Vans Team Rider Markus Keller is one of the best all around snowboarders in the world, and it’s about time for everyone to find out. That is set to happen this year with the release of “CHAMäLEON”, a film, television show, web series and photo book starring Markus and friends as they travel the world and ride everything they can find. From the streets of Finland to the Jackson backcountry, Markus and photographer/producer Vernon Deck have been filming the Red Bull Media House project all season and are set to put the finishing touches on it this summer. I recently sat down with Vernon to get some more details on the whole experience. – Larry Nuñez
Tell me a little bit about how the project came about.
It sort of started when I was talking to Basti [Balser] from Pirates at one of the premieres a few years ago. We were just talking about riders in general, and we somehow got on to Markus – that he didn’t ever really have the banger video part that he’s capable of, you know. Every single snowboarder in the world is amazed by his riding, always, but he never really put together a good part. So we were discussing why and we ended up with: first, he hasn’t concentrated on one part… he always does competitions and has his own competition [Red Bull Jibmunks], he’s been to the Olympics and different photo shoots, but never just on one thing.
And the other thing was, he needs to have a crew. He doesn’t just fit in well always chopping and changing with riders and filmers, he needs to have people he feels comfortable with. And we just sort of left it at that; Basti always wanted to have him in parts, he had him for one small season when he was going to the Olympics so he just had a couple weeks filming, but he always wanted to get it. And I was working at Volcom and we figured sooner or later we’ll get Markus in with Pirates for a whole season but it never happened.
Then last year I was doing a shoot with Markus and I blew my knee. So I had plenty of time to sort of think and… then I talked to Volcom and told them I have an idea do this project, and we have enough time to organize it all summer, and it went from there with Volcom basically. Then we approached Markus and asked him what he thought of it, and it was pretty obvious. We had the two filmers – Pirmin [Juffinger] has always been working with Nitro and always with Markus, it sort of just came together really easy.
And who is the other filmer?
Clemens. He’s just a young guy… he’s never been in the backcountry, doesn’t even snowboard that much, but he’s been filming Nitro’s Road Warrior program. Really cool addition to the crew, we had to teach him everything about the backcountry, but he’s really sort of analog and a really cool dude.
And Permin has made the last two Nitro team movies. He keeps it really under wraps you don’t see too much from him. But that was the whole thing with this project was to put together a crew that Markus would like traveling with the whole year, that he would feel comfortable with and we could hope to the best out of him Markus, you know? Instead of getting some big name filmer from Absinthe or from somebody that Markus didn’t know, that obviously wouldn’t work. So let’s put together a crew that he’s going to be happy with, and both of these guys are really good filmers actually.
So that worked out really good – we got the crew then we approached the three main obvious sponsors: Red Bull, Volcom and Nitro. Markus has been with all of them for over ten years, since he started basically, so it all just sort of came together really quick. And all of them were super stoked, just because one the crew they knew they could trust us to just do it without them putting in much effort. We just sort of tell them where we’re going… I’m producing it, you know keeping tabs on everything and spending all the money, and they’ve just let us do what we want basically. It’s been pretty rad.
Sounds like a dream project.
For all of us, yeah it’s been pretty much a dream project. It’s been tough though, it’s flown by so fast I didn’t really take it all in, you know.
What was the main motivation behind organizing the project?
Well, my motivation was in the beginning, well and still… I mean the first snowboard picture I ever took was of Markus Keller in like ‘98, and it was his first time someone took a photo of him. It was one of his first competitions ever, and he got second place in a little halfpipe somewhere, little valley in Switzerland. So I’m a huge fan of his, you know, I think he’s one of the top three total all around snowboarders in the world… Between Travis [Rice], Gigi [Ruf], him and maybe Nicolas [Muller]… but Gigi can’t ride the halfpipe. So guys that have been to the Olympics, and can ride Alaska, and can do all that stuff, and ride urban… there isn’t really that many and there’s less and less, because everyone’s sort of specialized with coaches and that sort of stuff. And I’m a huge fan of that, you know, he’s a real snowboarder and you can put him in anything, hence the name CHAMäLEON: adaptable dude. So my motivation was to show that, and also, I’ve been working with Volcom for seven years and the Gigi project 9191 I worked on the whole time, I loved that. And the last couple years I’ve just been switching around between crews getting Volcom stuff done, but I was sort of lacking motivation a little bit. So it helps my motivation as well to work on a project more than just shooting photos randomly. The photography was definitely second place this season; I’m not that happy with my photos compared to normal, but it’s been just a lot of work organizing, day-to-day. Keeping everyone going and organizing the plan, and then a B plan in case the A plan craps out because of weather or whatever. It’s been tough, but it’s been pretty cool and I really hope the movie is going to be good.
