Burning Man Live | Episode 63 | 01|19|2023

Terry Pratt and Profiles in Dust

Guests: Terry Pratt, Stuart Mangrum, Larry Harvey, Profiles in Dust

How are films shot in Black Rock City? Why? And really, HOW?

“Profiles in Dust” is the most prolific video troupe that dares to document the dynamic Burning Man events. Since 2011 they have produced 50 mini-documentaries, profiling the inspirational creators in the scene, and behind the scenes.

Terry Pratt is their nominal leader. He talks with Stuart Mangrum about the joy and the turmoil, and adventures had everywhere from Egypt to Ukraine.

and with Crimson Rose, Larry Harvey, Pablo González Vargas, and Smoke Daddy.

Listen to this conversation about these documentaries:




Burning Man Project’s Youtube Channel

Burning Man Journal: The Colors of the Man


TERRY: If you go online, YouTube Burning Man or something, you’ll get these videos of just pretty pictures of art and people dancing and partying. I get that. That’s cool. 

And then once I started seeing what’s really happening. People need to see this too. There’s a lot of stuff going on here. 

I’ve always been a documentary filmmaker. I’ve always been very interested in seeing how people do things and how things are done. To document it is a different story, but it needed to be done. So when I was given that opportunity, I’m like, “That’s awesome. That’s exactly what I wanna be doing.”

VAV: You guys are the pros.

STUART: I think we should just have a good time. How about that?

TERRY: I agree.

STUART: Fantastic. We’ll be a little loose and freewheeling. I’m gonna start by saying…

Hello everybody. Welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome back to another episode of Burning Man LIVE. I’m Stuart Mangrum, and this is the first episode of 2023, depending on where we are in the space time continuum. 

I’m really psyched. I’m here today with a good friend of mine, a super interesting fellow. He is the nominal leader of a video troupe known as Profiles in Dust. He’s a longtime volunteer on the Burning Man Documentation Team. His name is Terry Pratt. Hey, Terry. 

TERRY: Hello. Thank you, Stuart. Nice intro. 

STUART: Thank you. I’m reading off of IMDB right now because I didn’t know you were known for “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

TERRY: I was a camera assistant then, a focus puller. Yeah. I worked the pickups. They added a storyline to the movie.

STUART: What? There’s a story? Anyway, that is the best known movie, I suppose, out of all of these. It says you’re also a cinematographer, producer, with two of those little golden statues called Emmy Awards. A two-time Emmy winner for “Life Below Zero,” which I have watched, and which is a pretty fascinating show, I gotta say. That’s pretty cool.

TERRY: Yeah. 

STUART: But with all that, it’s not enough. You gotta go out to Burning Man every year and make, how many freaking films have you guys made in the last 10, 12 years out at Black Rock City?

TERRY: I think it’s now over 50. 


TERRY: The CORE Projects brought that count way up because we were doing 12 to 18 documentaries for those two years.

STUART: Okay. Let’s start there. That seems a little ambitious, but the whole CORE Project was ambitious. For those of you who are playing the home version of the game CORE was an acronym for Circle of Regional Effigies. It was a big endeavor in those years to have different Regional groups from around the world build a smaller statue and to burn them all at the same time, right? 

TERRY: That is correct.

STUART: We had Regional groups from all over the place, and you covered what? 

TERRY: We covered all of them. Actually the very first year we literally filmed every single one of them. And when I say we filmed, we came during prep week, we would go around and introduce ourselves, and then we would, start inter, well, actually I had to introduce myself by email to everyone prior.

I knew right away that we couldn’t, as a little crew. I mean, back then we were only like three people I think. Tom LaPorte was involved still. We were still a very small group and I knew that there’s no way we could film all this and edit all this and produce this many documentaries without help from each community.

So the biggest question I asked was, “Are you documenting your CORE Project?” 

STUART: Oh, cool.

TERRY: Then I just said, “Well, we wanna come and interview the leads. We wanna film some building. We’re gonna come back during the event, show people enjoying the thing. And then we would like to turn this over to whoever your documentarian is, let them have all these bits that we filmed for you. If they could edit it, we’ll give them a platform to put it on.”

And it worked. That first CORE year we did 16 or 17 projects being finished. I also met some really, really cool people that I’m still in touch with. And some of ’em have joined our crew.

STUART: Back up a step. Who’s Tom LaPorte and what was his role in the creation of Profiles in Dust? 

TERRY: 2010, I came into Media Mecca to sign up, just doing little stuff myself at my camp. This gentleman walked up to me and introduced himself. He goes, “I’m Tom LaPorte.” He was in the media department at that time. 

STUART: So this is Black Rock City, 2010, in Media Mecca. And yes, Tom LaPorte was a Media Mecca volunteer and a very active figure in the Regional Network and kind of a super connector. He put a lot of people together in a lot of interesting ways. 

TERRY: I met Breedlove through him.

