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When I spoke to Jessie Deeter and Steve Brown on September 3, 2013, Brown had just returned from his latest trip to Burning Man. In the photo, he’s holding a bit of the sand from the playa that he brought back with him. He also showed me some of the other equipment that makes life on the playa easier, including a pair of onion goggles to keep sand out of the eyes in the event of a sandstorm. Deeter, on the other hand, was a newcomer to the phenomenon that Burning Man has become, attending her first one just two years ago and her second last year when she and Brown filmed their documentary, SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY. My first question to the pair was about that dynamic, and how it worked when making their film. We went on to discuss the logistics of being everywhere at once (,or at least seeming to be), the importance of hydration in the middle of a desert in the summer, grilled cheese sandwiches at 3 a.m., and why the culture of Burning Man is a living laboratory for how to build a better world. The baggie Steve is holding in the picture has sand from the playa in it.
Their documentary is about the growing pans of the phenomenon in the Black Rock desert that started with one man, Larry Harvey, wanted to celebrate the 1986 summer solstice by burning a man on Baker Beach in San Francisco. From that one impulsive moment grew a cultural behemoth spawning an annual temporary city of 60,000 in the desert where art rules, and the default world is set aside for a population of burners for whom this high point of their year, if not the focus of their lives. Brown and Deeter’s film captures one of the turning points in the history of Burning Man, when demand outstrips available tickets, and the organization’s infrastructure is forced to re-think everything.
Brown is a founder of Health Hero Network, a pioneer of personal health monitoring, and co-founder of Catch.com, a mobile applications company focused on creative collaboration. He is also an inventor with over 160 US patents. This is his first film. Deeter is a Fulbright scholar and producer of PBS’ Frontline whose work includes WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR, the deeply satisfying REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR, and DEATH BY FIRE, which questioned the guilt or innocence of a man executed for the arson death of his children.
To listen to the interview, click on the link (16:19) SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY — Jessie Deeter and