’m making an attempt to explore.

Even when an elevator doesn’t put the quantity 13 on the buttons… there’s nonetheless a 13th flooring. Why can we do this to society? I’m actually curious about how that blurring occurs and how it’s typically simply accepted. People need to feel protected on this large planet and we create issues to be comforted.

The mythology of the past could be extremely inventive and inspirational. I feel most people know that once you examine the previous, there is a layer of interpretation concerned. From the author sharing the info to the individual reading it. So, you determine what is trustworthy when it’s worthwhile to, and what’s just enjoyable and entertaining. And that’s why professional journalists and critical historians and librarians actually matter.

In the film, I give my take on what happened, however I don’t inform the viewers what to think about the occasions or how the films have warped historical past. This can be a poem about Wyatt Earp, not an encyclopedia. I’m supplying you with the info and we should always all have a dialogue about it. The actual danger is just not talking about history.

At the similar time, let’s have fun. I typically marvel if individuals with opposing opinions would get alongside once they realized that they all consider in UFOs.

The film also takes us by means of the very beginning of movie and its evolution as a way of storytelling – in this occasion the story of an actual historical individual. What do you assume is the subsequent wave of Westerns and filmmaking know-how and why is it essential that moviegoers proceed to be all in favour of historical past?

We like to recollect our personal lives as film scenes so it’s not a surprise to keep making these connections to historical past as entertainment. Some historic figures are so nuts, so fun, it makes a terrific film. Let’s snort and cry and study together, that’s what each films and historical past are for.

The western is such an everlasting genre and filmmakers retains pushing the limits of drama, comedy and action. I love to see crossovers with different genres. The Zellner Brothers’ ​DAMSEL (2018) is nice, principally a romantic dark-comedy in the west. The ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINE collection by Tsui Hark must be counted among the great westerns. Or just extra stories with unique characters, like Kelly Reichardt’s ​MEEK’S CUTOFF (2010). And I’m undoubtedly not the first to explore the western in a documentary—everybody ought to be watching Neil Diamond’s ​REEL INJUN (2009). Nor am I the first to do a remix, like the superb brief by Peter Tscherkassky, ​INSTRUCTIONS FOR A LIGHT AND SOUND MACHINE​ (2005).

We’d like the dystopian western. The technological advancement of the previous west was ridiculous, fueled by the gold rush. Like ​THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (1995) by Jeunet and Caro—you possibly can’t even tell if that’s the previous or the future, it’s so magical.

And why no more bombastic spaghetti westerns?? Just don’t use real historic names and make it bizarre.