STUART: The head of Burners Without Borders now.

TERRY: Yeah. And I met this kid that was helping him, Greg Sklar, also goes by Klear. He was helping Tom, and they had come up with this idea that they wanted to document some of the bigger art that was being built, document the artists, cut together a small piece about them, and then hand them a mini documentary at the end of Burning Man as a gift; “Thank you for bringing your art” type thing. 

He says, “Would you be interested?” And I said, “That sounds really cool. I would love to do that.” So 2011, we waded into it. And I did get an editor that said he would edit during Burning Man, which is a horrible…

STUART: Are you kidding? That sounds like a pipe dream.

TERRY: So, he walked away as of Monday, Burning Man, he was gone into the desert. We never saw him again. So we just continued on and we filmed, that was the year of Charon. We did Charon, we ended up doing eight or nine pieces of art. And turned out really pretty. And we had interviews with Larry and interviews with Crimson. We ended up cutting the individual docs and we gave ’em to them (but it happened after Burning Man) and then we cut them all together as a longer piece.

STUART: So you’re saying nobody wanted to sit inside a hot stuffy trailer and edit video at Burning Man. 

TERRY: I couldn’t believe it. 

STUART: But they were okay with running around with a camera and shooting pictures at Burning Man like crazy. 

TERRY: I’m just waiting for AI to have the capability of you just throw a bunch of footage at it and go, “Hey, put it together.” 

STUART: Yes. Post AI. We call him Posty. “Posty, make this beautiful, man.”

TERRY: That has been the hardest thing with Profiles in Dust is post, is editing. You spend the time shooting there, and you get some cool stuff and then you come back and you’re like, “Oh, now I gotta sit down and put this together.” Now you’re back in your home world or you’re running around working and it becomes a struggle. and I know that all too well now.

STUART: You must have developed some techniques for dealing with that, to not have so much to fix in post, right? 

TERRY: Yeah. Now we’re very careful how we shoot. So we’re trying to deal with the subject matter, keep it simple, as we can, especially if we know what our subject matter is. We know what we need, what we want to hear, and we’ll direct the conversation that way. So, it becomes very easy to go through the video later and pull your story out of it.

One of our team members, JK, now, we don’t ask him to do anything at Black Rock City. Instead his job after Burning Man is to sit there and work on stuff for literally weeks. He has been working on the solar project now for two weeks. He spent five days here at my house at Thanksgiving and then.

STUART: Locked in the basement? You let him out to eat Thanksgiving?

TERRY: We did. We did. He sat at this very desk and just sat and went through all the footage. 

STUART: He does beautiful work and I wanna come back to him. But, so we’re in 2011. Okay. I think we’ve got a clip here. This is “Everyone’s an Artist.” Can you set this up for us?

TERRY: This is the eight docs that we did all formed together into one cohesive edit, with Crimson Rose and Larry Harvey.


CRIMSON ROSE: What distinguishes Burning Man an art from other art is because it’s limitless. There are very few big backers. It’s because of the landscape. It’s limitless. There’s just no other place like the Black Rock Desert really in the world for people to actually create art. 

It’s the average person that maybe saw an image or they came for the first time and they’re going, “Well, I’m not an artist.” But then they go, “Wow, look at that art car. I could build this thing. You know? If they could do that, I could do dot dot dot.” 

And I think it’s infectious that somebody can become empowered by what they’re doing is so incredibly important. It actually helps the world become a better place, really. 

LARRY HARVEY: What happens here at the event is portable monumentality, but added to that is interactivity. Another function of public art is just to orient people in space and create nodes, whereas people orient themselves in a space, and to make them feel that they’re in a space that belongs to everyone, and where a stranger can go and feel at home and meet people.

This event has generated a new market for art, but it’s a very different kind of market. People take these works now — they don’t burn ’em so much anymore. And they take them, and a whole festival culture has embraced interactive art, and so now you can take it on the road. Of course, a monumental piece of public art that you can, that’s primate heaven, and allows you to climb with a swarm of other participating parties who you may or may not know, it has a wonderful way of breaking the ice, as it were.

STUART: So you had an opportunity to work with and to shoot Larry Harvey quite a few times over the course of, of what — from 2011 until he passed away in 2018. What was Larry like to work with?

TERRY: Larry was a lot of fun. The funnest part is after you’re done with that interview is to shut the cameras off, and then he would just keep rambling. I did an interview with him up on top of the headquarters building. And we kind of faked it to look like it was Burning, you know, background just to make sure it was abstract enough that we could pull it off like it was at Burning Man.

We did and did this interview with him up on the roof and when we were done, I think he talked to us for like two hours. We just sat up there. We just talked about the old Burning Man, and some of the old Burning Man parties they used to have in San Francisco. I guess they had the Man built in a warehouse and they would hoist people up to the man’s head and they had a speaker in the Man’s head and they would talk to the people as they go up and stuff like that. Wow, where’s the footage of that? Yeah, he was a lot of fun.

