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With molten glass, open flame, and a neon cowgirl or two, the Montana-shot music video for singer/songwriter Jesse Macht’s “Suitcase Heart” sounds like it could be set in an east-LA warehouse than in Montana’s Paradise Valley. But with the help of photographer Audrey Hall, Macht took the stark beauty of early Montana spring and crafted it into a tale of self-discovery and a truly gorgeous video.
While projects coming to the valley typically look to take advantage of the verdant seas of grass and blue skies filled with summer sun, Macht and Hall leveraged the jagged peaks of the Crazy Mountains against a steely grey sky as a place of space and discovery. “I felt like that space will help translate that story of giving yourself the space to figure out what you need,” Macht said, “It just seemed to mirror art equals function equals design, I felt all the elements were a sort of metaphor of giving yourself space and living in the beauty of that space.”
“I wanted to parallel Jesse’s lyrics rather than illustrate them,” added Hall. Shooting on the back roads of the Crazies, Hall used the miles of unhurried dirt roads to give an extra emphasis to the cadence of the studio track they had recorded earlier. “[A road trip] is a natural thing you’d do here,” she explained. Working to recall Macht’s LA-roots, she sought to recreate a “fish out of water” scenario to keep the focus on the need for space and reflection Macht had written into the lyrics.
Later in the shoot the team paired with Montana glass artist Ona Magaro to create a muse-like character who brought literal fire to the shoot. Done in Magaro’s Livingston, Mont. glass studio, Hall wanted those scenes to add to the story and depict the “courage it takes to put yourself out there artistically.” While originally set-up to include a number of other artists from the Paradise area, the end product with just Magaro added the right flavor to the shoot. The scenes were set to balance the scenic shots with a gritty surrealism and an enigmatic relationship. “I think they’re maybe a little more critical thinking, a little higher level for an audience,” Macht explained, “It’s a song about our own journeys and our own expectations.”
“Suitcase Heart” is Macht’s first video in Montana but not his first time here. “Creatively Paradise Valley has become a mecca of sorts for me,” he said. “It’s a chance for me to slow down and contemplate, which turns into artistic vision and goals.” Boasting a strong art community in addition to its beauty, the Livingston area has been home to a number of artists including Al Feldstein, Jim Harrison, and Russell Chatham (in addition to Hall and her peers). In recalling a recent post-shoot kayaking trip, Macht admits he was surprised that both of Hall’s friends who joined them were full time sculptors, “I started laughing with them because how amazing it is to be in that landscape and be inspired.”
For Hall, choosing to make her career in Montana isn’t a surprise at all. As a photographer and artist, she values the large, open spaces that Montana offers. “Montana’s greatest attribute is that it gives me the space to work creatively,” she explains, speaking to her ability to go for long drives or immerse herself in state without the constant bombardment of information from the outside world. With a client list and jobs that take her all over the world, Hall admits that basing in Montana is still the best choice, “If I’m getting on a plane or if I’m getting in a car, what a great place to start or come back to.”
In connecting with other local artists, like Magaro, both Macht and Hall admit that there is a strong sense of artistic community that exists in the state. The support between peers, regardless of their artistic medium, makes creating and expanding their own art both easy and exciting. “Just to be making music and be inspired by other artists who are inspired by my music is one of my top goals,” he said. “So to be around Ona and what she was doing with glass blowing, representing her art, and with Audrey shooting her way, that was pretty special.”
Hall agreed, explaining that even as she travels she works to keep in contact with other Montana artists and to follow their successes around the globe. Whether it’s photography, filmmaking, music, or any other artistic media, she admits that, “There is a lot happening now with creative people who have a connection with this state, it seems like it’s sort of blossoming. It’s like we’re in a Montana Renaissance.”