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!