The last time we interviewed him, I think it was for the Souk project. 

STUART: The Souk. Oh, right. The Caravansary year.

TERRY: The Caravansary. Yeah. I think it was the last time we talked to him.

STUART: Larry had so much fun that year. Yeah. He insisted that he have his own store in the souk. We made up a character for him. It was El-Alari who ran a store where (what was it?) where everything was of incalculable value, because it had been in his family for 17 generations, so he wouldn’t sell you anything, but if you talked to them long enough, he’d give it to you. It was a good shtick.

TERRY: It was very good. It was funny. There’s some footage in the documentary of him in his get up too. 

STUART: A beautiful outfit. I believe that was actually an Indian gentleman’s wedding outfit. It was very fancy. It looked pretty good.

TERRY: I really enjoyed Caravansary and then the circus one. What was the name of that year? 

STUART: Oh, the Carnival of Mirrors. Oh, both those years are great. Those were two of my favorite years too. Larry and I had a really good time writing the themes and designing the experience at the Man Base there. Good times. You ended up actually producing the only real kind of full length documentary about Mr. Harvey: “Larry, a Burning Man Story”

That was with our friend JK Realms, right?

TERRY: That is JK’s effort there. 

STUART: Tell us about how that came together.

TERRY: We knew when Larry died, that something had to be done. So since we were already in that realm where we knew how to deal with getting into the archives at Burning Man and finding footage and stuff, we did a journey up to San Fran, me and JK, and just sat and went through all the drives, and started getting as much footage as possible. 

  1. That year we started interviewing people at Burning Man, friends and acquaintances of Larry. And JK started the process and he literally had hundreds of hours of stuff to wade through. 

Probably one of the only times that we’ve actually asked for a stipend to help him. And we actually had to have him stop work, and just say, “We need you to dwell on this and get this done.” Because it dragged over into 2019 and we were still doing interviews and, I know you were like, “We need to finish this.” And, and, and so we actually got some funds for him and we, we got him to have a little stipend just so he could stop doing what he was doing and just spend time.

STUART: and keep his apartment, right?

TERRY: Keep his apartment, stay alive. It wasn’t a bunch of money, but it was enough that he said, “Okay, I will do that.” So he spent almost a month solid, and put together an amazing — I thought it was an amazing documentary. I think it’s like 42 minutes and it’s pretty intense stuff about Larry.

STUART: Yeah. Let’s play a little clip. 


TERRY: Yeah, There’s just some great stuff. 

JK, to his credit, he really took it to the far end. We were even thinking about trying to get it out there and put it in film festivals, but then we started getting into the problem of: this is all volunteer work. And so that’s another issue that we deal with, but that’s fine, because we know where we stand on that issue now.

STUART: Yeah. Stipend aside, really everything you guys do is a gift to the community, right? 

TERRY: Yep. Profiles in Dust. We just work on volunteers. Now we have a core team, six people.

STUART: Who’s on the core team?

TERRY: Myself, my wife Noelle Charles. She’s been involved since the beginning. 

Ariel Benarroch, a really good friend of mine, a cameraman in LA. He’s also our camp leader. 

JK Realms. He likes to shoot too, but this year we kinda let him pause and take a breath because he’d been working on Larry for so long, and then now he’s wading into solar. 

And then we have Ian Ingram. He’s a sound-man. He runs huge sound systems for any big festival. 

And then, Shri, I won’t try to pronounce Shri’s last name. [Shriyantha Wimalasekera] He’s another camera guy. Really, really nice guy. He’s been with us for five years or so. 

So we have a core little group, then we have people that come and tag on and help us on the side too. There’s Daryl Henderson, David Shaw, and then we have some other folks.

STUART: It’s a porous membrane.

TERRY: Yeah. Jamen Percy’s been helping us the last couple years with his drone work.

STUART: He’s a fantastic drone pilot. He really does some sweet work. 

TERRY: You’re gonna see some amazing drone stuff.

STUART: The Black Rock Desert where Black Rock City is built has gotta be one of the worst places in the world to shoot. And I know you’ve shot in a lot of places in the world. How do you cope with that? How do you get a halfway decent sound out there where the wind’s always roaring? How do you keep your cameras from filling up with the goddamn dust?

TERRY: Well, I gave up on using covers or anything anymore on my cameras because it just, it’s gonna get through your covers, and whatever protection you put on your cameras, it’s gonna go through it.

You clean your equipment every evening. That’s the big thing. Make sure you’re cleaning stuff. 

Don’t ever remove your lenses while you’re out there. Put a zoom lens on, you know, so you can accommodate what you’re doing.

