Okay, maybe it’s not exactly McCabe and Mrs. Miller, but how many of you know Robert Altman’s first movie is a 1949 short film entitled Modern Football? A little background on how this turned up after so many years:
… Filmmaker and archivist Gary Huggins—a director with his own Kickstarter-funded feature in the works—impulsively bought his discovery along with a bunch of similar instructional films at a flea market in Altman’s hometown of Kansas City. Huggins didn’t know what he had until he finally got around to looking at the movie and recognized the director’s face in a shot. The seeds of Altman’s later greatness may not be readily apparent in Modern Football, but it’s a well-made, fascinating curio—and with its stiff line readings and period haircuts and fashions, ripe material for some Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing.
You could say his technique (and certainly his budget) improved over the next twenty years. He stopped using a pseudonym, too.