Enormous: The Gorge Story

In February, I wrote an email to the President of Live Nation Concerts asking if I could film a little video about The Gorge Amphitheater. The series of events and never-before-told story is more spectacular than I could’ve ever imagined.

Having lived in Colorado for the past four years, I’ve come to believe that Red Rocks is the most amazing concert venue ever until I watched a Dave Matthews Band: Live at The Gorge video. I was jamming out one morning in my condo, watching it thinking, “Oh yeah!” The scenery and energy of the show blew me away, and I knew that I needed to go there… more importantly, I needed to film there. According to The Wall Street JournalThe Gorge is considered one of the most scenic concert locations in the world. Don’t take their word for it though; just do a quick images search for the place, and then you’ll know. If you’ve been there before, you already know.

Here’s the email I sent to the President of Live Nation Concerts on February 24, 2014:

Hi Mark,

I’m an independent producer looking to do a video short on The Gorge. There is very little video content (almost no high quality content) available out there except for concert footage.

My interest is to create a short video about the venue, the locals that work there, the history, follow a concert goers experience, and of course the music.

It would be my dream to have Live Nation hire my team to film it:

  • What would it take to get funding for something like this?
  • As a second option, if we self-funded it, what would it take to obtain press passes and film during a summer concert? I’d be targeting the Dave Matthews Band show, as it goes deep in history with both the venue and the fans.

My team has worked with big names like Discovery, Bravo, VH1, National Geographic, etc. but we’re doing this independently — simply because we love it and want to share the story with the world.

Here are a couple pieces of our work shot in the style we’re thinking:

  • [Video Redacted]
  • [Video Redacted]

I’d look forward to your response.

He wrote back in exactly 30 minutes. What? Cool. He recommended I speak to another person who had been involved with The Gorge since its inception. The other person, Jeff, wrote back within the hour. Even better.

“[…] there is definitely a very compelling story to tell about The Gorge, it’s history and evolution from a small winery to one of the world’s most popular concert destinations.”

It sounds obvious that there is a “very compelling story” with a place like this, but I later found out how compelling that story actually is. Jeff and I agreed to talk on the phone the next day at noon. The funny thing about talking the next day at noon? Well, let’s rewind first.

Back in January, I had invited my dad to come and visit me in Colorado for a weekend. He lives in Alabama. What’s going on in Boulder, Colorado for Alabama dad to do over the weekend? Oh, just the movie Muscle Shoals (an astounding 96% on Rotten Tomatoes) was making its big debut at Boulder Theater. For the lazy: It’s a movie about the enormous music recording movement that took place in Muscle Shoals, Alabama that gave birth to almost every rock & roll and soul track ever. No big deal. Ok, dad will like this. *Buys tickets*

The movie was absolutely incredible, and that’s putting it lightly. The sold out audience of ~1,000 people were literally rumbling their feet collectively near the end of the film. The movie blew me away. Being in film myself, I naturally wanted to know who created this brilliant piece of film magic. Some searching led me to write an email to the man responsible, Greg “Freddy” Camalier:

“Hey guys,

I’ve been trying to find some contact information for you all and its been difficult. Sorry if you’re not trying to be found! Loved Muscle Shoals. I grew up in Huntsville, AL.

Currently I live in Boulder, CO and also spend time in southern California working on this project I’m writing you about, Jack Reynolds. Ultimately I’m creating a content network and media company, but starting with creating original video content. 

It would be great to have a chance to speak with you guys if you’re interested in what you see:

  • [Video Redacted]

I look forward to your response.”

His response was especially comical because his office was exactly 0.6 miles away from mine in Boulder, Colorado. What are the odds? He agreed to meet at my office one morning. That morning happened to be one hour on the exact same morning before I got on the phone with Jeff from Live Nation. Yes, the guy who made the greatest music documentary I’ve ever seen was coming into my office to meet one hour before a call where I would talk about making a music documentary.

His advice was to make sure there was a good story. If there was one, get a meeting.

Before I had any time to process the great meeting we had (or the unbelievable coincidence that led to all of this) I was already dialing Jeff to be on time for our noon call. Five minutes in, I was scribbling notes all over my whiteboard table in the conference room.

He told me a pretty incredible story, but I guess you’ll just have to watch the movie to hear it for yourself.

I knew a next step was necessary before we were done talking, so I took a leap and offered to meet Jeff in Seattle where he lives and works for Live Nation. He agreed it would be worth talking in person so I could hear the full-length story. I bought a ticket the very next day, and I was in Seattle the following week.

Jeff and I had a long dinner downstairs from the Live Nation office. Not only was Jeff a rad guy to hang out with and the story was nothing short of unbelievable, but he set me up to explore the venue while I was there. I got to walk around and see the place when there wasn’t a soul to be found (except for Javier who lives onsite and oversees all maintenance.) It was very humbling to be on this remarkable piece of land where 27,500 fans and countless artists roam during the concert season. I took photos for a few hours and constructed a vision for what I thought the film could be – all while taking in the scenery.

After my return to Boulder, we worked up some filming dates and made plans for how to get started with the project. The rest will come in a few other stories about the process, but in short… we’re making a movie.