As for sound, we’ll usually try to find somewhere that’s somewhat secluded, we’ll shoot inside of an environment or people’s tent or in their shade structure. If not, we put their backs to the wind if we can. Obviously we’ve had wind problems. Most of the time we’re very cognizant of it. Whenever we can we actually close mic people with Lavaliers, and try to monitor it.

Another reason we come the week prior to Burning Man and try to do most of our interviews before Burning Man happens: The noise intensifies greatly during the Burn. So we avoid doing interviews during the Burn week if we can.

If not, one year when we had to do a bunch of Larry Harvey interviews, we did ’em in our tent. We designed our shade structure so we could actually have pretty a background, and we did a lot of interviews in our tent, and then it actually worked out really well.

STUART: Yeah. Tell us about your camp. In addition to, like, you’re not busy enough. You’re a village mayor too? What, what’s that all about?

TERRY: I’m a village mayor. Back in 2004 I was a part of the group that started the Misfits, the Mystical Misfits, me and my wife. When Profiles in Dust started off in 2011, we left the Misfits and moved into our little camp. We called ourselves The Cam Crew Cool Camp. We didn’t wanna worry about all the other crazy builds. The Misfits are into building massive structures, and we were done with that. 

So the Misfits actually had a real problem during COVID, that whole camp structure. So they reached out to me and said, “Hey, can you be our Mayor and try to pull everyone together?” Since business was slow during Covid, I said “Sure.” And we did, we managed to pull it all together and we actually pulled off a really cool camp this year.

We did it quite differently than the Misfits used to do. The Misfit Camp was a huge structure and all the little support camps around them kind of paid dues to be part of that. And we decided, no, we’re not gonna play that. We’re not gonna make some huge structure. We’re gonna use the Narwhal as our centerpiece for our camp parked out in front…

STUART: What’s the Narwhal, Terry?

TERRY: The Narwal’s a Burning Man relic. This last year was its 20th anniversary. It was built by a gentleman named Pepe Ozan. He was doing operas at Burning Man in the late nineties, early 2000s.

He did three or four operas at Burning Man. The last opera he did was called the Ark of Nereids. And the Ark of the Nereid was actually the Narwal, he built this giant Narwhal ship. And that was the stage for the show. And after that, it just got parked out at the Ranch (Burning Man’s Work Ranch) and started deteriorating.

We were brought into it when the lady we worked for, before we worked for you, Stuart, Meg Rutigliano had gone out to the ranch and saw this boat sitting out there deteriorating in the hot sun and said, “What is this?” Got some people together and they rebuilt it. And she wanted to bring it out for Pepe Ozan’s funeral.

And she asked if we would tow it with our car. We helped tow it through this funeral procession for Pepe.

And then my wife, of course, fell in love with it. She was like, “Oh my God.” And so Megs basically said, “Okay, Noelle, well control of it, take care of it. Let’s see what happens.”

Since then we have been taking care of it and raising money and trying to keep it in a decent condition. We actually fiberglassed the whole face this last year and repainted the whole boat and,. It’s sitting out at Fly Ranch right now in the snow.

STUART: It’s living history. Yeah. It is a beautiful piece. 

TERRY: And we used it as a centerpiece this year, and it worked out really nice. We let people have live performances there, and sing and do stuff. We literally had to stop and say, “Okay, that’s enough. We’re done for tonight, folks,” because it was a line, it was like, 10 people deep wanting to get up and sing to people.

STUART: And you guys are working! I’ve seen you out there. You never stand still. I know you’re working, working, working, getting the shots.

I wanna talk about your cam crew pal, Ariel. Tell me about Ariel, and I think we should listen to a little clip from one that I know that he directed.

TERRY: Yes. We decided to do a video about kids at Burning Man. We thought it’d be fun. We called it Kids at Burning Man. 

STUART: Oh, smart titling. 

TERRY Yeah, I know. Isn’t that brilliant? My buddy Ariel wanted to lead that project and it took us two years to do it. and it actually has turned into probably the most popular video we’ve done at Burning Man so far.

STUART: Because kids. All right, let’s hear a little bit of those adorable moppets talking about Burning Man.


What’s Ariel’s story? How’d you guys meet?

TERRY: Ariel and I met years ago. I started bringing him as my B camera on shoots. I got hired to shoot the first season of Oak Island, The Mystery of Oak Island, which is still going on for some reason.

STUART: They still haven’t solved that mystery.

TERRY: They haven’t solved that mystery. So Ariel came out with me, he was my B camera. Right from there, we went to Florida and we embedded, I had another show I did for Discovery called the Warlocks, The Warlock Rising. So we embedded with the motorcycle club, the Warlocks.

STUART: Wait a minute. So when you’re not at Burning Man, you are really an adventure photojournalist. You’re running around getting chased by motorcycle clubs, chased by bears. 

TERRY: Just came back from Ukraine.

STUART: That’s right. I tried to reach you after this year’s Burning Man, and you were in Ukraine. Okay, tell me about why you were in Ukraine after you had spent two months out in the desert at Burning Man.

