Trying to describe Burning Man to someone who’s never been is like trying to describe New York City without the help of photos or picture postcards. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to depict the scope and vitality of the Burn in a satisfactory manner.
Good news: there’s now a solution.
The new feature-length documentary “Spark: A Burning Man Story,” captures the Burning Man experience to near perfection. Shot mainly at Burning Man 2012, but including footage from as far back as the original Burn at Baker Beach in San Francisco, Spark recounts the history of the event, and brings viewers face-to-face with the Burn’s glorious sound and imagery.
Spark takes an unsparing look at the phenomenon of Burning Man, introduces you to the key players in the creation and development of the Festival, and follows a small group of artists as they go through the trials and tribulations of creating major pieces of art and getting them out to the Playa.
Produced and directed by the creative team of Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter, the film has been shown at numerous film festivals, including SxSW in Austin and is making its way to select cities where it’s screened to raise funds for various Burning Man art projects. We saw it in Sacramento on June 11, with funds going to the Playa Queen art project, which has been accepted as one of the regional CORE installations to be placed around the man at the 2013 Burn.
I had a chance to congratulate Deeter at the screening and she told me that copies will be made available on DVD at some point in the near future so we can eventually share this extraordinary production with friends and family.
Spark conveys the creativity of Burning Man by following three artists through their wrenching route to the desert, and also digs into the Burning Man organization’s own struggles as it copes with the festival’s prodigious growth. The film relates a key turning point in 1996 when the size of the crowds and the out of control environment almost destroyed the event and required a more structured approach, which was anathema to some early Burners. The film also spares nothing in capturing 2012’s ticket fiasco and the struggle to get back the organization’s Playa mojo.
But it’s mostly about the whimsy and joy, which keeps Judie and me coming back to Burning Man year-after-year. Nothing I’ve seen has shown Playa bliss more clearly than Spark.
One of the amazing aspects of the film is its soundtrack, which includes music written especially for the documentary. Deeter told me that the producers will consider packaging a soundtrack CD as a bonus with the home version of the film.
You can learn more about Spark: A Burning Man Story on the film’s website, where you’ll also see a trailer and the film’s performance schedule. If it’s coming to a town near you, go see it. If you have a major Burning Man project that needs a fundraising boost, contact the producers about bringing Spark to your locale for a benefit screening.