Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Burning Man Experience...

September 14, 2010

When the idea was proposed to me by this new person in my life I didn’t really know what to say. The stories were intense and almost too good to be true in terms of getting away from the norm. The passion he spoke about how this community, the Roots Society, and the 7 day event affected him; it was just something I couldn’t shake. After a couple bottles of wine and more discussion about filming and experiencing this community I knew this was something that needed to be included in my journey and the film’s story. I was convinced that both my wife and I needed to go. It was fate.

This guy I speak of has become someone in my life now that I have the utmost respect for. I see an individual who carries himself with passion, happiness, and a love for his family and friends around him. His name is Robb G and I thank him for giving me an invitation to this experience in the desert. With the cameras rolling at random times throughout the trip to Burning Man I was able to capture an amazing chapter for the film and truly understand how the world around you can get affected by the pure love and selfless state of minds that people were transported to for this entire experience. Robb G … great to know you; I’m a better person for it.


We began our journey to the burn from LA… With a rented car and trunk full of film equipment we set to the interstate and traveled into an environment that was beautiful yet frightening in its desolate ‘HILLS HAVE EYES’ sort of way. The road trip was roughly 10 hours as we went through the mountains of Mammoth in Northern California into the desert of Nevada. It was an interesting drive for me because of one distinct aspect; the music soundtrack that played on our drive into the desert was transporting us into a time warp of retro good times. We had Sirius Satellite in our rental and we happened to lock on to the 90s channel. Songs that I hadn’t heard in years blared from this channel for the whole journey and for my wife Jen and our friend Amy who came as well, the music signified youth for us. This was our sweet spot during our teens and early twenties; the music transported us to a place mentally that was a place I was examining in this film. The past to present affect on identity through music was on my brain the entire time and we were about to be a part of this massive sensory overload experience. Music was a big thing in my life back in my late teens and early twenties. I d-jayed for 7 years; I was a top 40 d-jay, playing tunes that I had somewhere collecting dust in a crate at my house. I always liked the underground sound but when I started doing weddings and small clubs in my late teens I got exposed to a lot of great music. I keep an open mind when it comes to music because there are so many great unique sounds and songs to fill up on. Hearing this all again was amazing and the right mind placement for me. To me to participate at Burning Man was something that was about reflecting. As we drove closer I began to really listen to the music and I started getting butterflies of excitement and a relaxation with life that had been not there for awhile. Work and life throughout the summer was hectic and even though this was a crazy intense thing we were about to experience I was more relaxed then ever before. Mentally I was ready to just take it in…

We arrived as the sun began to set on the Thursday. People had been here since Monday and the place was fully inhabited with chaos and 60,000 individuals enjoying themselves. We got in quite quickly which we were lucky; we had heard from other attendees that they had waited in line for 6 hours to get in. 20 minutes was our wait and it looked like the GODS were looking out. The site was enormous and took up a huge chunk of desert. The camps were built on a clock style formation with the Burning Man in the center in all its 8 story glory. It was unique camps with a creative off the wall taste to them which ranged from conservative RVs all the way to small built wood houses with yards and white picket fences. Bizarre and practical became descriptions to most of what I saw on the desert terrain while weather elements would change constantly and keep you on your toes. Dust storms, hot sun, wind, dust, dirt, and cold nights were the main things people had to put up with but no one cared. It was people not showering for days but everyone just not being self conscious about it. Along with the dirt outfits were something that became something of a statement out in the desert. If you thought ZOOLANDER had some crazy outlandishly dressed friends within the modeling world, we got a new sense of ‘the runway’ with the Burning Man dress norm. The outfits were outlandish and always gave any given moment a photo album highlight for anybody who had a camera. I loved it and contributed with wearing my Target’ bought ‘HOT DOG’ costume on the dance floor and while I was shooting footage… ‘Hot Diggity’ is something that made sense at this event and that was an amazing feeling of freedom. Successful people from all walks of life were the conversations being had from the moment we landed and it was a great feeling… some of those interactions happened as ‘Hot Diggity”!!