TERRY: While I was at Burning Man, a director friend of mine called and said, “Hey, I just got contacted, this businessman that’s in Spain has been helping. He’s part of an NGO (non-governmental organization), and they’ve been helping refugees get out of Ukraine and they’re resettling them in Spain.” And he said, they’ve resettled six over 600 already. He said they’re gonna do another trip. They would like to have it documented. They called me. Boom. I said, “I’m there. That’s awesome. Let’s do it.” 

Ariel is working, so I couldn’t bring Ariel. I brought my friend, Jackapo. he’s another Burner, done a lot of documentary work at Burning Man too. So he and I went to Spain and then we flew to Warsaw. Yeah, Warsaw. And then drove in from there into Ukraine and we drove to, to the outskirts of Kiev. On the western side, and we stayed, at the convent with these nuns they were the ones that would receive the refugees and they had places to put ’em in this town.

They would have a meeting time and all these people would show up, and then a bus would come, we’d fill the bus up and then we’d head out. So we spent a week with them. Um, while we were driving into Ukraine, was when that bridge got blown up in Crimea. Wow. we were traveling with two, two of the NGO people.

They were driving this van into Ukraine. And one of ’em, I remember he pulled up his phone and, and he gets his message and he looks at it and we, there’s this explosion going off and we’re like, “Whoa, shit. You know what’s going on?” 

We ended up going in and during that week, we were at the school. The nuns were running, they were running this little school that had like 40 kids in it, and that’s when the drone attack happened. And one of ’em hit like 30 miles from us. So everything went into lockdown. The whole country went into lockdown. You were told not to leave your house. So we were stuck in that school with these kids for like eight hours documenting these kids and the nuns dealing with it. And, the kids didn’t have phones. They take their phones when they come in. So the kids only got information that was given to ’em by the nuns.

Meanwhile, we’re filming the kids being entertained and singing and they knew something was going on. and then in the back rooms, our producers are frantically trying to figure out maps on tables. Do we start heading out now? The nuns are on their phones trying to figure stuff out.

Because they had all these refugees coming in. They’re all inbound around Ukraine coming to this town ‘cuz we were gonna pick ’em up that next morning and head out. So they were very worried about these people that were on the road. And our producers are worried about.. should we try to get outta the country right now and maybe have these refugees brought to a border point when we pick ’em up?

But it all came down. The air raids give us the all clear. We went back to the convent where we were staying. We packed up. The next morning we showed up at five in the morning. Big tour bus loaded everyone on, 35 refugees and made it, and we headed out. We got to the border like six hours later, made it across the border. And then we drove 52 hours across Europe, all the way across Germany, all the way across France, and then down into Spain. Brought into a big halfway house that the NGO is running there in this little town outside of Barcelona. Pretty impressive story.

STUART: This gonna be a feature?

TERRY: It’s gonna be feature-length. I don’t know if he’s gonna break it up into maybe chapters or into episodes, maybe sell it as a three-episode-thing. They don’t have a market quite yet. They’re going to be able to, you know, it’s Ukraine. It’s craziness and someone’s gonna buy it up.

STUART: And it doesn’t always work that way sometimes I know. It must be super frustrating to work on something and get great footage and have the project spiral down. I remember you telling me something about exploring some hidden chambers and ruins in Egypt. Can you talk about that?

TERRY: In 1995, I got asked to join a science expedition, or, well, let’s not call it sci… well science

STUART: A Graham Hancock pseudoscience thing. 

TERRY: Yeah. Did you just say Graham Hancock? 

STUART: Yes. Was it him? 

TERRY: He was involved in some at the very end. He got us kicked out of the country. Him or Anthony West, one of the two. 

This group called the A.R.E., The Advanced Research and Enlightenment Foundation, was funding our project. The plan was, according to Edgar Cayce, this great — I don’t know what you call Edgar Cayce.

STUART: Let’s call him a mystic. 

TERRY: A mystic, yes. He had written a bunch of stuff about history and one of ’em was that there was a secret chamber under the Sphinx that holds the records of the lost city of Atlantis in the island, a mo.

So this team, they got a couple million dollars together and they’re like, we’re gonna go try to find this. So they asked the Egyptian government, can we come and do some surveying where… They lied. Let’s just put it that way. We all had to sign secrecy acts. We could not say what we were really doing.

So the plan was we go to Egypt and we go to seismic testing on the Sphinx, right? And they had radar, they had just come out with ground penetrating radar, and they had these big paddles and they would drag around, and they could look down into the ground, like 20, 30 feet.

So we did the whole Sphinx, and the whole enclosure was all mapped out. Sure enough, there’s a room underneath. There absolutely is a room under. I’ve seen it, I mean, I’ve seen the radar, but it’s 20 feet below the Sphinx. The Sphinx itself is a carved down mountain, right? So if there’s a room there, there’s a tunnel that goes to that room, right?

