Band Promotional Photography and Videography of Andy Palmer – Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO – April 2013
Last weekend video Director Tage Plantell, the talented Chuck “The Monk” Fiorella, my Pops, and I hit the road with Denver musician Andy Palmer to create a video for his song “The Monk”, from his soon to be released album, “Hazard of the Die.”
It was a whirlwind weekend to say the least–one that included two days of solid shooting, a near trip to the hospital after a trailer mishap, over 500 miles of driving, backing a trailer down part of a mountain pass road, an unamused Montana cowboy, Hot Pockets and braving all four seasons in a two hour stretch.
We started Saturday on the eastern plains of Colorado about an hour east of Denver. We pulled off onto an old county road, with a lonely tree in the distance and a broken down windmill to the south. This was one of those desolate county roads where if you looked hard enough, you could probably find a body or two. Over the course of the day, Tage captured several amazing shots, including some perspective shots from a camera attached to the truck, our characters crossroads meeting, Andy lip-syncing in chipMonk mode to “The Monk” at 2x the song’s speed and shots from the back of my Dad’s truck at 50 miles-per-hour as Andy raced next to us. With the sun fading, and The Monk walking in the distance, a large group of antelope passed into the shot on the horizon. After the shot, the radio came alive, “Who cued the antelope?I didn’t know we had that in our budget?”
After shooting all day, we hit the road to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Alamosa, CO. After a long drive with some serious crosswinds, we pulled into Alamosa around 2am on Sunday morning, and, after getting hit up for money by a creepy hotel lurker, we crashed for the night. With only a couple hours of sleep and a nutritious hotel breakfast of 50% meat sausages, powdered eggs and real Idaho potatoes in our stomachs, we headed out north on Highway 6 in search of an abandoned gas station Andy had tracked down online. We weren’t exactly sure where the gas station was located, or if it even existed. But, sure enough, as we got close to the Dunes there it was–two pumps in a dirt parking lot with the word “gas” in white letters on the sign above. It turned out the gas station wasn’t abandoned. It is owned by a local family, who were gracious to our cause, served us coffee and let us hang out in the store when the weather came in.Throughout the morning the weather changed about every 30 minutes from blizzard, to fog, to sunshine, to sleet and back again. At the height of the storm I held an umbrella over Tage and the camera as Chuck the Monk walked slowly down the highway–the heavy, wet snow flying in sideways caking his costume in minutes. This shot is going to be epic!
Once the weather cleared we headed up the road to the Great Sand Dunes. It turns out we didn’t just get lucky with the break in the weather. Andy began to drive the Ford onto the trailer assuming the hitch had been tightened down. But, it hadn’t, and as my Dad stood over the trainer hitch the front of the trailer shot into the air. The savvy veteran of trailer safety leapt into air as the hitch shot up, narrowly missing a solid shot to the boys. Turns out, this wasn’t the first time someone had assumed the hitch had been tightened under on his watch–he lost a couple trailers last year. After the near-miss, we gathered up the gear and headed into the distance–a picturesque backdrop of desert sand in the foreground and snowcapped mountains in the background. The sand’s white backdrop, combined with the stark contrast of Chuck’s monk robe created a Star Wars-Jedi look or the “comb the desert” scene from Spaceballs.
Our original plan included a drive to the historic mining town of Cripple Creek, but with the day running short and another snow storm on the horizon, we quickly adjusted and headed down Highway 85 towards Buena Vista. We decided to shoot at the abandoned mining town of St. Elmo, just outside Buena Vista. This proved to be easier said than done, as the narrow mountain road turned icy and the grade steep. As we slowly made our way up the mountain my Dad’s truck struggled to pull the weight of the trailer. Eventually, we had to back the trailer down the mountain a short distance and turn around. Now we were onto plan C, which led us to racing the sun to a collection of old train tunnels and our final shots of the day.
We started the three-hour drive home. Along the way we stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. We stalked-up on the usual gas station delicacies–jerky, Hot Pockets, chips, water and juice. As we stood in-line, Chuck, Tage and I began a conversation apparently not heard in rural Colorado gas stations. Maybe it was the fatigue of our trip or the jazz music we were listening to before the stop, but for some reason we debated the nutritional value of sugar and compared the ingredients of our purchases. You know, the type of conversation all guys have on the road. Then from behind we hear, “Come on ladies, hurry up!” I turned to discover the cowboy version of a Tim Burton character–slim, sunken eyes, red faced and clearly annoyed. Chuck the Monk responded, “Take it easy Tex, we are almost done.” Tension filled the air as the store clerks looked towards the ground and quickly finished our transaction. Chuck the Monk looked at me and said, “You realize he is talking about us, right?” I looked back at the cowboy and said, “is it because of my juice?” He looked at me with disgust–his piercing, beady eyes starring right through me. There was no doubt, he wanted to kill me and drink my juice. After the exchange, we walked over by Andy–who was joyfully heating up his diarrhea pocket (aka Hot Pocket). He looked at us and said, “what was up with that?” Chuck the Monk responded, “he just called it as he saw it.”
Moral of this long, rambling story: the Sand Dunes are a long drive from Denver; Hot Pockets are disgusting, yet easy to make; nutrition conversations amongst dudes are better left for the isles of Whole Foods or not said at all; steep mountains make it hard to pull trailers; snow is cold; always tighten the hitch; crevices are deep; old trucks look sweet in music videos; and Montana cowboys don’t appreciate being held up in line.
Enjoy the behind the scenes images below. Photography by Mark and Kit Chalberg.