As the days became a moment in my mind I couldn’t help reflect on what the place we were camping at meant to me by invitation and the individuals who had been doing it for the past 7 years. I got exposed to so much but what truly affected me were the regular characters that inhabited the ROOT SOCIETY where I was stationed. It was a massive mix of random individuals from around the world that had met the founder, Jeff Taylor, a person I will speak about soon, who invited them to his community. Jeff was the ring leader; a person who really cared about the people he surrounded himself with. When I got a chance to see how his team revolved around him and a mutual respect was the glue between them, I knew I had landed by chance in to something that was truly special.

Jeff Taylor… lets begin by saying I was someone who was skeptical of what was told to me by Robb G about this individual. How could someone like this exist in terms of just wanting to give back to something he truly believed in? Having the resources through his success in founding he was someone who saw beyond the bottom line and someone who actually cared. His invitation into his last year doing ROOT SOCIETY was something special and a moment in the film that I didn’t completely understand until I went through it. I got a wonderful story on film and I look forward to sharing with the world what compassion can be through what I learned from meeting Jeff. Philanthropy is something that can’t always be done by us all due to our circumstances. When you get to see it up close through what Jeff has done for all these people within the community, it’s truly special. Thank you Jeff.

The place and sanctuary that stuck with me and a memorable footage moment was Oscars. Oscars was the community bar and dining area as well as the place everyone spent at least part of their day. It was run by a special guy by the name of Oscar. Oscar was this larger then life nice guy who made his place feel like CHEERS… where everyone knows your name. The vibe was warm with 50s, 60s, and 70s music playing. It was the getaway from the chaos of outside events and loud house beats hitting you from every direction. It was just a relaxed environment and a great place to talk to different people constantly from all these unique walks of life. I found the afternoon became the biggest time to chat with people… the sun was high in the sky and it was crazy hot. You needed the shade of Oscars dome as well as a place where a cold beer and bottle of water were very close. I got a chance to interview some cool people during that time of the day as well as just meet interesting folks. I would like to say a big thank you to Oscar and the energy and vibe you brought to that place… a great getaway and another cool experience. I got some great footage that I can’t wait to use for the film. Oscar is someone whom every one should meet.


One thing about this event that I felt was one of the most intense forces in that desert environment was the all mighty bass beat. I’ve never heard or seen in my life so many portable wattage music machines pumping more bass along with some dirty rhythm as they circled the desert. The machines were art cars. These automobiles had been created by people who were focused on making some of the most creative and unique vehicle/sound systems that could drive the desert. Some of these cars were built big, themed as ships, and carry a dance floor filled with people and a d-jay across the terrain. I got a chance to follow Robb G onto one of these mad parties on a double-decker bus; the roof top was such a cool perspective to film and experience. Along with these cool cars, the communities throughout Burning Man had these massive stages as well as small unique places to dance and get in touch with your tribal roots. The house beats were loud and different at each of these places. You could literally find a new spot to dance and mingle within 50 yards of where you were staying. ROOTS SOCIETY, where we stayed, had 3 tremendous options to listen to great d-jays and dance. With 2 massive domes that had a completely different vibe as well as an out door LCD screen that was 5 stories high and had the d-jay perch right in the center of the screen, it was the biggest place to party at the Burn. Crystal Method guest d-jayed on Friday night and 8000 people showed up at our community to party. Jeff Taylor was someone who appreciated the d-jay event coming from a past of d-jaying in Boston. He had been someone who was working as a d-jay where he learned what makes a great event have that memorable moment type feel. Burning Man was a moment for him to give back what he knew. I was blown away by the vibe and musical energy that was given back to Burning man by the ROOT SOCIETY community. All the talent played for free, everyone who built this huge camp was working out of love for the mantra of this community and Jeff, and it was just really a grass roots type of place. The music was loud most of the time but you had time to get away from it at Oscars or on a wander. The tribal beat that I heard through out my stay was a reminder… this is a powerful thing you’re feeling.