We do know there’s a tunnel that goes into the back end of the Sphinx. We do know that there’s a tunnel that comes out of the middle pyramid and goes all the way to the Sphinx. You can’t get in ’em, they guard ’em, so someone has probably been in these rooms maybe.

We did three trips. The last trip, Dr. Shore, the guy that was financing the whole thing, started getting anxious. He wanted to get in, right? And he actually had someone in the little town of Giza make him this huge crowbar, like a big metal crowbar, right? And he snuck it in our tripod case; we didn’t even know!

I was out filming around the backside of the Sphinx and all of a sudden I get a call on a walkie: “Get up front right now!” We come up and there’s all these armed soldiers there. I’m like, “What is going on?” And then I see Dr. Shore, and they have him, they have his arms behind his back and they’re holding this giant metal bar.

I guess he figured he was gonna start banging a hole by the Sphinx’s foot and try to get down. We don’t know. We knew that there was a metal plate two feet down. His theory was: That metal plate is covering a tunnel that goes down to this room. So he was gonna go for it. 

And that was it. They packed us up and said, “You’re leaving.” They escorted us to the airport and we were gone.

STUART: And that footage is, in a black hole somewhere or a legal black hole.

TERRY: You know what I do have, I was going through all my old, because we filmed behind the scenes, hours and hours and hours of it. And so I have hours of us working. I don’t know where the actual footage ended up anymore. Sad. 

We did the same thing in South America. We did a whole South America project for a month, and that is sitting somewhere too. So, anyway…

STUART: Well at least when you shoot a documentary at Burning Man, you don’t get paid, but you know it’s going to go out there in the world.

Do you feel like your work’s having an impact, the stuff that you’ve done? Why do all these 50 videos about Burning Man?

TERRY: I’ll tell you why I like to do it because if you go online, YouTube Burning Man or something, you’ll get these videos of just people dancing and partying. I get that. That’s cool. You know, or just pretty pictures of art and people just dancing around. 

And then once I started going to Burning Man, I started seeing what’s really happening. And then when you get involved and start helping building the camp and doing stuff, you’re like, “Oh, people need to see this too.” There’s a lot of stuff going on here. If the average viewer wanted to find something and watch it and get an understanding of Burning Man, no wonder everyone thinks it’s a big party, because that’s basically what they see.

I wanted to change that. I’ve always been a documentary filmmaker. I’ve always been very interested in seeing how people do things and how things are done. To document it is a different story, but it needed to be done. So when I was given that opportunity, I’m like, “That’s awesome. That’s exactly what I wanna be doing.”

We kinda expanded it from just following art, when you started becoming involved. I’ve always been of the opinion that the more people know about how things are being done and how it can be done and how easy it can be done or… 

STUART: how insanely hard it is to do.

TERRY: Yeah. But, also share the knowledge, right? That’s kind of how we started approaching it. We started bridging away from doing lots of art, and started dealing with more infrastructure stuff. and then there’s really heartfelt ones, like the Utah group that had someone kill themselves in their fire. 

STUART: Yeah. At Element 11.

Then Burning Man let them build their own little temple. So we followed that whole project. Things like that.

And then the one thing I like to get involved in, do a little more too, is like: We did one on Mayan Warrior, where you see how much effort a crew like that puts into their mission — and they have a mission too. It’s not just let’s roll out and have a bunch of sound and let people dance. There’s a plan behind all that. 

STUART: We’ve got a clip from that video that we might drop in right here.


STUART: Okay. You talk about infrastructure and that’s something I think is a pretty fascinating story too. So many people just show up and all they see are the inhabitants of the city. They don’t see the city itself which is, I think, part of the reasoning behind the title of “The Great Disappearing City” which you guys did a couple years ago. What’s that all about?

TERRY: Great Disappearing City is amazing. I was blown away by doing that project. That is all about the Leave No Trace movement and this one man, DA, that’s just hardcore clean-this-place-up, leave it, turn it back to its natural environment.

STUART: He’s certainly the leader and, and cheerleader for Leaving No Trace. Yeah, DA’s amazing. And so it was him and his crew, the Playa Restoration crew, right? 

TERRY: Yeah. Hundreds. 

STUART: And you’ve followed it all the way out?

TERRY: We’ve followed it from the beginning, from basically Spike. 

STUART: That’s the first day of construction of Black Rock City.

TERRY: It’s the bare desert. Then we followed the whole process during Burning Man, because they aren’t just sitting around waiting until everyone leaves. There’s a whole crew that rolls around they’re out there already cleaning stuff up. And then the minute people leave that crew for like two months, they are cleaning up five square miles of desert, literally walking every single piece of land. They all string out in the big long string of people and they just start walking and cleaning stuff up. It’s pretty amazing. And we were there luckily for I think the cleanest Black Rock City ever.

