Markus Keller has been one of European snowboarding’s most respected riders for the best part of a decade, but until now a movie part that showcases his sizable talent properly has eluded him. With this in mind, last winter Markus, his longtime collaborator Vernon Deck and his sponsors set about redressing the balance by undertaking the production of not just a movie part, but a full movie centred around Keller and his cohorts’ season. The result is CHAMäLEON – The Colors of Snowboarding, which drops this Friday. Martina Mandrioli sat down with Keller and CHAMäLEON photographer Vernon Deck to get the lowdown…
Hi Markus, hi Vernon! First of all, CHAMäLEON “the colors of snowboarding” how did you conceive the name and what do you want to communicate?
M.: We thought about the name for a while and one day when I was brainstorming and looking for synonyms, words or titles that could stand for variation, changing, adaptation I start thinking about all the animals and suddenly came up to my mind the chameleon that use to change his colors and adapting to the surroundings. Moreover, in the German world, there is an “a” with umlaut… and “Mä” is how German friends, my family and the industry use to call me, it’s my nickname. So I found a word game that stands for all we want to show with the project. I suggested it to the rest of the crew and sponsor and they instantly liked it.
So what’s the aim of the project and who is involved in it beside you?
Markus: The idea is to show all the colors of snowboarding, its different aspects and parts of it and, especially, to show it as its best. We wanted to involve other riders at the top level in these different aspects of snowboarding. We met up mainly with my team mates – Nitro or Volcom riders or Redbull athletes like Eero Ettala, Dan Brisse – that are on top of urban snowboarding, or Elias Elhardt…
Vernon: We actually tried to link up with these guys and put Markus with them in their element.
Where did you film? And why these particular places?
V: We started from Arlberg with Elias, that was like a warm up; then Minnesota, Helsinki with Eero; Japan with Ricky, Jackson Hole (WY) with Bryan Iguchi, Whistler, Kitzsteinhorn…
M: We mainly met these guys in their preferred area and having me there, was like having the chameleon who’s adapting to the surroundings.
How do you think this approach of having one main rider is better than the traditional larger crew?
V: There have been a few already like Gigi a few years ago, Terje 15 years ago, or Kevin Jones, Travis Rice… I mean, there’s always been this approach to filming and I am surprised there hasn’t been more, I’m surprised that J.P. Walker didn’t, and all the riders that filmed with Mack Dawg could have had their own thing.
So what’s the benefits of this approach?
V: Back to the original idea of doing it, we talked with [Pirates boss] Basti Balser many years ago, and also with Jan (Volcom team manager) that Markus never really had that one banger video part, even if everybody knows how good he is from pictures, video part and competitions but why, what’s the reason for that? He was always doing competitions, or splitting between photo shooting and filming for different videos and it came down to us to give him the right atmosphere, the right crew and put him in the condition to gets things done how he wanted.
Do you think this is something we will see more often or it’s maybe too expensive for most?
V: It’s difficult, money wise, and it’s not so easy. It has it’s positives: a small crew is easy to organize for example, but there are also negatives like if you film with others riders the motivation’s coming in and you are not the boss of the whole thing.
M: …and the stress to deliver a full movie and not a 2-3 minutes, so if something goes wrong, a trip for example you have to do another one…
Who else is involved in the project, what’s the crew?
M.: Pirmin [Juffinger], who has been filming for Nitro for a while and with who in the last couple of season I’ve spent most of my time – we’ve know each other for a while and we work good together. Same with Vernon: he was the first photographer who took the first semiprofessional picture of me, in a little pipe contest 15 years ago, and that was probably also his first “real” picture in the business, that’s funny. And since more or less 7 years ago, we’ve been working a lot together. It was not my choice to have him in the crew, but it was kind of obvious, the idea came from Volcom, but I couldn’t ask for a better photographer to shoot with. Then, we figured out that we needed a second filmer and came Clemens [Prankl], that’s has been working for Nitro since a while as well, where he was mostly taking care of the street riding. He is a good friend of Pirmin, they have similar ideas and views.
