2013 was a great year for media operations, primarily because we upgraded from a paper-based registration process at Media Mecca to an electronic one. The contractual process was also moved online and as a result we saw a marked increase in the number of projects with signed contracts prior to arriving on playa: nearly 75% of projects approved prior to the event signed contracts before arriving on site! Additionally, each of the 121 applications received on site were processed electronically. This significantly streamlined Media Mecca’s operations, not only mitigating the need for post-event data entry, but also giving the Media Team greater bandwidth to do what they do best – guide journalists to Black Rock City’s brightly burning stories of art, community and fire!
The Media Team produced two well attended media tours in 2013. The Wednesday art tour is always a favorite, and this year we added a tour of the Circle of Regional Effigies on Tuesday afternoon. Led by our resident tour guide, Fabulous, members of the media were given an opportunity to hear directly from CORE artists and Regional Contacts about their work on playa and year-round. Likewise, the Wednesday tour once again gave media an opportunity to talk with several artists at their pieces.
The Media Team reviewed just over 600 media proposals in 2013, with 121 of those applications occurring on site during the event. The significant increase in applications is due in large part to the growing number of awesome art pieces built in Black Rock City. Every single CORE Team, for example, requested a professional use agreement to document the build and burn of their piece for distribution to their local communities and beyond. Many other artists also sought approval to professionally document their work. One of our favorties features artist Mike Garlington and his 2013 piece, “Photo Chapel”. Created by the BAMM! film crew and titled “Built to Burn”, the film is a fun look at what makes a Burning Man artist tick.
In addition to thoughtful documentaries focused on artists and year-round Burner communities, Burning Man continued to receive unprecedented interest from international outlets. Worldwide awareness of the event reflects the global explosion of Burner culture and is reflected in the wide array of multi-national media applying to cover the event. In 2013, Media Mecca welcomed press from Argentina (Canal 13), Brazil (Dois Mundos Produções), Canada (Lorna Dueck TV and Premiõ re Chaine de Radio-Canada), France (Arte 2, Arte 5, Canal+ and National French Radio), Ireland (Hot Press Magazine), Israel (Channel 2 News), Japan (NHK), Netherlands (SBS6), Poland (Galeta), Spain (El Pais), South Korea (MBC TV), and Taiwan (TVBS).
Domestic outlets included CNET, Part 2 Pictures, KCRW, KQED, National Public Radio, NBC Bay Area, The Nevada Sagebrush, OC Weekly, Public Television New York (WNET), Public Television Reno (KNPB), Sacramento Bee, The Salt Lake Tribute, Reno Gazette-Journal and Reuters.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, aka “drones”, were a hot topic in 2013. A Drone Summit was held in July at Burning Man Headquarters in order to involve the community in the dialogue and to empower drone owners and operators to help craft guidelines for the use of drones in Black Rock City. It was extremely well attended, with over 100 UAV hobbyists participating in person and calling in from around the world. Based on that discussion, the Communications Department developed a series of “best practices” for RC hobbyists. Because most drones carry small cameras capable of capturing high quality imagery, each UAV operator was required to sign a professional image usage contract in order to fly in Black Rock City.
Not all airborne cameras were placed atop UAVs. You may have noticed a white dirigible floating over Black Rock City. It belonged to a team from France who used it to host heavy RED cameras capable of capturing HD 3D, the highest quality images possible with today’s technology. Stay tuned for more info about when and where that imagery may be available for the public to view – we’re all looking forward to it!
The Media Team once again had fun working together to wrangle press and help make Burning Man happen. To show our appreciation, we hosted our first ever sunset cruise for the hardworking team who build, run and breakdown media operations on the playa as well as those who work year-round to answer inquiries and plan for the following year’s event. On Sunday before the gates opened, the Media Team climbed aboard the Kazbus and set off around Black Rock City.
We’re 17 years in and the Media Team is continuing to evolve, always with an eye towards supporting Burning Man’s culture based on artistry, participation and decommodification. As the Black Rock City story continues to unfold, spreading beyond the orange trash fence and out into the world, the Media Team seeks to protect the ethos of the event while supporting thoughtful projects through awesome experiential activities like media tours, happy hours and more. What’s best – we have fun doing it!
Lee Anna Mariglia