The final trip we did was to come out to document the Bureau of Land Management inspecting Restoration’s cleanup effort, and found out that they got a perfect score.

It’s hardcore stuff. I was really impressed with it all. I do wanna do it’s sister show, and I think you and I have talked about it, “The Great Appearing City,” and show the building of Black Rock City. I did the first version of it this year, so I know what to expect.

STUART: And this year was very different obviously than 2018. And I know the Resto crew had a very hard time of it, as a lot of the people working the event had a hard time of it: being understaffed, people getting sick, bad weather, all of that. How’d it go with your crew?

TERRY: As Profiles in Dust, we did three different docs; finished up on the Going Solar project.

STUART: Yeah. Tell us about that. 

TERRY: Going Solar. We started documenting the solar push in 2019 at Burning Man. Then we heard that 2022 was gonna be a big push for solar, and there certainly was, there was a whole bunch. 

STUART: Both at the organizational level and definitely at the camp level, right? There’s a lot of camps devoted to that. And I know you covered a lot of what was happening out there in the camps.

TERRY: We did. And we actually found camps that we didn’t even know about that were full solar. That was pretty impressive.

STUART: Let’s hear a little clip from that one. This is “Going Solar?” 

TERRY: Going Solar.


TERRY: It’s pretty intense. The Man itself this year was all powered by solar. Even the build was powered a great part by solar, parts of the Temple. The arches and the gateways coming into the temple were all powered by solar. Many art projects out there were being powered by solar. I think the biggest theme camp, the experiment with a big theme camp this year, Sacred Cow, went all solar. They had massive solar systems. And Burning Man has been experimenting with creating solar systems. We documented a lot of that.

There’s several different platforms that they use and are experimenting, and actually build them right there on the spot for the first time. And The Man one, especially, you’ll see in the documentary, it worked far better than it expected. So in Gerlach, the Burning Man project has the 360 property outside of Gerlach that is powered entirely by solar.

And I know Fly Ranch is all powered by solar. Anything that happens at Fly Ranch is powered by solar. In fact, they really frowned upon you even firing up a putt putt genny or anything that you come out there, right?

STUART: Okay, so that’s one. And the other one you guys have in post are, are nearly done is, is an interesting piece, about Smoke Daddy, who puts the neon on the Burning Man.

TERRY: Yep. I was out there filming for another project, and I was out there one evening and they were starting to do neon on the Man, and I’m like, “Oh, wow, this is a cool thing,” you know?

I got introduced to Smoke Daddy, and I asked him, “Hey, would you be interested in talking to me about the neon on the Man, and what it’s about?” He goes, “Oh, absolutely.” I just started rolling and the guy is amazing. He said some pretty heartfelt stuff.

STUART: Let’s hear a little bit from Smoke.

TERRY: We’re calling this one “The Tailor of the Man” because Smoke Daddy calls himself “The Tailor of the Man.”

STUART: Because that’s his clothes.

TERRY: Yeah. And, I love him getting into depth about the design of it and the color and what it all represents. It’s not just like, “Oh, let’s make something cool.” There’s a lot of intent and there’s a lot of thought process behind what’s being done. 


STUART: He’s an interesting character. 

TERRY: He’s a very interesting character.

STUART: And I think it’s very cool that this year, not through any planning that you guys did that, and our friend Uncle Phil, who’s another documentation team shooter, did a little short piece on Opa, who for years has designed and built the lights that circle the plaza of the Man.

So those are two interesting little side stories, pretty important side stories, to the larger story of how the man gets designed and built every year. I’m happy to see both of those in the camera. 

TERRY: I’d really like to do something about Goatt, personally… Goatt’s, a character and a half.

STUART: Goatt Cook is a new Man Base supervisor, Man Based project manager. He would be so, he’s very articulate. Maybe next year. Are you going next year? Can I keep you away? 

TERRY: No, no, you can’t. 

STUART: You’re just gonna go, aren’t you? Why do you keep going to Burning Man, Terry Pratt? What’s up with you?

TERRY: You know, I was invited to go to Burning Man in ‘96 when I worked on a TV show called Silk Stockings. The whole electric crew would leave the show and go, “We’re leaving. We’re going to do the electric for the Man.” And they were part of the crew, the electric crew that helped light up the Man and stuff. 

STUART: Oh, wow. I did not know this.

TERRY: Paul Postal was the gaffer for our show. He was an electrician and he would leave and go to Burning Man and help work on the electric team at Burning Man.

So he kept saying, “Terry, you gotta come.” And this went on for four years. And I’m like, no, no, I’m doing my, I, I was, I was this paranoid… All camera assistants are paranoid. You, you leave your job, you have someone replace you for a day or two. And they’re like,”Well, we really like this guy, who is that other guy?”

