KHW #7: Hidden Gems

The way we shoot here at DSP Inc, we generally have two kinds of days: “Long, Exhausting, Yet Productive” and “Long, Exhausting, Yet Completely Unproductive”. New Year’s Eve provides an example of the former – we were running and gunning from noon to 4am – while today fell solidly into the other, less quantifiable category.

Call was at 9, and after our usual Starbucks run we piled into the van for some good, old-fashioned train hunting. Fargo has several tracks that run the length of Main Ave, and we’ve got the numbers of all the yardmasters within 20 miles. We set up camp at a familiar location – 7th ave North, at the I-29 overpass. In September, it looked like this:


But now, it looks like this.

Train hunting on 7th ave

We spent about two hours parked on the roadside waiting for our prey, and came away with a shot that runs perhaps two minutes in duration.

After that, it was time to break for lunch, and we spent the afternoon setting up for an interview at the hotel that eventually fell through. Then the mixer shorted out and the zoom lens broke. Kiss another four hours goodbye.

Faced with fading light and a nearly wasted day, Pusser and I agreed to try something new: CHRISTMAS LIGHT HUNTING. I was excited. Christmas Light Hunting sounded like fun.

On the drive out of Fargo, through Moorhead and into Dilworth, Pusser had somehow latched onto the notion of touching down in Barnesville, home of Potato Days and the world-famous mashed-potato wrestling competition. It meant another 20 miles of ice-slick driving, but a happy Pusser is a happy ErinirE, so I was content to oblige.

For your viewing pleasure, Barnesville, MN.

Barnesville, MN!!

No, we didn’t shoot those Christmas lights. Instead, we piled into the pool hall to ply the locals for more information on this potato wrestling phenomenon.

“Like, do they wear wrestling outfits?” Pusser shouted to the woman behind the counter, “or do they wear normal clothes? Are the potatoes mashed?”

It was possibly the most fantastic place I’ve ever been to. We walked in like something out of a movie – the city folk with funny glasses – and everyone in the place was eyeing us sideways over their Budweisers. Here’s the liquor rack.

Fine booze, fine décor.

I love places like this – places that are so real, and yet such an archetype. There was an affable bartender with a round, warm face and blonde hair curled up like a cupie doll, and another stalky, silent one who walked with a pronounced hunch and sported a cut straight out of 1988. Everyone was open and friendly, even the old man in the corner with six empty bottles racked up like dominoes, and after we’d finished our drinks and headed out to the car, Buckethead heard him shout, to nobody in particular, “So what did those guys want?”

If you ever find yourself Barnesville, I highly recommend Ratzo’s for a beer and some popcorn. And if you’re looking for a great location, the owner will probably accommodate. When I asked about the possibility of shooting a scene in her bar, she didn’t even blink before saying yes.

Possibly the best bar ever.

We clinched the day with a fantastic shot of the Moorhead watertower, just as it started to snow. Big 18-wheelers through the frame, and, as Pusser would say, the letters on the tower were really popping.

Total tape shot: 6 minutes
Hours on the hunt: 11

Not a great ratio, to be sure, but that Barnesville is worth its weight in gold. I’m totally potato wrestling next summer.

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