The story of the music video we produced and directed in collaboration with Asheville indie folk band, River Whyless, is a synchronistic one. Our road trip taught us that when you arrive in a new place and are open to the unforeseen, really magical things can occur.
On the very first night we arrived in Asheville, we drove straight to Highland Brewing for their Cold Mountain release party, a raucous celebration of their winter ale that our friends we'd been staying with in Raleigh, NC, had told us was one of the town’s biggest parties of the year. We’d taken the back roads from Raleigh to Asheville that day, stopping along the way to shoot footage of beautiful fields of cotton at sunset and a wrecking yard with a towering pile of junk where cranes were tossing refrigerators and cars like they were nothing but crumpled pieces of paper.
When we finally arrived at the brewery, it was crowded and cold outside around the food trucks, but inside the bar was full of people sipping beers and dancing to the live music. We found a seat in the middle of the room and soon River Whyless took the stage. After hearing a few songs, we began to wonder if they might need a music video.
The next day we emailed their agent, told her we loved the show and asked if the band might have any interest in shooting a music video. She wrote back quickly and said they had a new EP coming out soon, sent us the private link to the as-yet-unreleased songs, and said yes! absolutely they wanted a music video, and put us in touch with the band directly. A few nights later, after listening to their new songs and brainstorming visuals that we thought would complement the music, we met up with Halli (the violinist) and Ryan (one of the main vocalists) at the Wicked Weed, yet another local brewery, and pitched a video idea we had come up with for their song “Life Crisis” involving owls, torches, the woods, and a little bit of magic.
We wanted to use the medicinal herb farm, Mountain Gardens, where we’d been staying outside of town as the primary location. The hillsides surrounding the farm, the rows of complicated potions in the apothecary and the little hobbit huts that dotted the landscape were so strange and beautiful, and we felt set the right mood for their music; the band has been described as having an "ongoing love affair with the natural world" and their first album cover had an illustrated image of a girl and flying owl.
Halli and Ryan were excited about shooting a music video, and after taking the ideas back to the other two members of the band and collectively making some tweaks to the creative, we were soon up and running in full production mode, knowing we wanted to shoot a video starring two females—Halli and a red head that we had yet to find. Ryan was kind enough to let us move into the spare bedroom of the house he shared with his girlfriend, Alyson, to allow us all to work collaboratively. After nine nights at the medicinal herb farm outside the city where the weather had been dropping into the single digits at night and it was way too cold to take outdoor showers, we were thrilled to be in a warm house with hot water and an indoor kitchen. Luckily Joe, the farm owner, was kind enough to give us free run of the place to shoot whatever we wanted on his property when we were ready.
We spent the next week contacting the local wildlife center and shooting some B-roll footage of their owls and snakes, recruiting the lovely red head (and a musician in her own right) Emily Easterly to star in the music video, contacting hair and makeup artists, renting a fog machine, borrowing some C-stands and sand bags from Bonesteel Films, wrangling some wolf dogs, organizing the shot list, and scouring local thrift stores to find costumes (we hit the jackpot when we found Madame Butterfly with a huge selection of amazing duds for rent).
Finally it was time to shoot, and three cars of us left Asheville at 3:30 a.m. to caravan the 75-minute drive up into the mountains to the farm. We wanted to shoot in first morning light before any harsh shadows appeared, so in the dark we arrived in Burnsville and unloaded all of the gear and props into the farm library and proceeded to get the cameras set up, hair and outfits ready with help from stylist extraordinaire Alyson Gary, and had a minute to eat a quick breakfast and slug some coffee. Just before the sun came up, we hiked up into the hills behind the house, lit some torches, turned on the generator to get the fog machine pumping and started shooting the two women trekking on a journey through the forest.
We had an ambitious shot list, and the next fourteen hours were spent running around between the hills, the apothecary, the huts, a nearby river and finally a field with tall grass down the road. Somewhere in there we scarfed a quick stew lunch that Ryan had cooked up and everyone briefly fell asleep wherever they could find a place to close their eyes for a few minutes. We shot from sunrise to sun down, and used every single piece of equipment we’d brought.
Here are a few more behind-the-scenes snaps from Lauren Van Epps, a friend of the band who was kind enough to take some photos.
Special thanks to Mountain Gardens, Joe Hollis, Western North Carolina Nature Center, Chris Gentile, Emily Easterly, Katie Benson, Alyson Gary, Lauren Van Epps, Kelly Rhodes, Janna Nielsen, Timm Donohue, Neely Neu, Bonesteel Films, Patti O'Donnell and Geoff & Lester.