Media Mecca

In 2010, Media Mecca welcomed over 300 professional media to the Burning Man “Metropolis” event. This year, we saw a major rise in interest from international news media and received registrations from five continents. International crews made the long trek to Black Rock City from France (FRANCE 3), Germany (ZDF), Sweden (Sveriges Radio), Hong Kong (EcoVision Asia), Belgium (CJP), Russia (IGR&P), Australia (ABC Arts) as well as Argentina, The Netherlands, Japan, and Costa Rica.

Domestic news outlets at Burning Man this year included NBC, Rolling Stone (their music-focused story was not published), Bloomberg TV, and CNET, along with many others. The Media Team supported these crews in their pursuit of their stories by arranging for interviews with Burning Man Staff and artists, hosting daily Happy Hours where the press can meet participants and organizers, and offering the press a place to land upon their arrival in Black Rock City.

From April to August, our Media Team reviewed 431 media registrations. Of these, 361 were approved. An intensive vetting process helps to ensure that the press who come to cover the event have a thorough understanding of our Burning Man culture, an interesting and thoughtful approach to documenting the Burning Man experience, and a commitment to respecting the Rights and Responsibilities of Media and Participants.

Though we grant permission to shoot to a handful of walk-in still photographers and news agencies, it is rare for a film or motion video project to be approved onsite if the producers did not pre-register; a high-level of preparation is essential to a crew’s ability to find the footage they need and manage the intense process of filming in the Black Rock desert — and once we’re on the playa, it’s too late to engage in reviewing each project for cultural sensitivity.

We built our infrastructure in record time and Media Mecca became a canvas for creativity as our resident artists brought the space to life with a range of new artistic projects. Our Décor Team decked the walls of Mecca with brightly colored murals and interactive art. Members of Pinhole Camp, dedicated to creating large-scale pinhole portraits on-playa since 1999, transformed a Media Mecca shipping container into a darkroom and created large-scale pinhole images throughout the event – a wonderful showcase of the photographic arts. In further celebration of mediamaking at Burning Man, we also played host to Mark McGothigan’s video art installation, featuring three television screens where footage was showcased for visitors to enjoy while they filled out their use agreements, got their cameras tagged and enjoyed a frosty beverage in the shade.

Crew members also undertook a massive project this summer restoring Pepe Ozan’s “Ark of the Nereids” and displaying it at 2010’s Media Mecca. The ship came alive nightly with a range of performances including sea shanty sing-a-longs, a selection of songs from the cast of “How To Survive The Apocalypse: A Burning Opera,” a special concert by the Playa Gospel Choir, and a Media Mecca team talent show.

The Media Art Team designed three Playa Art Tours especially for the press. On Wednesday and Thursday, 60+ members of the media boarded the golden dragon art car Abraxas and embarked on a grand tour of Burning Man artwork and had the opportunity to meet the artists behind such pieces as Bliss Dance, The Temple of Flux, Doctor Megavolt, and The Infinitarium. On Friday, the Kinetic Cab Company offered up their cabs as transportation for the media as they explored the playa in pedal-powered glory.

The Media Team’s work doesn’t stop once the walls of Mecca come down and the press return to their homes. Throughout the year, we process requests for approval to publish their images, release their films, and distribute their footage from Burning Man. In 2010, a tremendous amount of team and cross-departmental effort was engaged in refining and revising Burning Man’s Terms and Conditions for image use inside the event; these policies involving copyright and restrictions on image use have been updated to accommodate the evolutions in digital photography, videography, and image sharing that are the hallmark of the digital age. For more on this evolution, check out the Digital Rights blog series on the Burning Blog.

This team also collects archive contributions, maintains legal records, responds to an ever-growing number of year-round press inquries, and helps to share the story of the Burning Man community and culture with the larger world. Oftentimes, mediamakers ask for our collaboration as they round out their projects with facts and follow-up interviews. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to their process of telling the Burning Man story to the world.

Submitted by,
Meghan Rutigliano