Most of AMC’S Breaking Bad show is shot on location in Albuquerque. There’s one location in particular thats featured on the show called the Crossroads motel, affectionately nicknamed “The Crystal Palace” by characters on the show. The crossroads is dramatized as a hangout for both hookers and meth addicts alike. Everyday we’d pass the Crossroads off I-25 driving to different spots, and I got the idea to shoot an intro there. I wanted to shoot something that resembled the scenes from Breaking Bad and made it look like our residence in Albuquerque. Shooting any kind of a pre-planned intro to a video on a road trip is always tricky. Understandably, the riders are way more concerned with going out and filming as many clips as possible rather than waste time shooting something that doesn’t involve riding. On this day, we planned to take a day off riding and hit up some hot springs. So it was agreed we would try to shoot our introduction to the video before heading out of town the morning of April 20, 2015.
Similar to the show, there’s a lot of shady activity going on at the Crossroads. If you’re a Breaking Bad fan you might remember the meth-head hooker character known as Wendy. One particular episode focuses heavily on Wendy and her daily activities around the motel. The show uses time-lapses of the happenings at the motel intercut with her prostitution and meth habits. I was determined to copy a Breaking Bad shot for my own time-lapse. Only it was a shot of Adam Accardi’s Blue van pulling into the parking lot and unloading. As opposed to that of a hooker giving blow jobs for drugs. The motel is a tourist attraction, the #crossroadsmotel is littered with photos of people standing in the parking lot, selfies, etc so it didn’t seem like much of a big deal to shoot a few things there.
The van pulled up and let me out while I set the time-lapse and the crew waited in the lower end of the parking lot. Immediately, things got interesting for me. As I found the angle, a haggard old man in his 60’s with skin resembling tanned leather, cowboy boots and hat complete with a filthy plaid shirt, dark sunglasses, and one leg with a metal prosthetic approached me. Hobbling his way past my camera I heard a raspy Jimmy Levan-esque voice “You wanna take a picture of a real cowboy?” The tourist in me was thinking, this is great, if I only walk out of here with a portrait of this guy in front of this hotel It’ll be worth it. So I tell him yes but that I need a minute to set up my photo. “It’ll cost ya!” He said as I started digging in my pockets to make sure I had a couple bucks. As I’m setting up he stands in front of the camera and I hear an authoritative voice coming from somewhere in the parking lot. “ What are you doing!?! Get out of the man’s photo! Let the man take a picture!”
Before I could snap a photo, I look over and see a man that is a spot on resemblance of Dean Norris’ character Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad. He’s bald, dressed similarly, sport jacket over a button down with a chain carrying a badge around his neck. For the sake of the story, I’m just gonna call this officer Hank. The cowboy sees Hank approaching and immediately starts hobbling away, forgoing our photo opp. He makes it about 15 feet past me before Hank stops him and starts asking him what he’s up to and why he’s bothering me. It was like all Hank needed was an excuse to stop this guy and I was it.
At this point I’m just thinking I really need to get this time-lapse going, so I’m messing with the camera for another minute and a woman comes out from inside the motel office. I was standing close enough to the window that she must have spotted me from inside. Apparently, she was the owner, only she looked methed out and demanded to know why I was taking pictures in HER parking lot. She’s speaking a mile a minute and insisting that I leave because I didn’t come inside and ask her for permission first. I tried my best to explain to her that I’m a tourist and I just want to get a photo of the hotel. Obviously Hank’s presence behind me is making her anxious and she isn’t having any of it. Hank didn’t give a shit, he had the cowboy and he’s asking him various questions about what he’s been up to, in a demeaning tone very similar to Dean Norris’ character.
I tell her I’m leaving, grab the camera on the tripod and run back over to the van while she goes back inside. I knew that if I took a few steps back from where I was initially standing there’s no way she’d be able to see me out the window. So I told the crew I had everything ready, I just needed to run back over and drop the camera back in position. I told them to go around the block, pull up and unload the van as planned. I ran back over, set the camera down, press start on the timer and everything is set. The cowboy has now managed to hobble his way across the street and Hank is casing the parking lot for someone else to bother. Hank wasn’t even remotely concerned that I was there or that the 'owner' was pissed about it. I looked in his direction and he nodded a yes at me. I’m just standing there listening to every click of the shutter hoping this is going to work. I watch the van pull up and unload as planned. Within a minute of them unloading I hear someone shouting from the direction of the Mutiny crew, who are now out of my sight.
The motel owner spotted them and was totally bugging out about everyone in the parking lot. Her and Wescott have gotten into a shouting match. I got the van unloading time-lapse and all I needed was the crew to re-load the van and pull away. While I watched them march back across the parking lot to the van, a tall, lanky, burn out dude who sounds like he just stepped off a surfboard approaches me from inside the office. He starts immediately getting aggressive with me in an irritating voice. Picture War Child from Point Break trying to talk down to you like your Johnny Utah and you just stole his wave. “Hey maaaaaaaan, what’s your problem? She assssssssked you to leeeeeaaaavveee, you don’t have permission to be here”
He’s now standing beside the camera arguing with me while the shutter clicks away. I’m getting the shots I need, simultaneously explaining myself to him. Meanwhile Hank is just hanging around, watching the argument from a distance, unconcerned. The Burn out dude spots Hank and goes back inside. Justin Simpson comes over and stands with me smoking while the crew loads up the van and pulls off as planned. I didn’t get to shoot anything more and I considered just paying for a room so I could. But by that point everyone was anxious to get to the hot springs and we clearly overstayed our welcome. As far as the tourist in me is concerned, that motel lived up to everything I imagined it to be. - Navaz