What were some of your favorite trips this season?
Japan, I’ve never been there before! That was our first trip of the season in December. We had planning it before, but I had a really complicated knee surgery in July, so I didn’t even ride until February. The guys should have gone in summer to Chile, that’s what we needed. But I couldn’t go, and there wasn’t that good of a winter, and somehow it just didn’t happen. So it put pressure on us, now we’ve got this huge project to do in one winter. Then before Christmas we were supposed to do stuff, but I was full on physio so I still couldn’t really do much. So on the 26th we flew to Minnesota to do the urban stuff first, and we met up with Dan Brisse and Bjorn Lienes, and it all started from there.
So Japan was right after that?
Yeah in January we went to Japan, and I loved that. I’d been wanting and planning to go for years, but something always came up. I had a really good time there; it was really good. And then obviously the US trips I always love, it’s always a highlight for me. Especially this season because I couldn’t snowboard really, and being in the States and Canada with the Skidoos you don’t have to snowboard, so for me I was mobile again. Before that it was always a compromise, I was sort hiking around with a splitboard everywhere. We didn’t really have any bad trips; all the trips were really good actually!
And looks like you guys got some good park and pipe stuff late season in Austria…
The pipe stuff was in Austria, and that was amazing. It’ll probably be one of the better parts, just cause Longo was killing it. Arthur Longo is just amazing. We got really nice sunrise sessions and Red Bull sent over a helicopter, so we got some good heli-filming.
The park stuff didn’t go how we wanted. We basically had our sights set on Norway, getting some stuff built out there, but it just rained and rained and we had to cancel that. And we tried to do it Austria, but there was other stuff going on. So that’s why we ended up going to Superpark at the end of the season to get some more park stuff. You know, you’re not gonna get anything exclusive there… we had a few obstacles that we wanted to get built that no one’s really done before, but we’re working on a deal to get that in July maybe… so it’s been good. It’s been a blur; it’s gone by so fast.
And you got one more trip coming up this summer?
Yeah, we have to do that. We only need two or three more good powder jumps. The two really good one’s we built in Canada, both landing spots slid on the first hit. So, we got a lot of jump stuff, but not the big booter that you can get some big tricks on. It was more like Markus style tranny finders. So we need that in New Zealand or Chile, wherever’s best, and we need some big lines as well. Hopefully they will have a good winter and we can get it done.
And you can have the “Making of CHAMäLEON” Episodes online now...
Yeah that wasn’t our idea actually, that came from Redbull… so they sent a media house filmer along on nearly all of our trips, just for a few days, and basically they just filmed the behind the scenes. It’s pretty cool… It’s building hype, you know once Red Bull puts stuff online, they have millions of people that go on their different platforms.
And then the movie comes out roughly the 27th of September, and then about a month after that the TV show is starting… I think it’s going to be 10 episodes. The movie is really just action: no talking, no interviews, no introductions… just short, banger action.
So there's going to be a TV Show as well?
Yes. The TV show will be more interesting to a wider public. It’s not just snowboarding, it’s all the travel and more of the funny stuff. That’ll be pretty cool; that was sort of more my intent to do a thing like that than just a straight up snowboard movie. Just it’s more interesting.
And then there’s also a photo book. We wanted to make something of high value. Just putting out a DVD for people, it’s no point anymore…. So were going for a high end, collector’s item, you know if people want to throw down 20 bucks they’ll get a book with the DVD. The DVD will have the movie and the making of and the TV show… everything will be on there. And then the book will be a photo book from all our travels; I’ve been shooting everything and that will be pretty interesting!
You check out the “Making of CHAMäLEON” Episodes 1-7 on RedBull.com…