V: We were trying to create the atmosphere, and a crew with whom Markus could feel comfortable.
M: It wasn’t my choice but If I were asked, I would have chosen those guys anyway. For me, even if they are not the top outdoor filmers in the world they are really good and that is the best crew I could ever ask for, and the best possible choice.
V: It’s not only about the filmer, it’s also that we had to spent 5 months together, it has to work, you cannot be angry or fight…
What was the funniest moment from your time shooting this? And the worst or scariest?
V: We fortunately didn’t have a single injury… only Clemence had the one, he popped his shoulder like six times in two days or something [both laugh]… or sledding in Whistler.
M: There were a lot of funny moments on the sled as well. Like it was Clemence’s first time on a Ski-Doo… And we gave Pirmin a nickname, the “Loose”, because of his sledding technique, he is pretty loose on that [laughs].
Which was the best spot to ride?
M: Canada. It was the first time I was around B.C. and riding with a sled. I’ve been there before but just riding some resorts, and this time I had the chance to see how much and how good terrain they’ve got there, even if we have not been that lucky with snow condition, but the potential is great.
What are your bringing to the table in terms of the technical and production aspect?
V: I filmed with the Heli-drone a bit… and the filmers just brought their style and that is what we wanted. Anyway in terms of technology you’ve got to consider your budget and your capability, but I think the [Red Bull] Media House will be happy with it because it’s gonna be something different from what they usually put out.
M: We can’t battle with the Brain Farm crew but, in line with the CHAMäLEON idea of adapting they’ve kind of done the same. A lot of 8 mm, Lomo cameras, regular cams… there’s not gonna be a 3D version as well… or maybe there will… [Laughs].
Did you have a strong idea of what you were going to ride in the season or were you completely reactive to snow conditions?
V: We didn’t have a choice to go somewhere just because we planned, we really had to ride the conditions the way the were, that’s why we had to cut this or that trip. But the most stuff is in the movie we actually planned. For example Japan, we really wanted to be there at the end of January beginning of February because we knew that the conditions would have been great in that period.
M: We had a rough plan through the season, but we knew it would be changed here and there… Anyway, at the end, we managed to stick to the plan pretty much. Even because the season has been kind of Ok between Europe and the U.S. so we didn’t have to change plans because somewhere else there were great conditions.
Do you plan to create more of a story with the movie or keep to the traditional snowboard film format?
V: The film does not have any interviews, it’s just action and will be 30 to 35 minutes. It’s gonna be music and action. Then, there’s gonna be a TV show, like a behind the scenes made by Red Bull, and I guess we are gonna sit in the studio, answering questions…
I really liked the idea of the behind scenes webisodes that you already released. Tell me about those.
V: The movie is gonna be short and just action and that’s gonna appeal to a pretty small audience like snowboarders, you know. My mom is not gonna watch the movie, well… she might, but probably after two minutes she would probably be bored. But everything that is around it, like traveling around, see what happened, buying sleds and all that, it actually appeals to a way bigger audience, and if you do it right it’s better for the movie, the sponsors… better for everybody. There is a demand for that, on social media in particular, and even people who don’t snowboard ever still watch it.
Markus, how would you describe Clemence, Vernon & Pirmin in one word?
M: Vernon: organizer, Pirmin: curious/ambitious, Clemence… Loose [laughs]
What does CHAMäLEON mean to you… in three words?
M: Dream come true.
Clemens: Interesting, exciting, learning.
Pirmin: Fun, friends and fun.
V: Lot of work, ambitious and a little bit of fun. Even if I though I would have enjoyed it more… it’s gone really fast… it’s one season and people are expecting stuff, we have to get the most out of it.
CHAMäLEON will be released to stream for free on Friday, October 18 2013. Tune back in to peep the bangers, and until then you can entertain yourself by watching the behind the scenes webisodes.