As we made our final walk back from one of the most amazing moments of Burning Man, the sand began to swell and we were in the biggest sand storm you can imagine. I had forgotten my mask and with my camera bag over one arm and my wife on the other, I got hit with feelings and hard high powered sand spray. Jen and I had just filmed and experienced the breathtaking Burning Man Burn along with Amy, Robb G and his wife Monica. It was truly amazing and what I was able to capture in terms of filming was something small compared how it made me realize so many internal things. This experience put me in a new place emotionally with my wife, my life, my passions, and beliefs.

When we begin cutting this piece of the film this fall I’m excited to reveal and give the audience a snapshot of our experience at the Burn as it pertains and means to the bigger picture of GGN. This was the last major shoot for me and the film and I’m excited to get in to the editing room and put this massive 4 year journey together. I will keep you posted on the progress with future BLOGS and updates. Check out the some of the PICTURES, MUSIC, and SNEAK PEEKS on our site over the coming months… Stay tuned!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My trip to London... One step closer to the editing room

AUGUST 9, 2010

The summer of 2010 has been nothing but sunshine and heat. With smiles on peoples faces as they walk around outside, enjoying what the sunshine can bring, I can’t help but reflect on what a change this year has been. As with every year, I like to find times throughout, where I can step back for a moment and take in what has happened beyond the daily grind. Life can go so fast and there is never enough time in the day; I’m sometimes overwhelmed with what can’t be accomplished due to commitments to financial stability and relationships. Balance is important and necessary for true happiness and sometimes the things you want to do have to take the backburner. Last year I felt that we, as a society had to do the backburner thing with the recession and the whacky weather and climate we were in. For me it was a battle on all levels with work, my dream, our bills, and finding inspiration in moments of despair; I feel I wasn’t alone out there but these moments were felt and dealt with on my own. As I look at this year with the upswing in the economy, the weather being very agreeable, more smiles on faces in my city, and just a productive sense of time used this summer for the things that are important to me; I’m in a unique head space.

It’s August; and an important chapter in my life is getting closer to the finish line. Last week I got back from a wonderful trip to London, England and saw the reality of my documentary project coming to the finish line. Since the beginning of this year I was entering my fourth year on this documentary process. I was in a grey area of how I wanted this film to end but I pushed to find it. I had collected all these amazing interviews, stories, experiments, and moments over the years and I wasn’t completely convinced I had what I needed. A lot of these moments are trial by error because you can’t gage the power of interviews. Patience is essential for a good story in the documentary genre because some interviews or ideas can lead to something by chance that can be a better direction for the film. Up to this point I felt I had 70 percent of the story but I needed the right moments to close this passion project. After some chance meetings over the course of the last year and some new friendships that came out of mutual associates, I’ve been given the opportunity to tell the story I want to tell. Everything finally was making sense in my head.


2 years ago in Miami when I was filming the pilot for the television show spin off with DJ Dan I met a d-jay from London named Chris Aidy. To be fair to Chris the meeting was something that I don’t remember as well as I should. It was the last night of the Pilot shoot and we were done, enjoying a night with DJ Dan behind the decks. It was my first chance to let loose and through this party state of mind I met Chris. The one thing that Chris made sure he gave me in the chance meeting was a CD of his mix and after a week or so of being back in Toronto I found it packed with my camera gear. Not thinking much of it because it was one of many, I brought it with me on a drive to work and I was blown away! The set was tight and the track selection was something I really felt and enjoyed. Right away I took the email address down and emailed him the next day… It’s funny sometimes when you meet people and you click immediately. Both Chris and I were both at a level in this career chosen process that was pushing to go to the next level. With moderate success and awaiting that next break in your chosen profession, strength comes from the people you surround yourself with. Chris had become one of these people for me as did I for him. We both supported one another and throughout the last 2 years have stayed in touch. With a trip planned to London for the film at the end of July, Chris opened up the door and I had a chance to meet his wonderful wife, kid and get to know London from someone who worked within the scene there.

