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The Real Reason Yellowstone Feels Like A Movie

The Paramount Network's Western drama "Yellowstone" was the most-watched cable series in 2021 (via The Hollywood Reporter), and has spawned three numerically named spin-offs: the Sam Elliott-led hit "1883," and two series in development titled "1932" and "6666" (via US Weekly). "Yellowstone" stars Kevin Costner as widowed rancher John Dutton, and Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, and Wes Bentley as his children Kayce, Beth, and Jamie, respectively.

Costner's star power doesn't come cheaply for Paramount, who paid the star $500,000 per episode for Season 1 (via THR). But in return for their investment they've secured the vast talent and experience of the Oscar and Emmy-winning actor and director (via IMDb), who even released an album of songs from the perspective of his "Yellowstone" character.

Director Taylor Sheridan gives "Yellowstone" a distinct cinematic feel, using a subtle but omnipresent musical score and variable shot timing to guide the viewer's pulse rate according to his storytelling whims. He is a multi-camera devotee, in some scenes using a different angle for each and every shot. It is all deliberate and intentional, and Sheridan has a solid reason for choosing to craft the show in this way.

Sheridan wanted to make the most of Costner's vast movie experience

Taylor Sheridan wanted to use Kevin Costner's wealth of experience in film to help shape "Yellowstone." He told Variety, "Kevin's one of the biggest movie stars of the past 40 years, and well deserved. He's an incredible storyteller as a director, as a writer, as an actor, and so when you have that kind of tool in your toolbox, you can write him into some really conflicting situations."

Costner — whose only previous serious foray into television was the 2012 miniseries "Hatfields & McCoys," which earned five Emmy awards and 16 nominations – told Entertainment Tonight, "I thought we were going to do one long movie, 10 hours... Somewhere along the line, they wanted to turn [it] into a series, and you kinda have to look at things again... you gotta jump creatively, and so I did that."

The show's cinematic influence goes beyond scripting and acting choices; the 2.00:1 aspect ratio is noticeably wider than the 16:9 television standard (via IMDb), and Sheridan's meticulous attention to visual detail earned "Yellowstone" an Emmy nomination for production design in 2021.

Sheridan relies on Costner's tremendous movie experience to help him challenge Hollywood's often-idyllic view of the American West. "You can love this place and question things that take place here and scream about it, and I think that we're supposed to. And so I think that Kevin's work has always done that. I try to do that."