Yeah. So I was like, “No, I ain’t leaving,” right? Finally I met my wife in 2000, and by 2004, we really started getting the Burning Man vibe. A lot of people we were hanging with were already doing it. And then I got a ticket from my wife for her wedding gift, basically. We were gonna get married in 2004, so. We got married after she came back from Burning Man, she went to Burning Man.

I went to Europe and was working on a show in Europe. She comes back, blown out of her mind. I was home when they all came back home and it was like six people passed out on the living room floor, exhausted, but just talking about what a great time.

STUART: Snoring.

TERRY: Yeah. She had gone with my buddy. He was also a gaffer. At the time I had a grip electric company. So I had three trucks running around Los Angeles doing shows. And he convinced me; he goes, “We’ll take one of your trucks, we’ll load it up and we’ll go to Burning Man.” And I said, “All right, I’ll do it.” And we did. 2005, I went, and then ever since then, I’m like, “Nope.” If I get hired and my job is gonna be during Burning Man, I’m like, “Well, just so you know, for like two weeks there, I gotta go.” I’ve left many jobs now, or I’m just, “I gotta go. Sorry.”

STUART: That’s kind of dodging the question, Terry. Why? 

TERRY: Yeah, this year I really wondered why, because I came back so exhausted. I find it amazing to see what people can do — creatively do in such a short amount of time — and just for wowing people or to give other people a thrill.

And then the art is just off the hook. That’s something you can’t see anywhere else in the world, ever, you know? I’ve been to a lot of places in the world, and you can’t see that. I’d say the last time I got really wowed by something, I just went to Barcelona and I saw a bunch of Gaudís. The Park. What’s it called? The Park? 

STUART: Park Güell.

TERRY: What the hell? That reminded me of Burning Man. That was just like, “What is this about?” 

STUART: I think Gaudí would’ve fit right in.

TERRY: He would’ve had a blast at Burning Man. 

STUART: All those Modernistas. 

TERRY: Some of it was very much like Pepe’s. One of Pepe’s, didn’t he do one with a bunch of clay and crazy sculpture stuff? One of his operas where they made huge sculptures out of the playa.

STUART: Yes, indeed. That was his native site-specific medium that he cooked up. He’d weld together a steel frame, put mesh on it and cover it with the mud pulled up in buckets from Trago Hot Springs.

I never thought about that, but of course Pepe would’ve been very fluent in the language of Modernista architecture, and I’m sure was inspired by that to come up with those very organic, fluid shapes, right? Not a lot of right angles on Pepe’s world.

TERRY: I’d like to do a little bit more of my own art too. I think it’d be fun to try to pull something else off. I’ve done a couple things at Burning Man. I have some ideas about doing some digital type stuff; documenting, but doing it in a very creative, strange way. When I can get the clear vision of that to you, I will. We’ll see.

STUART: Well I’ll be here for you. It’s a great privilege to support Profiles and Dust in their work out on the playa and year round. It’s one of the, actually one of the most fun and rewarding parts of my pretty sweet role at Burning Man. 

TERRY: And we respect you a lot because you give us a lot of leeway and you’re actually there to help us. I rarely heard you go “No, I can’t do that for you.”

STUART: Stick around. I’m sure it’ll happen! 

TERRY: I’d like to see Profiles in Dust start expanding out and start doing stuff in the world a little more with Burning Man events. We’ve done a little bit of that. We’ve helped with the Fly Ranch Project. We pulled together a whole team of camera people and editors and sound people, and we came out and did the promo for the LAGI project. 

STUART: Well, that kind of takes us full circle to the CORE year when you empowered and inspired a lot of Regional documentarians to document their projects. We got a whole lot of Burning Man events out there in the world that could use that same treatment. So, I’m all for talking more about that, getting more good shots from more Burning Man in more places around the world.

It’s a lot. If it happens, people, you will see it on the Profiles in Dust channel profilesindust.net. Is that still the site?

TERRY: It is, but you can also go to Vimeo and just type in “Profiles in Dust,” or you can go to the Burning Man website and type in “Profiles in Dust.” And a lot of our videos are on the Burning Man YouTube site.

STUART: Yeah. Vimeo is probably the most complete collection, right? Vimeo has all the projects and it streams beautifully with no ads. This is not an ad for Vimeo. It’s a big up for not having ads in the video. 

Thanks so much for showing up, Terry. Always a pleasure to talk with you and I can’t wait to see the next projects out of Profiles in Dust.

TERRY: Thank you, Stuart. That was a lot of fun.

STUART: Yeah. All right, people, you’ve been listening to Burning Man LIVE. I would like to thank, as I often like to do, Vav, Michael Vav. Action Grrl, kbot, Rocky, Deets, Kristy, and all of you my friends who drop a dollar every once in a blue moon through the slot at donate.burningman.org because: Hey, it’s a volunteer thing.

This program is only made possible as an action of the nonprofit Burning Man Project through its Philosophical Center. I’m your host, Stuart Mangram, and I will catch you next time. 

And thanks, Larry.