Chris became a great make shift film crew member and liaison for me getting around the city. I had an ambitious trip with some great interviews lined up with editors from MIXMAG, two authors of a book I read a year ago on the history of the d-jay, and a chance to experience Ministry of Sound and some of the club life in London. London is a whole other world compared to my city of Toronto. The culture and the history of the world really sit with you when you tour around London for the first time. Also the importance of dance culture to the people of the UK and Europe is completely different. North America is very much underground still in the way it’s perceived amongst people while it really is a big deal overseas still. People really love their dance beats, d-jays, parties, real radio and pirate radio dance channels and d-jay magazine publications here. Raves I thought were pretty much extinct due to laws and regulations and then the next thing I know on my last night in the city I’m at a warehouse event featuring Eric Prydz…

The event was held in an abandoned cement factory type building that was old brick and sweaty walls that dripped on you as you danced in this long narrow hallway with a thousand people. The stage is on scaffolding and the sound system could be heard all the way in Ireland. The people were banging to the beats and the vibe was a happy one… It was truly a sight to see.

The film and the message I’m trying to create had a chance to collect some amazing footage and perspective on this adventure. Understanding the history of the scene through real life perspective as well as finding opinion on the future from people you respect was the objectives of the trip; it all came together better then expected.

Along with this event I also got to take in the Ministry of Sound experience with Nic Fanciulli at the helm of their weekly global underground event. The club was packed and the dance beats that Nic was dropping gave such an intense and amazing vibe for the party maniacs in Ministry. The night had this electricity to it. Watching those faces from the d-jay perch succumb to the dirty beats was all caught on my camera for the film… it looked so euphoric under the lights and smoke machine affects that were used to bring the mood together. The history of Ministry of Sound was an important element for the film for me because it has such a history. To get a chance to see it from such a great perspective in the d-jay perch you get a sense of the story the d-jay is trying to create for the people who have come to listen and dance. Connection through music, d-jay, and community on the dance floor was the real moment for me that I took away from the trip. Half way across the world people felt what I felt when I got on the dance floor in Toronto and rocked it out to the same music… that was truly special.

Along with Nic Fanciulli at Ministry of Sound I got a chance to hit a smaller and more intimate venue with one of my favorite names from my past dance club days Darren Emerson. When I was really hitting my stride back in the day I always made a point to check out Darren Emerson who would come to Industry a couple of times a year back in the nineties. His producing when he was part of the electronic group Underworld gave me songs to my own soundtrack that define important moments in my life during my twenties. Getting a chance to revisit his mixing on a dance floor at East Village in London as well as get to chat with him again was another highlight to this great shoot in London.

Life is all about experience and London and the memories and friendships and contacts I made were something I cherish most from this trip. Chris was a gracious host and great person to get to know. If you have a chance to check out some of his PODCASTS in our download section on the site you should! With some amazing produced tracks that he is setting to release in the fall I see an artist who is growing and evolving into the talent he has the potential to become. With a daughter, wife, and the responsibilities that come with that, Chris has managed to become a great man that is inspired to be creative in his chosen passion. I admire that and feel lucky to have met him 2 years ago in Miami.

With only a few film shoots left the editing room has become something of the Holy Grail for me. I look at this as a quest to go there, take all this footage, cut it together, and finish the meaning of MY life at this particular moment in time. I’m excited to move on as I countdown my final planned trips for the documentary. The journals of this long filming experience have been fun to revisit and read since I first started writing them four years ago. Remembering the websites first beginnings, the interviews that started it all and the journey I’ve taken personally; it’s truly amazing.

I vow to increase my writing coverage as we get closer to the finish line. Sharing my thoughts helps my process and I hope that the people who read it will be inspired to follow their own dreams. My next adventure takes me to Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert… Love and tribal unity is the theme for this trip and I think the story I’ve managed to find will be the essence of what love means to people. Only time will tell because the story is only half written; the other half awaits me in the middle of nowhere in Nevada. Stay tuned!!